Monday, December 23, 2013

R.I.P. Paul Walker

On November 30th at about 3:30PM Pacific Standard Time, "Fast and Furious" actor Paul Walker died in flames after the car he was riding in lost control and struck a lamp post. He was a passenger in a Porsche driven by a friend. Both died at the scene although a rescue attempt was made and abandoned after the flames got too high and fierce to approach. As you might imagine, the Hollywood film community is stunned and those who knew him, loved him, and worked with him are beside themselves with grief. There were nearly 3 million people talking about him on Facebook. That's kind of astonishing. As actors go, he didn't exactly burn down the house with his film choices. There was probably not going to be an Academy Award in his future. He was a working actor with a pretty thick resume of roles in TV and film. There are certainly those who might call the work "pedestrian", or perhaps disposable entertainment. Even the "Fast and Furious" movies which became his claim to fame aren't what anyone would call elevated works of film.  It's a set of action movies filled to the brim with fast cars, impossible chase scenes, and improbable stunts.

But the point is he got to follow his passions: surfing, marine biology, which he majored in in college, racing, and acting. He packed a lot of living into 40 all too brief years, and he was determined to leave an impact, an impression. Sometime next year we're going to be looking for awards for "Best Picture", "Best Director", etc. Paul Walker's last efforts before he died won't likely make the list. Those who know him will remember that he led with his heart and followed what he was passionate about, which also happened to include a 15 year-old daughter that he was clearly besotted with, and who must now pick up the pieces of her heart and carry her father with her as she goes forward into life.

And I am reminded of how fragile and fleeting, yet impossibly full of wonder our time here is, and how the possibilities of it must be recognized and seized and not wasted on foolish things like grudges and resentments and fears. Paul Walker seemed to get that in an unforced, natural way. With kind of a smile and a shrug as he waited to catch the next wave.

Paul Walker, 1973-2013
Rest In Peace

More Later

Wednesday, October 30, 2013

David Ortiz Is Not From This Planet

MLB Network is echoing the sentiment felt by many here in what we call "Red Sox Nation".

David Ortiz is not of this Earth.
He is a strange visitor from another planet. Or, he's a freak of science grown in a lab somewhere.

He must be. How on earth do you explain what he's been doing in the Boston Red Sox current turn in the World Series? Simple. Nothing on Earth can explain it. So he must be superhuman.

Let's examine the stats on this guy.
37 years old.
6'4" 250 lbs. They're saying he's slimmed down a bit, which makes him quicker.
MLB Career BA .287 431 HR 1429 RBI
He is currently hitting an astonishing .733 and has 11 hits in 15 at bats during this World Series run.
He's hitting everything they're throwing at him HARD. There seems to be no way to pitch him, no location that St. Louis pitchers can throw at where he cannot make contact. And make no mistake, friends: the Cardinals have some of the best, if not the best pitching in the league. If these boys can't take him out, he simply can't be stopped. In fact, it's fair to say that this is the one bat that scares the Cardinals. The Dustin Pedroias, Jacoby Ellsburys, and Shane Victorinos are annoying and troublesome enough. This guy is just freakish. He's in a zone unlike anything I've seen in recent memory. And he's not nearly done. With a 3-2 World Series lead, the Sox return home to Fenway for Game 6 on Wednesday, and they may just wrap it up then. This ought to be good.

UPDATE: The Red Sox defeated the Cardinals in convincing fashion 6-1, and wrapped up their 2nd World Series title since 2007.  This is also the first World Series that they've won on their home field since 1918, a stretch of 95 years.

Now, who thinks David Ortiz should be in the Hall of Fame? Show of hands.

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Tuesday, October 22, 2013

Feeling A Little Unhinged? Take This Gun and Call Me In The Morning

Do you ever have days when you don't feel...quite so mentally stable? Do you ever feel like the walls are talking to you and there are these weird people who want to fire microwave beams through your body and you just WISH you could MAKE THEM STOP??

Well friend, I have news for you. Right here in good old Unites States of America, a little mental illness won't stop you from getting a perfectly good working firearm to blast those weirdo bastards to hell along with their nefarious plans to harm you with microwaves. After all, we all know microwaves aren't good for your skin. Just ask any potato. And they really aren't good for your insides. Just ask that haddock from last night that you nuked for breakfast this morning. Insides a little steamy? Just imagine yours after microwaves have been applied. You'll feel a little roasted from within too, and that's plenty of reason that these people who keep talking through the walls about their evil plans should DIE IN A HAIL OF BULLETS!! And here in America, where the gun laws are so, shall we say, less than coherent, you can easily make that recurring nightmare go away. Of course, so might your medication, but WHEN HAVE MEDS EVER HELPED DURING A PSYCHOTIC BREAK?? Personally, I never take my meds during a psychotic break. I mean...isn't that the point of a psychotic break? A rest between meds? Isn't that potentially a GOOD thing?

So just march yourself on down to the gun store, pass the background check, such as it is, and give these crazy microwaving fiends what for. Just show 'em how no one's gonna bake you to a crackly crunch without a fight, by God. Trust me. A little bloodshed and mayhem goes a long, long way. You'll feel like an entirely new man in the morning. Just imagine how good it'll feel to have those annoying voices gone, and how good it'll feel not to have microwaves coursing through your cells.
Why, you may wonder why you hadn't thought of this sooner. Maybe it was those damned meds. This goes back to my earlier point about psychotic breaks. There's so much...clarity isn't there? It's so obvious what has to be done. Medications things, obscure the real issues. That's why a psychotic break is helpful now and then. Clears the air. Just ask Wayne LaPierre, CEO of the NRA. He's been off his meds for some while now and he'll tell you that he's never been sharper. Ted Nugent says he stopped his medications and it was like a fog had been lifted. He saw the light. It was a muzzle flash. Both of them welcome their psychotic breaks when they happen, which these days is fairly often.

Now I'm just speculating here. See I have this idea that this was quite possibly the last bit of internal dialogue had by Aaron Alexis, the now-deceased Navy yard shooter who met his ignominious end on Sept.16th while he was shooting up the place down in DC. I'm thinking he must have heard voices or seen visions that assured him in somewhat the same way I've delineated above. I have no proof of this of course, but think about it. Why on earth would a gainfully employed Navy reservist feel the urge to go buy himself a weapon, go down to the Washington Navy Yard and blast the place, killing thirteen people? It's not what the lion's share of responsible gun owners do. Most responsible gun owners don't have a need to play "show and tell" with their weapons. They don't have urges like this. They're not waking up wondering "How many fools can I kill today?" 

So what's my point? I don't really know. All of the sensible sounding solutions get shouted down by, it turns out, crazy people with guns.  People like the afore-mentioned LaPierre and Nugent who seem to think an armed society is a safer society. I suppose it makes a kind of sense, and I might at least understand the premise if there wasn't so much evidence pointing out the contrary. Seems like the only thing this armed utopia brings us is more dead people. As a prescription for armed violence, it makes about as much sense as trying to cure a cocaine addiction by rehabbing (that is a word!) in a crack house.
But that's just me.

By the way, a dear friend who happens to own a gun and concealed carry permit tells me that in TX, getting a license to carry a gun requires you to jump through hoops equal to the 12 trials of Hercules, after which you must submit a DNA sample.
She might have been exaggerating about that part.

Meanwhile I leave you to contemplate the effects of this:

If after exposure to these rays you have strange thoughts in your head, or you can't shake that baked to a delicate crunch feeling, let me suggest seeing a specialist trained in these kinds of...maladies. Reaching for a gun will probably do more harm than good. 

More Later


Tuesday, September 10, 2013

The Latest Late Stuff That Happened Lately

Well, folks it's been quite the summer, hasn't it? In rapid succession we had the latest opinions from the Supreme Court, the non-resolution of the Trayvon Martin "Stand Your Ground" case, a taste of what it might actually be like if a kid from another planet landed here, grew up in KS, got super powers and had to mix it up with his own people, and finally what it really takes to beat the monster that stepped on Cincinnati. By the way that's not actually a movie, so don't go looking for it.

So let's see. I had this great post planned about upheaval in terms both figurative and literal. For example, Metropolis (not a real city) has to get used to being in constant re-build since a certain strange visitor from another planet started flexing his muscle ostensibly to help people, which he does, but not without the kind of real estate damage FEMA usually gets called in for. The Supreme Court decides the DOMA makes no logical or constitutional sense, but the VRA needs "adjusting" because we don't live in the same country that we did a half-century ago, completely ignoring what just happened last year in a bunch of states. Then of course, the crown jewel of bewilderment was set in place on July 13th, as George Zimmerman got to walk out of a FL courtroom a free man after admitting to killing an unarmed teenager who wasn't doing anything except walking home in the rain.

Yeah...we're not gonna live that one down for a while.

Oh, and there was the woman in TX with the orange sneakers (or were they pink?) who stared down a room full of politicians (mostly men) for nearly 12 hours while she lectured them about how creepy and wrong it is to treat women as if they had no other purpose on earth but to be breeders.

Somewhere in the midst of all this I became enamored with a show on PBS that almost nobody watches called "Downton Abbey". It's about the lives of a high-born English family and their servants (yes, they had those) in a grand estate around the turn of the 20th century before World War One. Just when I'm getting down in the mouth about the world comes a piece of magnificently done period drama, with marvelous performances, well-drawn characters, and more compelling plots than a J.J. Abrams' show. Since this is a slice of life from roughly a century ago, it shows how far we've come technologically and socially, and how far we still have to go. This is what art does. It shows us ourselves, and makes us better for the reflection.

Now I hear that the Smithsonian may want the hoodie that Trayvon Martin wore the night he was killed. It's an important moment in our culture and an interesting way to commemorate it. I think about the movie I referenced, Man Of Steel, which of course is the freshest redux of the Superman story, and one of our best cultural fantasies, that someone can impose himself into our lives and save us from our worst aspects, our worst instincts. Superman is just one icon. We have others. But the truth is not so easy. It's closer to the reality of Downton Abbey, where sometimes our demons win, and our reptilian id gets the better of us. But also, we can learn from the signs around us and become more than we were and rise up to the moment when we need to. We can evolve, and our uniquely human capacity for story and creating meaning allows us to do that. We use art to do this. So we have heroes: Superman representing what could be transcendent in all of us. State Senator Wendy Davis who represents what we can be when we need to be. We have villains: the TX state legislature, maybe the US Supreme Court, a jury in Sanford, FL that allowed a man to get away with murder. Then we have somewhere in the middle, the residents of Downton Abbey, the parents of Trayvon Martin, and the rest of us. Getting it right. Getting it wrong. Learning and evolving as we go. Hopefully.

More Later

Friday, June 21, 2013

The Case for Being an Artist.

This is why I want to make art and sell it. Well, there's no one reason. There are several of them which I can go into another time. First and foremost is that I love creating art. It's what I always wanted to do since I was 10 years old, teaching myself how to draw. There's an elemental charge that goes through me when I'm drawing and it's flowing. Like many artists, I hit stuck patches when things don't go as well, but I've realized that making art is about course corrections, much like life. We move forward, we stumble and fall, and we get up and keep going. We (hopefully) learn from our stumbles and get more accurate, more true to our vision.

I wanted to be in business as an artist because I think it's an amazingly cool way to make a living, and I'm constantly intrigued by the people who are able to succeed at it. I've come to realize that if I'm going to succeed, I might be well served to watch and learn from what they do. I do not believe that it's just luck or predetermination. I want to do what works. But I also feel that more than ever in this country we are experiencing a critical breakdown of deep thinking, of contemplation, of awareness and of a sense of meaning, and it's infecting everything from our media culture, to our public discourse, to the way we do business, to our sense of civility. I believe that if you learn to observe and appreciate art, live with art, be it drawing, painting, sculpture, film, or great writing and literature, you're more of an awakened person. A more conscious person. And this has practical value. You might slow down a bit, not just race through life without ever noticing it, much less living it.

It was Henry David Thoreau who said that he wanted to "suck the marrow out of life" and that he didn't want to come to the end of his life and realize, as he said, "that I had not lived." You can almost hear the emphasis on that last word. I've said earlier that in our culture, art has been if not devalued, then certainly undervalued, and that has impacts for our society and our life as a nation going forward and they're not at all good ones. I wrote recently about the blistering pace of life as our technology races ever forward, ever it seems, ahead of us. That's one of the impacts. Anyone who deals with operating systems for computers (and unless you're off the grid, that's ALL of us) feels this on some level. Art, living with it, creating it, being a part of it, almost by necessity makes you pause and become aware of something you might not have been prior to that moment. Art causes you to be in the moment, yet it's not asking that life around you should stop. Just you stop. Pause. Just for a moment. And it does this by being something that makes you want to pause. Stop. Just for a moment. Look around. Really see. Really hear. Really check in with your self. When was the last time that happened? It's been a while, hasn't it?  Look how crazy off-the-rails things have got since the last time.
Hello, stranger.
Where've you been?

The ironic thing to me is that in the 1840s when Thoreau wrote and published Walden, he had the idea that life was going entirely too fast and that people were missing it. He'd hardly feel at home here in the 21st century. He'd probably...go off the grid. Permanently. But here's the rub: some artists like and need to retreat to recharge their creativity and their souls. Then they end up staying gone, and we miss their singular gifts. For example, JD Salinger, the author of The Catcher In The Rye, pretty much vanished into thin air after that book came out. He lived a reclusive existence in New Hampshire and no one knew he was even alive until he gave his last public interview in 1980. There was talk of legal squabbles more recently. Publishing rights and so on. Then, he died in 2010, having published nothing new since 1965. That's kind of a shame. During his time out of the public eye he continued to create, and there is apparently a trove of finished work that hasn't seen the light of day and may never see it. More's the pity.

My point (and I do have one) is that, silly as this sounds, beyond the rush of creating, I like to think being an artist of any stripe has value in this world, particularly at this time, and any time an artist succeeds, that's a win for us all in my view.

Now, is my view the truth? I don't know. But I think the evidence is out there, and who doesn't think that we don't need more "conscious beings", as a friend of mine put it, walking among us?

And while we ponder that, maybe someone can tell me where the hell Meg Ryan has been?

More Later


Thursday, June 20, 2013

New Computer!

I got a new (well, new to me, that is) Intel Mac Pro Tower delivered yesterday. It's an early version from 2006. I honestly thought it was later that Apple started using Intel chips. Like around 2008. But anyway, I got this at a great price from a place called Mac Of All Trades in Tampa, FL, one of my old stomping grounds from back in the day.

I know. You can't see that it's a new computer I'm writing this on. Not from your end. But from my end, this may not be the latest and greatest out there (Apple is going to debut a new, cylindrical tower later this year), but for me and my purposes, it's AWESOME. Can't wait to get my design programs loaded on here.

I'm excited. Can't you tell?

More Later


Saturday, June 15, 2013

Birth Takes a Khardashian

According to press reports, reality star Kim Khardashian, after what seems for her (and certainly for many of us!) was an agonizing pregnancy, finally gave birth to...a human as far as we can tell. A human female. The bundle of joy comes five weeks early to the relief of those of us who have had to be subjected to the endless photos of the expectant Kim in all manner of fashion disasters. I will not be posting those here in this space, nor will I link to them. My eyes can only take so much. I imagine so can yours, dear readers. Leaving aside the artistic aspects of pregnant female celebrities (which I've discussed here before), the father of this little girl is Kanye West who probably should not be, shall we say, "replenishing the earth". Now, I leave you to ponder what kind of maternal instinct Ms. Kardashian will have and will it trump her instinct for gratuitous self-promotion and prompt her to leave us all alone for a while. We can only hope. God knows we've endured enough.

On a comforting note, at least Beyonce isn't knocked up again. Turns out the rumors were wrong and so was I. That's comforting.

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Friday, June 7, 2013

Let's Just Settle This

I heard about this before my poor Mac G5 started having issues and needed to go get looked at. Now that I have it back and working (for now: upgrades to come soon), I felt the need to insert my own skewed perspective into what has become an almost ridiculous debate. What's everyone on about this time? Well, folks I'm a bit embarrassed to say it but here it is.

It's Cheerios.

Well, not Cheerios directly, but the maker of Cheerios, General Mills' new ad that's been on TV and online. It features a family, and it's about a little girl's concern for her father's heart health. And the rest, well, maybe you should just see it here.

Now, how on earth can anyone have a problem with a face like that? Or with what she did to look after her daddy. And the ending is just priceless. I LAUGHED. Why? Because it's just too darned cute. It's beyond cute. It's too adorable for words.

So what's the problem?
Apparently, this ad features an inter-racial family. Mommy is white. Daddy is black, and the little girl is obviously the product of both of them via a process known as...well, we don't need to get into that, but without trying to sound obvious or cliched, didn't we get past this? According to the Huffington Post, some people had a whole lot bad to say about this ad. Enough that a spokesperson from General Mills, well, spoke up and essentially told everybody who's up in arms about this to chill.
Now, full disclosure. I'm black, so I may have a bias here. But I would argue it's towards little girls who love their daddies and want them to be around to watch them grow up. There are worse ones I could have, and there are far worse ones that a still too-high number of people have. I guess those folks will be swearing off Cheerios (as well as Wheaties and Pillsbury...everything) from now on because, oh my God, black people eat them. And now the universe as they understand it has been forever altered.

Black people eat Cheerios. With their familes, some of whom might be...gulp, white. Or mixed.
What's next? The Apocalypse?

I groan.
All right. Maybe I had this idea that we were all past this and I wanted to indulge it for a moment. To their credit, General Mills is saying, quite boldly, that its brand message needs to reflect the America we actually live in, and that the traditional sort of Leave It To Beaver approach, while perhaps safe, is not authentic. I couldn't agree more. Turns out, the ad got something like 20,000 "likes"and maybe 1500 negative commenters. I did read some of the "dissents" if they could be so politely called that. I almost lost my lunch. There's respectful disagreement and then there's all out reptilian-brained insanity.

So. We're done here, right?
Reptiles can stay in the swamp. We will leave you in peace.

More Later


Friday, May 24, 2013

Remembering Trayvon Martin

On this day, I am remembering the senseless death of a young man in FL. But even more, I am grieving the outpouring of senselessness that I've seen online among some people since then. First, some background.
In Sanford, FL about a year ago, Trayvon Martin was killed by a neighborhood watch captain named George Zimmerman. Zimmerman claims he acted in self-defense, so he was not arrested. Martin was unarmed, unless you consider a bag of Skittles and a bottle of iced tea to be "packing".
So one questions what Zimmerman felt so threatened by that he had to "return force". A hail of Skittles perhaps? Did he just feel affronted at having to "taste the rainbow" so he had to shoot?


Now, you all ought to know that this kind of thing might be covered by a law enacted in FL that allows citizens to be armed, and to "stand their ground" if they feel threatened and "return force" if necessary. This law was signed by Gov. Jeb Bush in 2005. There are laws like this in nearly two dozen states.
You can see where this goes. Let's say you don't feel safe as you go through the drive-thru at Burger King because the person in the window looks, I don't know, "shifty". You're armed. He looks at you funny as he takes your money, an "altercation" ensues and you pull out your piece and...return force. So in a way, this law was trouble looking for a place to happen when it was signed. Well, I guess trouble done found a place to happen.

By all accounts, Trayvon Martin was a good kid. He was raised right, liked sports, played football and was close to his dad. He was the kind of kid any parent would be proud of. Even President Obama said that if he'd had a son, he'd want him to be like Trayvon. Now he certainly wasn't perfect, because no teenager is. This gets us to the senseless part of my remarks here.
There has been a rather concerted effort to portray this kid as some kind of thug who attacked Zimmerman and therefore he was justified in shooting him. There has even been a suggestion that the kid's hooded sweater was what aroused suspicion. There's also been new evidence introduced by the defense only yesterday that attempts to paint Trayvon as some kind of punk who possibly "had it coming." So they're playing that tune again. The one that says young black men are inherently dangerous and the best way to deal with them is either to lock them up or shoot them.

The point I want to make is this: as an artist, I find myself studying the human condition in its beauty and its horror. Because I'm an artist, I find myself asking questions like this: how did we get here? How did we get to a place where it's okay to shoot an unarmed teenager with what appears to be no provocation and just walk away?

How did we imagine passing a law that makes it okay to basically shoot first and ask questions later would somehow make for a more civil society? Apparently these acts of violence have increased dramatically since this law went into effect.

Why do some of us still have this knee-jerk reaction to young black men that says they might be dangerous? What weirdling paradigm is that based on?
And doesn't it seem curious that as things like art and music and education get cut, that there seems to be an increase in the kind of reptilian non-thinking that allows horrific tragedies like this to occur? Can you draw a direct line to this? Maybe not, but a connection can be made if you look. Because I can assure you, artists, musicians, poets, writers, actors, and dancers generally aren't busy coming up with new laws that allow us to spend time stirring up trouble, looking for fights, and finding new ways to kill each other. Unless of course you're Ted Nugent, who really should spend more time playing his guitar, and less time ranting for the NRA.
I did say that generally, artists aren't into this kind of stuff. There are always folks out on the fringe.
Meanwhile I keep hope that a better use of our collective imagination might at least mitigate a fair portion of this.

Don't quit your day job, Ted. Ranting for the NRA is so not a good look for you.

More Later

Monday, May 20, 2013

On A Day in April; A Meditation on Superheroes

Here in MA we have a holiday called Patriot's Day, and it usually falls somewhere around the time of the end of tax season. This year, Tax Day and Patriot's Day were the same day. So was the annual Boston Marathon. Whilst watching the goings on from our accountant's office, there was an explosion near the finish line. Shrapnel shot out everywhere with deadly intent. An 8-year old boy was killed. Two young women were killed, a student and restaurant manager with a bright smile and a sweet nature. Others were maimed and still others wounded.  First responders raced to the scene to help. Runners in the race came to help including a doctor who finished the race and then ran over to treat the wounded. Ordinary people became superheroes on that day in April. But they weren't the kind who could repel bullets or scale walls or even fly or run at incredible speeds. And whether Superman or Spider-Man or the Flash could've gotten there in time to stop the carnage is an open question. It's always great when these things are averted, and we've been incredibly fortunate. But it was really only a matter of time. We wouldn't be able to get to all of them. Stop all of them. That may be too much to ask even of mythic characters like Superman.

So since we don't have super speed, X-ray vision, or the proportionate strength and speed of a spider, we have to rely on our ability to be one step ahead of people like Tamerlan Tsarnaev, and his brother Dzhokar, a couple of homegrown terrorist wannabes who learned how to build pressure cooker bombs on the internet and used an international gathering as practice for more disruptions later. This time, we didn't get all the intel we could have gotten and we didn't connect the dots fast enough. And the attack went off. Even the Batman might not have been able to stop it in time. The device was activated with a cell phone as the two brothers walked calmly away. Is the Flash fast enough to outrun the signal?  That's the problem with superhumans. They're still human in the end, and humans miss things. But what makes the folks who rushed in to help super is the strength of their connection to each other, amplified by the communal energy from all over the world gathered in one place at one moment. In moments like that, we're as powerful as any strange visitor from another planet with powers and abilities far beyond those of mortal men. That's why these two losers were taken down before the week was out. Tamerlan was killed in a gunfight with Boston PD, and Dzhokar finally surrendered and is in prison at Devens, awaiting trial. That's why they won't get a chance to try anything else in New York, Chicago, Los Angeles, or anywhere else.

Margaret Thatcher, who was committed to the ground in England while we were here chasing down bad guys seemed in her life a proponent of a very rigid kind of individualism. But it wasn't individualism that took out the Tsarnaev brothers. It wasn't an individual superhero who stopped them. It was a collective will and consciousness that demanded they be caught and held responsible for trying to terrorize us into paying attention to their half-formed, ill-advised political discontent.

And no less a superhero than David Ortiz, Big Papi himself arrived just in time to give us all a sense of closure when he said, his uniform saying Boston in big red letters, "This is our !@#$^& city!"

So say we all.
It's going to take a damned sight more than a couple of junior jihadi apprentices to take us down.
And Admiral Adama, along with all of Boston and the whole Commonwealth of MA said:

I should add here that Edward James Olmos' remarks here at the UN sort of explain why there are people who need to do what was done in Boston on that day in April. As long as this need to "otherize" people exists, there will be acts of destruction of this type or another, and it's also why we will continue to need heroes, super or not, to remind us of what we all have in common.

More Later

Saturday, May 18, 2013

You Woke Me Up for This?

Just thought you should know: Beyonce is pregnant. Again.
More significantly, Canadian rock trio Rush was inducted into the Rock-n-Roll Hall of Fame. Now, did that already happen, or was it happening as I was watching it on HBO?

Sorry to wake you. Go back to sleep.

More Later

Wednesday, April 10, 2013

The "Iron Lady" Is Dead.

Margaret Thatcher is dead. For those of you who've been living somewhere other than the U.K. (that's the United Kingdom, not the University of Kentucky), which is a lot of us, Margaret Thatcher was the first and only female Prime Minister of Great Britain. Historic as that is, her legacy will be much more remembered for her 11-year attempt to return Britain to its former feudal state. Many say that she effectively destroyed the country and it has yet to fully recover. The British, it turns out, are a lot less reserved about her than we are across the ocean. And the most vociferous critics of the Iron Lady, it turns out, were artists. A lot of musicians in England had very much a pointed perspective. One song was famously called "Margaret On The Guillotine".  She was a force of nature that seemingly nothing could stop. Artists and musicians helped fuel the growing outrage with her until she was finally toppled in 1990. One noted singer, Morrissey penned a venom-filled op-ed in The Daily Beast following her passing, calling her "a terror without an atom of humanity." He also wrote "Margaret On The Guillotine" during Thatcher's heyday. to assume Morrissey didn't think much of her.
I mean, you couldn't infer that when he asks "When will you die?"
Well, she's dead now. At 87. Of a stroke. She spent her final years in dementia, which seems fitting given the years she spent hating things like working people, feminists, the arts in particular, and poor people. All this hollows you out. I'll have to check this part out, but I heard that she died alone in a hotel room with only a caregiver in the room next door to attend to her. Curious how a woman of such heft and bombast could come to such a pitiable end. Her twin children were living abroad and apparently didn't visit often. Of course, the exact contours of their relationship are unknown, but it does make one speculate about the reasons why some grown children put states, continents, and even oceans worth of distance between their parents. The Iron Lady, she who wrecked England was now wrecked herself, and those closest to her seemed not to care very much.

Having said this, it seems that the Thatcher twins have made names for themselves, particularly the son, Mark, in ways their mother mightn't have approved of. And all of this is to note this: Thatcher was a force in and of herself. This is noteworthy. But she might have done well to realize what most superheroes get: I must only use this power for good.

I think Morrissey might agree.

Margaret Thatcher 1925-2013

More Later

Monday, April 1, 2013

While You Were Watching "Game of Thrones"

Last night the 2013 Major League Baseball season began quietly with a game between the twice-contending Texas Rangers and the non-contending American League new entrants, the Houston Astros. Destined for underdog status this year, and with the lowest payroll ($20 million) in the big leagues, the Astros gave playoff-tested Texas a run for its money, beating them 8-2, a sound whoopin' by any standard. Texas, of course will likely recover and avenge this embarrassment. Houston on the other hand gets to brag about having drawn first blood being clearly overmatched.

Today the season officially gets underway with the Boston Red Sox facing the decimated New York Yankees at Yankee Stadium (for the New England crowd), and my hometown New York Mets facing San Diego at CitiField. Meanwhile, over on the left coast, the San Francisco Giants defend their World Series title against perennial rivals the Los Angeles Dodgers.

Oh, to be Jon Miller right now.

The Texas/Houston matchup makes me think of Robb Stark, the King of the North, seeking to avenge his father's death and rescue his sisters from the Lannisters down in King's Landing. Anyone watching this match-up has to think that the Starks are doomed. But they have (or had) the Kingslayer under guard, and King Robb is not be underestimated. He has Lord Tywin's attention, which is no mean feat.
Rick Ankiel, whose 3-run HR put the game away for Houston, reminds me a bit of Jon Snow, Ned Stark's other son, who seems to be finding new life beyond the Wall with those who fight the White Walkers.

See, I watched the game, and I saw the "Game".

Jon Miller, the Voice of the San Francisco Giants

 Rick Ankiel, reborn as the Hero in Houston's 8-2 victory over Texas last night.

Jon Snow, son of Ned Stark, seeking to be a Hero north of the Wall
 A White Walker, the object of Snow's hero-making quest. Yeah. Good luck with that!

And, finally the Kingslayer, Jaime Lannister looking not so good here, Lord Tywin, ruling as Hand of the King (which is to say, King, since Joffrey is a child, and a sociopathic coward), and none too happy about the current state of affairs as he faces a threat from the King of the North, Robb Stark.

Game of Thrones, the game of Baseball, the metaphors abound. Let the games begin!

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Saturday, March 30, 2013

Nothing To See Here

An article on Salon this past week sought to answer a question posed by others about former President George W. Bush's newfound passion for painting. The question was did his artwork offer any insights into the man or into his presidency. I would have to answer, along with the writer, most assuredly not.
I suspect the former president is as much a mystery to himself as he is to the rest of us, and his artwork, about which people so enthusiastically rave is no more than just a snapshot of what he happens to be observing at the moment. No self-reflection. No introspection, and certainly nothing that would give anyone anymore insight into who he is and what his presidency was about. I once told someone, a very devout Mormon in fact, that Bush has no spiritual connection that I have ever been able to discern. I think you could fairly argue that he has no active inner life either. No active self awareness and no inclination to question his motivations, feelings, etc.

This is very much like his arguably more intelligent, if equally opaque Vice President Dick Cheney. Both men during their time in the White House carried with them an aura of absolute certainty about their actions. Now certainty doesn't mean they were right. But they were never in doubt. They never gave themselves the luxury of asking questions, soliciting other viewpoints, or even wondering if they might be wrong if not insane.

So while Dick Cheney goes fly-fishing and tells the world to essentially go to hell for questioning his decisions, the former president may find himself, stirred by his new passion, asking, or attempting to ask the questions he never allowed himself to even entertain during 8 years as Commander-In Chief. Because art, doing art, invites that kind of inner journey. That is, if you want to do work that means anything. Some people will always be content doing still life renderings of bowls of fruit, flowers in a vase, or in Mr. Bush's case, dogs. Or on occasion, the picture of his legs in water as he sits in the tub, seeing nothing, understanding nothing.

And a river runs through the stygian blackness that is Cheney's soul.

Meanwhile, Mr. Bush paints what he sees. He just knows not what he sees or why.

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Monday, March 18, 2013

More Snow...

The Goddess of Winter isn't done with us yet, is she?


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Wednesday, March 13, 2013

Meanwhile On Planet Cheney...

On Friday, March 15th, Showtime Network releases "The World According To Dick Cheney", which allows our former VP to essentially hold forth with his unique brand of snarling gravitas. You can see a preview here, and then close your eyes and imagine what it might be like to interview Darkseid, Darth Vader, or Victor von Doom.

Somehow you just don't imagine this guy (or these guys) painting dogs, do you?
Neither can I.

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Saturday, March 9, 2013

Enough Already!!

According to the Telegram & Gazette, we the residents of Worcester, MA received 108.9 inches of snow this season. Now, we've had winters like this before. In fact, we have a list of snowiest winters on record in recent years, and we have a record, set in the winter of 1995-1996, that still stands: 132.9 inches. That's more than twice our normal of 65 inches. Last year, as the locals will tell you, we didn't have anything that resembled a "normal" winter. Any such notions of that becoming a trend were swept aside by the blizzard that was Nemo in February. Yesterday, Saturn wrung itself out over the region. We got 22.8 inches. Hooray for us. This is more our speed. I'm waiting for someone to suggest that we had a "mild" winter. Yeah. Maybe on your planet. Meanwhile on this one, the argument for a more characteristic winter in this region has been made.


Friday, March 8, 2013

Papa's Got A Brand New Bag!

One of the strangest, and possibly under-reported stories in modern politics also happens to be one of the strangest stories in art. Strange because it features the one person that I and many other folks would never expect or imagine would have such a passion for art. That person, ladies and gentlemen (drumroll please), is none other than former President George Walker Bush!


You heard it here first friends. Actually, you heard it hear after news outlet Salon and a few others first made noise about the President's artistic aspirations. The latest story says he took to painting with a passion that bowled over his teacher, Bonnie Flood. I'm still trying to wrap my head around the idea of a GOP president who would have defunded the National Endowment For the Arts if that bill had crossed his desk, and whose allies tried, as conservatives tend to do, to wipe out funding for the CPB (that's the Corporation for Public Broadcasting, which brings you Sesame Street, Reading Rainbow, and that little-watched thing called Downton Abbey). Never mind that the funding for those entities amounts to an infinitesimal portion of the national budget. Never mind that US government spending for the arts tends to be a target for cuts no matter who is sitting in the White House. Never mind that our spending for the war in Afghanistan exceeds that miniscule amount by several orders of magnitude. Don't let's get wrapped up in all that!

Let's just watch in awe at the under the radar transformation of our former president, who essentially left the country in a pretty bad place, allowed the greedy to profit, etc, etc, into a wine-sipping artiste'!
In case you were wondering (and I really wasn't until this) what ol' Dubya was doing with his time down there on the ranch in Texas, well now you know. We all know now.

He's painting.
Painting dogs. Fifty of them so far. Oh, and there was that thing about him painting pictures of himself in the shower. Some people thought that was strange. So far the sort of stereotypical "weird" tag that's tagged on to artists seems to be sticking to him. He's on the right track. His teacher seems to think he has real potential. So the presidential gig didn't work out so great. It's okay. Maybe this was his calling all along. If only that teacher had gotten to him in 2000.

Ye Gods.

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