Tuesday, December 28, 2010

The Bluebird....of happiness.

"The Bluebird Theater" is my most recent painting, just finished.  It is 24 x 36, oil on panel, and is a rendition of a scene that I photographed in Denver Colorado.  The Bluebird is no longer a movie theater, in fact, but a venue where mostly up-and-coming bands and performers are on stage, seven nights a week. 

For more than a year I had been casting about looking for the right theater to paint.  I was primarily interested in the lights and lighting effects of a marquee at night, but I also like the feeling of a pool of light that attracts people who come to be entertained.  The shadowy figures in this painting are kids who have come to see a couple of unknown--nationally, at least--rock bands.  The movie title on the marquee is my own.  "Paradise Lost" is the title of an epic poem by John Milton written in the 1660s.  It addresses his despair in a lost revolution, but affirms his faith in humanity.  Max Demian, is the name of a primary character in Hesse's novel, 'Demian'.

I just was not inclined to put the names of two rock bands on this classical marquee.  But, for me, the real challenge and satisfaction of doing this painting is how the lights of the marquee needed to really seem to luminesce, and I am very fond of how the blue light coming from the neon 'Bluebird' is causing the entire top-half of the building to seem almost unreal, kind of ethereal and yet vibrant at the same time. I also found the way that the theater's lights reflect off of the painted lines in the street and the reflections on the car parked down the block to add visual interest.  And, they were fun to paint.

Sunday, December 26, 2010

Oligarchy of Greed....

I had not paid attention to the term, "net neutrality" until I read the above linked piece. (click on the header)  Al Franken is a highly literate and astute watchdog for individual rights.  How ironic then that he should be representing the same state of Minnesota that Michelle Bachmann does.  They are such absolute polar opposites that it almost boggles the mind.

But, thank God that Senator Franken is paying attention, because if the sneaky weasels who are about to attempt to pull off a quick one on us succeed, the internet will change fundamentally in its nature and its mission.  Instead of being an open and free venue wherein small entrepreneurs and people who desire to share their opinions--like I do on this blog--have equal opportunity to do so, it will instead become a place where big money and corporate horsepower begin to have more status and much greater power to put their message in your face.  The essential liberty that has characterized the internet--for better and for worse--will be on its way to extinction.

When you search for something--either information or a product, or an organization--you will be ushered to the site of the company who wants you to buy their service or product.....or, worst of all, to the site of the propaganda 'news' organization who wants to infuse your thinking with their own.

The internet is still a relative adolescent.  It was almost inevitable that the forces of greed would find ways to manipulate the vast power of communication and the nearly infinite information reserves that the internet serves as a gateway for. By inserting themselves at the junctions of how information flows, these masters of manipulation will succeed in influencing not only what we buy, but what we know, what we even believe is going on in the world.  Can you imagine any organization as politically biased and intellectually corrupt as Fox News having the power to determine what goes out over the world-wide-web?  When the little guy is squeezed out because he or she can no longer show up in searches, due to an inability to pony-up the necessary fees or simply because their opinion is divergent, the fundamental nature of everything that the internet represents will be utterly and irrevocably destroyed.

Think about this.  The internet is the greatest leveler of the playing field of democracy, of any form of communication that HAS EVER EXISTED.  Anybody can gain access to it for free, and anybody can use it to communicate their message, however weird, wonderful, inane or ingenious.  It is ALL IN THERE.

Letting this fall under the sway of people who are intent on dominating it for the purposes of political influence or simply the achievement of greedy goals.....is a form of social suicide.  We would just have one more channel on the television is ultimately what it would mean......nothing that could ever serve to preserve and to develop intellectual, social and spiritual goals.

This would be just one more aspect of the Oligarchy of Greed that is already in ascendancy.  God help us if we allow that to happen.

Monday, December 6, 2010

Diva with a gun.....

I have spent a lifetime in the shooting sports.  Starting at age 8 and all the way to the present day, I am, simply put, a Marksman, with pistol, shotgun and rifle.  I have a long list of credentials in that regard and a bunch of trophies, but more than that I just love being outdoors and participating in the shooting sports in all their many forms.

I have been keeping up with the mini-series on TLC channel, "Sarah Palin's Alaska", and it is more, much more, revealing than I would guess she is aware.  For example: here's what I saw when the great Sarah of Wasilla sallied forth on a caribou hunt:  She wasn't either allowed, expected or willing to carry her own rifle. In fact, it wasn't hers at all, but one chosen by her father from his battery...picked for its lack of recoil, according to him.  I would guess it was something like a .243 Winchester. Palin Sr. referred to it rather disdainfully as a 'varmint rifle'.  Neither was she expected to load or operate the bolt-action on this rifle. It was the kind of thing you might see when a kid is hunting with a parent for the first time.  But, apparently, Palin Sr. has been taking Sarah hunting since childhood....so, is that perhaps why he still treats her as if she were a ten-year old?

So, finally, a caribou presents itself on the second day of the hunt.....and the moment of truth is upon her.  Sarah squints into the scope and squeezes off a shot.  Nothing happens, the caribou stands there.  So, her father reaches over and operates the bolt-action and Annie Oakley squeezes off a second shot......caribou stares in disbelief.  She misses four times before it dawned on anybody that the rifle wasn't properly zeroed-in.  The scope must have taken a knock during the travels to the camp....but any responsible and knowledgeable sports(wo)man knows that the first thing you do on arrival in camp, certainly before heading out, is to fire a few shots to verify the zero on your rifle.  Nah, not the Palins.

 Then her friend, Becker, hands her his rifle with the warning,"...Careful, this one kicks", and she finally shoots the by now bored caribou, who had apparently decided that its fate could only be fulfilled by being a victim of the storied huntress who had traveled so far to kill it.

The whole business was just silly.  This woman--despite all her claims to outdoor expertise--violated a primary rule of hunting: be sure of your shot.  By not knowing if the rifle was properly zeroed, she turned the whole thing into a Keystone Cops movie.  When she got home and was showing off the meat and antlers to her family with great pride, her smallest daughter, Piper, was singularly unimpressed and when Sarah asked if she'd like to have the antlers on the wall in her bedroom, I believe I heard Piper observe that her mommy had shot a very small caribou. 

If the goal of this mini-series is to impress all of us who love the outdoors that Sarah Palin is one of us, I've got some bad news for you, Mark Burnett.  It ain't workin'.

Wednesday, December 1, 2010

Julien Assange has some issues........ Ya think?

If someone dumped a print out of all the documents that Wikileaks just dumped into the world media channels in your garage, it would require a fork-lift to move them.  I say 'garage' because I am doubtful there would be room in your office or home.

Jon Stewart put it in perspective in terms of what this mountain of material really reveals: not much, if anything.  If Assange's motivation was to 'embarrass' us as a nation on the world stage, he has failed miserably.  Here's the thing:  he would have to go light years beyond just revealing some crass and candid statements made by our diplomatic corps if he wants to even come close to what we do on our own to make us look fat, stupid, greedy and 'ugly' in the eyes of the rest of the world.  Anybody who spends time outside of the U.S. these days can tell you that the rosy view of Americans that persisted after WWII....is long gone.  We have acted out of such obvious self-interest with such callous disregard for both the world community of nations and the environment, that we are now held almost universally in low regard.  Hillary Clinton apologized to one of her secretary of state 'counterparts' from another country, only to be told, essentially, "Not a problem. You should hear what we say about YOU."

Chris Matthews, of Hardball on MSNBC, said, "But people are still trying to get into this country, right."  Right, because they live in horrendous circumstances in places like Honduras and Mexico.  I would be wading the river and climbing the fence too if I lived under those conditions.  That doesn't change how the rest of especially the developed world sees us, warts and all. To this day, I wince when I am reminded that we refused to sign the Kyoto Accords. We were telling the world, straight-up, we're going to pollute all we want to, to hell with the environment.  So, is it any wonder how we got here?

Much of what Assange is motivated by is a deep anger towards the United States.  In one interview I saw it was impossible to not know that this is a seriously disturbed dude.  His mannerisms, his tone....hell, just the look in his eyes when he spoke about why he wants to monkey wrench America....all were clear signals of his mental/emotional state.....and it made my skin crawl.  He is now on the run, accused of committing rape and living a shadow-life as he flees from international law enforcement.  He had better hope they find him before the CIA does.

But, my real point here is this: despite how deranged Assange may be, regardless of his burning desire to 'hurt' us....maybe it is just possible that he's done us a favor in essence, by holding up a mirror and saying, "Do you see how you look to the rest of us?"

So, maybe it is time we stopped looking in our own Magic Mirror and asking, "Mirror, mirror on the wall......", and stop discounting others' opinions and begin asking ourselves what we need to do to find our way back to being the good example and the beacon of freedom that we once were in the rest of the world's eyes.

Tuesday, November 30, 2010

Last Rays....

As the sun approaches the winter solstice, its arc getting ever lower each day, the quality of light gets finer and finer.  About two years ago I started carrying a pocket camera. Since my preferred mode of dress on a typical day is a pair of overalls over a flannel shirt, I have a perfect pocket on the bib in which a small camera is right at home.  I started out with a Canon SD1100 IS, an 8 megapixel with all the necessary features to make grab-shot photos easy and of a quality that is very useful. 

Somehow, on a recent trip to Colorado, that little camera and I parted ways.  I hope whoever found it gets as much service out of it as I did. I replaced it with a Panasonic Lumix FH-20, which, at 14 mpxls and with an 8X optical zoom lens, is an even more capable camera.  It almost doesn't matter what pocket camera you choose, there are very few bad ones out there in a market that is so competitive that incompetent products don't last very long and manufacturers know that their reputation is always on the line.  The key is to have a camera WITH YOU at all times. 

Below is a shot of a local farm, taken in the last few moments before the sun dove below the horizon.  I was able to pull off the road, jump out and capture about six images before the sun was gone.  For me, what is most enjoyable about this image and all pix of this type, is how radically the yellow-rose sunlight transforms the buildings.  If you look at the various areas of them you will see colors ranging from a very warm, almost Naples Yellow Pale, to pinks, mauves and even distinctly violet shades where the shadows fall.  The multiple surfaces all catch the light in unique ways and reflect colors differently. If I decide to use this image as a reference for a painting, the test will be to not over exaggerate the colors.  They are already very saturated and to take them much further would run the risk of stepping across the line into garishness.  Light as it naturally occurrs is almost always about as good as it gets.

This image could be made very easily by anybody with a camera.  There is absolutely nothing about it that required any skill......other than the obvious one:  SEEING THE LIGHT.

Wednesday, November 24, 2010

How Dogs Tamed US.....

Last night I saw the first episode of "How Man Tamed the Wild" on Nat Geo t-v.  Among the interesting segments was one that made me really sit-up and watch closely.  It was about the 'Metrodogs' of Moscow.  These are members of the approximately 35,000 feral dog population that roams Moscow without restraint.  They are also smart enough to know that being friendly to the Muscovites is necessary if they want to live their lives unmolested, so they are actually quite sociable as they go about the tough job of making a living by their wits.  The so-called 'Metrodogs', however, go a step further.  They have learned how to use the extensive Moscow subway system, and it seems clear that they both get on and off trains at the stations of their choosing.  In other words: THEY KNOW THE SUBWAY SYSTEM.  One Russian who is researching these amazing mutts--who all look somewhat the same, btw, like a German Shepherd-Labrador cross--guessed that they know the various stations by their unique appearance, by scent......and because the announcer tells them the name as the train pulls in. 

On hearing this I immediately had a mental image of this dog getting off his seat, stretching and yawning, "Well, that's my stop." written across his face as he makes his way toward the door.

There was plenty of footage of these dogs sharing the platforms with passengers of the two-legged variety, and there is even a bronze statue of a Metrodog on one station platform.  Obviously, Muscovites like and admire these pooches for their independence and audacity.  One passenger remarked that the dogs will go right between your legs to get where they want to go.  And he was smiling as he said this.

Moscow dogs have formed packs in exactly the same way wolves and coyotes do....not to mention inner-city human juveniles too, of course.  Their territories are precise and non-negotiable; any dog caught in a neighboring pack's territory is in for a very rough time of it. One such pup, trapped along a steep riverbank was calling for his pack-mates to come get him out of a jam.

Another very interesting tidbit was that researchers have discovered genetic differences in animals that are non-aggressive and those that remain aggressive.  This, in fact, was the defining criteria for being 'tame' or wild: friendly or not.  They have some idea that a few wolves with this 'tame' gene began to reach out to humans about 15,000 years ago, and that was the beginning of the endless adventure of dogs and humans working and living together. 

But, perhaps the most interesting research that has been done in this area is that of a Russian scientist, beginning in the 50s and still underway--he, btw, actually braved the firing squad under the Stalin regime to do it. Dimitri Belyaev found that some 60 generations into artificial selection for 'friendliness' that silver foxes began to actually change their appearance. They became multi-colored, developed a lighter bone structure, and they began to do something no wild fox does.....wag their tails as a sign of friendly intentions. 

And, last but not least is a story from an island far out to sea off County Donnegal, Ireland: Tory Island.  Up until he disappeared in 2008, there was a porpoise named Doogie who was the local 'harbor porpoise'.  This is actually not a rare thing for a porpoise to become habituated in a particular harbor and to visit with the local fishermen and boaters.  I have heard some amazing stories about such animals.  But, one day in Tory harbor, a yellow lab named Ben saw Doogie out there and decided that he needed to meet him.....so he paddled out and began a friendship that went on for years. On a given day Ben would see Doogie and make his way out for a frolic in which Ben would swim in tight circles as Doogie swirled around him.  Click on the header above to see a video of Ben and Doogie having a visit. 

When I first became aware of this, my thought was: "What in the world went through Ben's head that he decided swimming out into a frigid, dark body of water to meet a very large and only partially visible creature?"  Then I remembered: "Oh, that's right...HE'S A DOG!!"

Friday, November 19, 2010

Uh-oh, there he goes again.....

In Tsarist Russia, sometime around the fin de siecle, an officer in the Tsar's secret police (Pyotr Ivanovich Rachovsky) fabricated something called, "The Protocols of the Elders of Zion."  He just made them up, even plagiarized some of the content from a French literary work, "Dialog in Hell between Machiavelli and Montesquieu" by Maurice Joly, a political satirist of the 1860s.  These were supposedly secret protocols describing a plan by means of which the 'Elders' of the world Jewish community planned to take over the planet. These fake protocols might have faded quickly into the dustbin of history but for the fact that Henry Ford became aware of them and saw to it that they were widely distributed and published them in, "The International Jew".  Apparently, dear ol' Henry was an anti-semite of some serious standing and ambition.

When Adolph Hitler came to power in 1933, he saw to it that Josef Goebbles et al, distributed the Protocols throughout the Third Reich.  This was a part of the strategy I have previously written about here, called "The Big Lie", one of the tenets of which is to turn the tables on your perceived opponents, and make them to blame for, well, for EVERYTHING, of course. The crystalline clarity born of hindsight has shown that it was the Nazis themselves who were implementing the 'protocols', almost step-by-step, all the while using their existence to fuel the hell-fires of the Holocaust.

Now, slip forward in time to the present.  We have a clown called Glenn Beck, or at least he poses as a clown, telling people, "Hey, what do I know?", "I'm just a fool", "Don't believe me," and yet he also let's fly phrases such as, "Hey, I couldn't say it here, if it weren't true."  He's the kind of clown that would have all the kiddies at the birthday party crying and cowering under the furniture after the first few minutes. He relishes his role as a stoker of fear, a spreader of lies, a painter of dire pictures of the future.  And, despite his disclaimers to the contrary, he is well aware that he commands the attention of a large audience, estimated to be in the range of 2.1 million people, though it should also be noted that his audience has shrunk by approximately 800,000 since the beginning of 2010.

Apparently there are over two million Americans who are sitting in front of televisions at 5:00 p.m. and sucking up the words this man spews out.  His latest campaign is to reveal how George Soros, a self-made billionaire who survived the Holocaust in Hungary as a teenager, and now is somewhat of a media mogul, has been plotting to, "....take over the United States."  With his now typical assemblage of props and chalk boards, Beck goes into far-flung elaborate explanations of how Soros is implementing his nefarious plan, using, of course, his media empire to great effect to do so.

This is the most blatant and callous use of the Big Lie strategy since the Nazis.  Soros does give money to support various liberal causes and politicians.  He has also been vigorously putting his support behind any group or government that fights communism, fascism or totalitarian forces wherever they occur.  Soros has consistently put his money to work to fight against all those who would trample human rights...anywhere.

So, because he is fully qualified to fit Beck's definition of a "progressive", Beck's response has been to identify Soros as perhaps the most evil person on the planet, easily worse than weenies like Bin Laden because Soros is actually accomplishing something with his efforts.  Beck, to the amazement of even some conservatives, has claimed that Soros was a collaborator with the Nazis at the age of 14, when the truth is that he was--at his father's request--sheltered by a Christian so that he wouldn't be hauled off to Auschwitz with the rest of his family.  (aside: the man under whose care he stayed alive, took him along when he appraised confiscated Jewish properties, and for this Beck has said that Soros confiscated the properties himself.....a wild and ridiculous perversion of the truth, in typical Beck fashion)  The amazingly hypocritical irony behind all of this is that Beck works for Rupert Murdoch, far and away the most powerful media mogul, and one who throws his vast wealth behind conservative causes however he might, via his own much vaster media empire.  The cause Murdoch supports is that of the wealthy getting wealthier, empire building, amassing not merely money but unimaginable power as well.  In fact, wealth is just a vehicle for wielding power and Murdoch is a master of using his 'fair and balanced' news network as a pure and simple propaganda machine.....not at all different, in tenor or substance, than what Goebbles did with the Propaganda Ministry of the Third Reich.

Beck lies without blinking.  He makes up 'facts' out of whole cloth, and seems to feel wholly justified in so doing.  He puts forth his own Big Lie so unashamedly and with such vigor that it is almost hard to take him seriously....but, apparently, over 2 million people do.  I doubt that most of his listeners realize the extent to which he turns the facts and the truth upside down, and inside out.

In Nazi Germany, people became circumspect about the propaganda that they were bombarded with unceasingly.  One of the primary instruments for this was a newspaper, "Der Volkischer Beobachter", "The Peoples' Observer".  It was, pure and simple an organ for the Nazi regime to spin reality.  Eventually, people widely understood this and the conventional wisdom became that if you really wanted to know what was going on with the war, or anything, you simply read the 'VB' and turned everything around 180 degrees.

I have actually tried this with all the sewage flowing from Beck's mind.....it actually works.  Try it yourself, I think you will be amazed.

Tuesday, November 16, 2010

Down to the Bare Bones......again.

Now that almost all the leaves have fallen, leaving only a smattering of bleached beech leaves that will still be there in the early spring, the landscape is fully revealed.  It is a time of year that frustrates me as a photographer because everywhere I look I see the trunks and branches of the trees and shrubbery, and they make amazingly fine textured filigree designs.  But, when I try to put a lens on them and bring those designs to a two-dimensional plane....they mostly fall flat.  I have still--after four decades of trying--not figured out why this is so.

At one point in the 90s I even took-up large format photography, went out and bought a Toyo 4 x 5 field camera, and all the attendant accessories, but still was not satisfied with what I was able to capture.  Perhaps I am just being a spoiled brat of a photographer....expecting something with the impact of more dramatic landscape images where, in actuality, what exists and calls out to me, is very quiet, subtle and much less accessible.

But, in the end, all images captured with a camera will fall short of capturing what was in front of you at the moment the photograph was made.  I think that what appeals to me is the soft colors and gentle light, bathing a frothy landscape of weeds, brush and bare trees against a sky that forebodes the coming of winter.

This is an image of a marsh that I drive past on my way to Portland.  And, it is telling me of the fleeting seasons. Click on it to see it larger.

Saturday, November 13, 2010

Don't miss it........

For reasons known best to himself, Mark Burnett, the creator of the Survivor series on CBS, has come up with another kind of reality series altogether.  In fact, it may be a real stretch to use the term 'reality', because it is an 8 segment show on the life of Sarah Palin.  You may have already seen the trailers for it: Sarah hiking up a mountain pass, in a boat near some tussling Grizzlies, driving an ATV, extolling the virtues of freedom in the great outdoors, etc. 

Here is a link to an article about the series: http://www.boston.com/ae/tv/articles/2010/11/12/sarah_palins_alaska_follows_a_mama_grizzly_in_her_natural_habitat/?p1=Upbox_links

The first thought that crossed my mind when I saw the initial trailer for this series was that Sarah has found a way to 're-brand' herself.  So, when I read the above article, all I could do was nod my head and acknowledge that she's now running for president.  This series will portray her as an All-American, hockey mom, outdoor woman, in charge/take charge kind of person who is someone we can really identify with.  Nevermind all that we have learned about her in the last two years since she stepped onto the national stage.....nah, none of that is what we should be paying attention to.

She is not the journalism major who couldn't tell Catie Couric the name of a single newspaper she reads.  She is certainly not the person who has put her foot in her mouth more often than a spoon or fork.  Just read the article and get a deeper insight into what is coming.


Tuesday, November 9, 2010

Twilight Cafe.....the painting.

I seem to be making a habit of going back to places and images that I have already painted and looking at them in new or different ways.  This painting is an example of that.  I had the thought one day that it might be interesting to photograph on Congress Street, in Portland, just at dusk, when the day is fading and the city lights are coming on.....not yet dark, but no longer daylight either.

So, I put myself at my chosen spot about a half-hour before sunset, set up a tripod and camera and waited.  As the light changed I made a steady record of it, but I knew that it was still too light, and I was still anticipating that there would come a moment when the interior light in the Starbucks across the street would seem balanced with the daylight outside its windows.  Ultimately, I was there for nearly an hour before I saw what I had hoped for, and I shot a long series of images documenting the street-lights coming on--which they do gradually, btw--and the coming and going of patrons in the cafe. 

One of the aspects of this scene that appeals to me--in any light--is how each window becomes a fleeting visual narrative about its ever so temporary occupant(s), and also conveys a sense of each person being isolated.  The fact that many--even most--of the people are using wi-fi laptops to surf the web adds to that isolation.  Each person seems lost in their own little world as the city goes on about its business around them.  This also plays into a theme in my work that has been there since college: "a stranger in a strange land", after the Heinlein novel by that title, of course.  I often see people as alien visitors in their immediate surroundings, travelers who are either actively or passively participating in an ongoing cosmic psycho-drama... here on the earth-plane.

So, here is "Twilight Cafe", a 22 x 30 oil painting on a Baltic birch panel.  Thanks for looking.  Recall that you can click on this image and see it 'full-size'.

Thursday, November 4, 2010

And the Times They are a Changin'.....

Well, here in Maine we have pretty much done the same thing that much of the country has done: gone to the polls with a snoot full of petulant anger.  We have elected an ultra-conservative governor, Paul LePage, and a state legislature that is largely of a much further right persuasion than usual.

The new governor--you may have heard--is the fellow who said, "I'll tell Obama to go to hell." How nice to know that we will be artfully cooperating towards solving the financial and social problems that plague Maine, just like the rest of the country.  I suppose we should feel lucky that we aren't represented by Rand Paul, who said in his acceptance speech that he intended to go to Washington and work on getting President Obama impeached....exactly for what--other than disagreeing with Paul--I am not sure.

The mood across the land is one of angry rejection of what the government has done to re-form health care, prevent another Great Depression and to impose some kind of restraints on the Wall St. wankers who caused this recession in the first place. Hmmmmmm....I suppose it would be good to let them just do what they want.  After all, they're the 'experts', right?  And, God knows the health insurance companies are paragons of kindness and consideration.  Why would we want to reign them in?  But, worst of all, we should have let the poo hit the Wall Street propeller and let those pesky banks and brokerages--not to mention two of the three largest auto-makers--just go down in flames.  Then we could really re-build America from the ashes of a debacle that would have 'purified' the financial and business environment of any weaklings who were destined to be non-survivors in the rough and tumble business world anyway, right?

I must be missing something here.  Instead of taking measures that either protect the working people from the predations of fast and fancy financial whizz-kids.....we are supposed to let them just do whatever they want, and celebrate the joys of 'free enterprise'.  Is that the wish of the Tea Baggers?  If it is, then I admit I am really bamboozled.  Most of the folks I see holding up, "Don't Tread on Me" flags at Tea Party rallys, look like ordinary working people.  Do they really think they are worse off because the government is going to prevent the predators in the pharmaceutical, energy, financial/credit industries from strip-mining the middle-class of its wealth?

Can they really not see that these industries are doing exactly that?  We are like aphids on a rose bush, and the 'ants' keep us well-tended with what we think we want....entertainment galore, toys, and a life-style that was heretofore unimaginable to our great grandparents....and then they 'milk' us.  Whether it be userous  interest rates on the credit we all believe is vital to the maintenance of this life-style, or gouging us for the drugs and medical care we must have, bleeding us dry to heat our homes and drive our cars, it is all just a part of the Big Plan.  That is the one where 1% of Americans acquires 23% of ALL THE WEALTH.

And, guess what, THEY ALREADY HAVE. 

The biggest joke of all is that the Tea Baggers--clamoring for what they believe is the Freedom all Americans have guaranteed to them as their birthright--are acting as the pawns for the Amassers.....doing just exactly what the Big Money lords want them to do: make damn sure that the plundering will continue unabated, without any constraints imposed by the supposed boogeyman: our elected government. Apparently, from what I have been able to glean from their figureheads and vociferous idiots--like Glenn Beck, of course, and dear ol' Rush, Bill O. and--TADAAAH--Sarah Palin--we'd be ever so much 'freer' and happier if the government would just go away.  Wha?  Hey, no taxes sounds pretty good....but, at the cost of what?

Generations from now, doctoral theses will be written on how this came about, how the people were used against their own best interests to insure than the super-rich would become ever more so.  These future economists and social anthropologists will shake their heads and wonder why we could not see what was happening.

In fact, I am doing that right now.

Wednesday, October 27, 2010

We live with an alien....

She's seven now.  And, since we first laid eyes on her I have had moments when I thought, "Jeezum, she looks just like Alf."  You may recall the t-v series by that name, with a plucky alien who crashed his spaceship into a suburban garage and lived with a family at that address.  It has always been just an inkling in the back of my mind, that we're harboring an alien too.

Part of the reason for this is that she does some pretty unusual things, like moving the furniture around when we're not watching....or sometimes even when we are.  Then there's the fact that she seems to just 'know' stuff, like when it's 9:00 p.m. and time for her nightly cookie.....I mean, how does a golden retriever--without a watch, of course--know the time almost to the minute?

When we first got Emma--aka Boo, because she's so full of surprises--she just wanted to return to the mother-ship.  She escaped from the fenced backyard FOUR times, each of them unique.  Holly, our other golden, was the one who came to the door and let us know that Houdini had done it again.  Finally, an animal communicator had a conversation with her and explained that she needed to stop taking off....and it stopped.

She is completely addicted to affection.  Along with food, being scratched, petted and stroked is about all that she wants in life.  Although she really gets in my face if the morning walk is late, or not happening for some reason....like the rain we're having this morning.

I have always believed--with good reason--that dogs are wise, and that they know stuff we cannot.  I don't know if this means they're 'psychic', or if they are just really, REALLY sensitive and therefore tuned-in so well that they can tell when something will happen before it does.  But, most assuredly they can.  I have seen way too many instances of this to doubt it.

But, all of this being what it may....I was shocked when I photographed Boo up on a rock in the woods, with her sister, Binky, and saw this:

BTW: all photos in this blog are 'clikable' and you can see them at full size.

Monday, October 25, 2010

More fall images

I was sorting through images that I have made this fall and thought that a few of them are worth sharing.

Sunday, October 24, 2010

Going, going ......gone!!!!

What's not to like about fall, especially if you live in a place where the leaves become such vivid and harmonious colors that they defy description?  I look forward to it each year, never fail to notice the first tinge of color in some roadside maple, usually in the third week of August.  And, I am an avid watcher and recorder of the accelerating slide into the beginning of October when the leaves are in full riot here in Maine.  If I had the time and money to do it, I might start in northern New England and follow the color down through New York, Pennsylvania, Virginia and into North Carolina.  Anywhere there are great hardwoods becomes luminous and spectacular.  I was in Colorado just a few days ago, and our daughter said, people there go up in the mountains to see the 'colors', and when a friend said she'd done so, she said, "You mean the color.".   You see compared to New England, there is only ONE color in the Rockies, the yellow of the aspens...which really just seem to be fancified poplars that we call 'popples'.  Talk to me of rock maple, ash, oak, white birch and beech trees....all of which also provide wood worthy of making heirlooms.

But, one of the things about the coming of fall that makes me a little wistful is the fact that it is so brief.  A strong breeze comes up some afternoon, and the air is filled with flying leaves...and the riot is suddenly just a 'civil disturbance'.  It's over....just that quickly.  It fills me with a low-level sense of dread as I realize this moment is upon us.  As it is now.  I will go from walking in a green hall of trees, with only scattered dappling of sunlight, to a golden hall.....to walking under an open sky, with clouds wheeling overhead.  I will stop leaving my sunglasses in the car, and soon I will be making decisions about whether or not to wear gaiters, and then snowshoes.

But, I suppose fall in New England wouldn't be so powerful if it were a season that hung around the way winter or summer does.  Both of those 'destination' seasons are long enough to make me forget their opposite. Seriously, when it is high summer, I cannot for the life of me remember what walking in these same woods in deep snow is like.  And, when I am doing just that, summer seems such a distant memory that it becomes almost unreal.  But, fall--and to a lesser extent, spring--are so anticipated and so fleeting, that both of them carry this feeling of urgency, a desire to breathe them in, to see them in all their richness, to really FEEL them...because I know that any day now, it will be gone.

And, that is just the way it should be.


Wednesday, October 13, 2010

You may have noticed I've been gone......

In fact, I haven't felt like writing on this blog for almost six weeks.  I just began to feel that I was being soooo.....NEGATIVE.  My Sufi teacher, Samuel Lewis, once opined that, "There's no positive value in negativity."  He didn't say there is no value....just that there's no positive value.

Anybody who is paying attention already knows that these are trying times.  And I don't feel that it's my task to add to the general atmosphere of negativity that is so pervasive.  The other evening, Abby and I, along with a couple of friends, hauled out the good ol' I Ching.  I wanted to ask, "What is going on with all the stupidity that is becoming such a rage?"  I mean, everywhere you look another idiot has popped into the news.  I am speaking now of people like Rand Paul, Sharon Angle, Christine O'Donnell....and, of course, we were already beset by such world-class wankers as Rush, Glenn, Sarah, Bill O.....the people who spend their time trying to convince us that our country has been stolen from us by the Obama gang...that we are going to hell in a kiddie-car, and we should be angry and fearful.   Sharon Angle has even suggested that her followers take up arms--pursue a "Second Amendment solution:"--if they don't get their way.  Eeeeeeeeeeha.  What the fu*k is happening here? 

After a while it all seems just too much.  A few weeks back, Jon Stewart dwelt on the idea of, "...I give up."  It was a suggestion that resonated with my wife and I.  You can take just so much of the idiocracy in action before it begins to feel like, "What's the point?"  If we're really so stupid--collectively speaking--that we're willing to believe our president is a: A foreigner, b: a Muslim, c: the Anti-Christ, intent on creating a socialist dictatorship,  and d: our own government planned and executed 9-11....then we are beyond help, so giving up, in the manner of throwing up one's hands and just shrugging, is about all an intelligent and sober person can manage that makes sense of it all. By loosening one's grip on the hope that we--as a nation--will begin to act in an intelligent and compassionate fashion, one is just quite possibly able to know something other than the fear and anger that we are marinating in. 

Enter the concept of karma.  Not only do individual souls have a karmic path they must walk, but, likewise, nations do also.  I have long thought of karma as a metaphor in which each soul has a burden of bundles. For some it might be a matched set of Gucci luggage....in alligator leather.  Yet others may have only a hobo's 'bindle' on a stick.  Most of us are carrying something in between these extremes, perhaps a carry-on, and a roller-bag that is pretty heavy but which we can drag along behind us as we navigate the airports or train stations of life.  These containers have in them the sum total of our soul's experiences that remain unresolved.  Anything that carries guilt, for instance, or resentment, or yearning, or loathing will be found somewhere in our baggage.  And, we are doomed to drag it along until something happens--or we take action--to resolve it.

Of course, if we're unaware that a particular item--say, anger at someone who wronged you--even exists, it may reside with us for a very long time.  It is in the bag marked with a barely noticeable skull  on the tag....our Shadow-self.  That is the bag that Robert Bly referred to as, "....the long burlap bag we drag behind us."

An example of national karma is glaringly obvious in Germany's relationship to the Holocaust. In the 65 years since WWII ended, it has been handled in a variety of ways by the German people.  The generation on whose watch it happened decided--for the most part--to deny it.   When Allied troops overran each German town or city, they were told, "It was the SS.", "It was those people in the next town.", "The Nazis did it; we didn';t know anything about it."...and on and on.  One American reporter said that it was as if nobody either knew about it (despite the presence of a concentration camp right outside town, and the sickly, evil odor that emanated therefrom), or--God forbid--participated in it. My somewhat extensive reading on the subject, however, told me that any and all Germans knew beyond doubt that it was taking place.  They just didn't WANT to know.  Denial became like an escape hatch....way too easy to simply dive into. But, it didn't work in the long run. Denial doesn't resolve, it only delays.

As this national nightmare has been passed along from one generation to the next, the reaction has changed.  Now, there are many younger Germans who are incensed at the denial and the claims of ignorance.  They want it out in the glare of public consciousness where it can be first accepted and then dealt with in some manner that will allow the entire country to stop having to re-live it.  They want to make 'friends' with the Dragon that has been belching fire and biting them from behind.

We Americans have karma too.  Slavery, for starters, was a national shame and an acceptance of acts against fellow humans that still carries a fiery sting.  Don't think so?  Ask almost any black person how they feel about that part of our history.  Then there comes our treatment of Native American peoples.  I feel myself flush with shame when I see documentaries on the 'winning of the west'.  We didn't 'win' it, we conquered it, and we murdered, or trampled asunder a proud people who had been there for untold generations living in harmony with nature, if not each other.

Now, it seems that we are approaching another national crossroads, one that will be pivotal in deciding who we are as a people.  Some people are stepping forward to tell us, in loud and angry voices, that we need to start taking care of our own needs, that selfishness is the only way to do that, that self-sacrifice and service to others is out-dated and out-moded.  The new wave of thinkers are justifying this approach to life by hauling out Ayn Rand and her philosophy of 'Objectivism'.  In her novel, "Atlas Shrugged", she laid the foundation stones for the attitude that it is more than okay to want and to do what is necessary to get what you do want.  Egoism is not a bad thing; it is simply the path of those who will become dominant and have what they desire. Woe be unto those who cannot summon the will or the means to act in an aggressive manner.  They will become the 'have nots' and that is their lot in life.

Interestingly, when academic scholars of philosophy take a second look at Objectivism, what they find is not a philosophy of serious and durable substance, but the rant of a second-rate novelist who just wanted to say, "Hey, it's okay to be selfish."  Rand herself was a mess as a person.  Far from being a wise and thoughtful person, she was an obnoxious woman who discounted her detractors at any opportunity. At her funeral someone placed a six-foot floral arrangement in the shape of a dollar-sign near her casket. How fitting, then, for her to be singled-out as a prophetic influence on the new thinkers who embrace selfishness.

This tsunami of self-interest, in which there is little room for compassion, and no idea at all that integrity or Honor are important, is bearing down on us.....all of us.  We are all being asked to take stock of ourselves and to make decisions about who we are, as individuals and as a nation of souls.  If we take the path that is being espoused by such trenchant spokespeople as Rush Limbaugh and Sarah Palin, we are consciously adopting the view that our society will become ever more adversarial and competitive.  If we decide that personal integrity, Truth (actual truth, not what we make-up), and a working, living concept of Honor are more important to us, then we will need to be prepared to stand-up to those who are now telling us to look the other way.

My intention is to keep on repeating--in every way possible--this same message.  We are at a point in our history where people who stay silent and do look away, are as guilty as those who preach the ideas of selfishness, dispassionate acquisition, disregard for Human Values in the highest sense, and who want us to become like them.

I will not look away.  I do not believe that what these apostles of Greed are preaching is an inevitability.  I believe that we are in the process of resolving our karma as a nation of souls....and that we CAN turn towards the values that resonate in the Human Heart as Goodness, Compassion and Love.

The alternative is to live in Hell.

Thursday, September 2, 2010

More Evidence that Honor is dying.....corporate style.

I recently ran into computer problems.  Well, join the club, right?  My not so old H-P Pavillion started showing evidence that it had been infected with a virus.  Now, this came as a complete surprise because I had a subscription to McAfee Anti-Virus Plus and the little window that pops-up when it is doing its thing, was showing all "OK"s, a bunch of green icons, all saying that things were hunky-dorey and I was fully protected.

But, when I began to see 'grey out' screens, unresponsive applications, and the speed slowed to a less than crawl, I just knew that all was not rosey in computer-land.  So, I called Steve, my computer repair and recovery expert, and he said, "Sounds like you have a virus."  So, he did his magic and a couple of days later, and $120 lighter, all is back to almost normal, which is to say there are some glitches, but it runs well enough to do what I ask of it....mostly.  Steve warned me that it might have some corrupted files as a result of being infected and recovered.

In fact, it was not just 'a virus' it was a sizable list of them. Most of them were what is coyly referred to as 'malware', programs that are intended to get inside and simply wreak havoc with your computer.  When I try to imagine who and why these are being created and sent out across the virtual universe....I picture some snot-nosed, pimple-faced kid in Bucharest, or Glenwood, who is chortling as he tells his hacker buddies how good he is at causing pains in lots of peoples' butts. I fervently wish these black-hearted weenies a life of unfulfilled fantasies and simmering pustules.

However, the real story here is not that there are such wankers out there.  Nah, that's a given.  There seems to be something about our society that creates the urge to act-out, and this seems a particularly effective and pain-free (cowardly) way to do that. The real story is that I was paying a major corporation to do one thing: to protect me from these idiots.  And, for a mere $30 per year--automatically charged to my credit-card, like clockwork each March--they were sending me frequent updates, and telling me that my computer was being scanned in real-time by their program.  And, every indication was that it was an effective means of fighting infections.

You might think that a billion dollar corporation whose very existence is predicated on offering a much needed and effective service...would want to make absolutely certain that IT WAS INDEED WORKING.  But, apparently, you would be wrong if you labored under that impression.  They are winging it, folks.  And, your virtual life, i.e. identity, finances, private communications, and all the other aspects we have come to depend on the internet for.....is at risk.

Steve, the computer dude, told me that what I have gone through is not only common, but that I got off easily.  If you really want actual protection, you need to not just subscribe to McAfee's service, you need to RE-PURCHASE the base program, and all of its possible upgrades EVERY OTHER YEAR, at least.  In other words, just doing what most people believe is sufficient......IS NOT.

I'm quite sure that McAfee and Norton--both of which come as indigenous software in PCs and must be 'activated' at the end of a trial period--know that they are sitting on a GOLD MINE.  I even spoke with one person who believes that these companies may 'encourage' hacking because it's good for their businesses. I can't go that far, but, let's just say that if all the hackers found some other way to annoy and destroy their businesses would cease to exist.  It is definitely a symbiotic relationship between the companies and the weenies.

My response to all of this....was to uninstall McAfee, and install AVG Free, along with some other freeware that ferrets out threats and excises them effectively.....and is really doing it when it says it is.

Monday, August 30, 2010

Wrapped in the Bible.....

Some months back, I mentioned here that Sinclair Lewis said, "If Fascism ever comes to America, it will be wrapped in the flag and carrying a Bible".   Well, Glenn Beck has been wrapping himself in the flag, has done so ever since he emerged from the murky smog-bank of the far right.  (Hey, they are the folks who just LOVE big business, right?)  But, as he stood on the steps of the Lincoln Memorial last Saturday, he picked-up the Bible and revealed an evangelical side of himself that caught a lot of folks by surprise.  He took great pains to align himself with the Evangelical right, and he has now become the spitting image of Lewis' Fascist Archetype.

Does anybody else find it somewhat astonishing that Beck, Palin, Bachmann et al , are always spouting off about getting our freedom back....and yet the agenda of their Tea Party ilk is inextricably bound into the same bundle of ideology with taking away freedom of choice, freedom from discrimination due to gender orientation, de facto racism and a host of lesser planks in their agenda.  By picking up the Bible Beck is adopting what many people consider to be the Ultimate Authority on right and wrong.  Nevermind that Christianity makes up only a minority percentage of the people on this planet (with approximately 2.2 billion adherents, Christianity is the largest religion, but makes up less than a third of humanity), nevermind that every soul is born with a CONSCIENCE as a part of their original software package.

No matter what any religion lays down as 'law' the fact is, there is a higher law than what is written, and it abides in the Heart of each human being.  God never planned that we would have to consult a book--of any sort--to know what is against Life, Love, Harmony and Beauty.  But, Glenn Beck and his cohorts have a plan of their own....and it includes telling you and me what we can do in our own lives according to how THEY interpret what is right.  Never doubt it.

In the days leading up to this 'rally', Beck denied that he chose either the location--the steps of the Lincoln Memoral, or the date--the anniversary of Martin Luther King Jr.'s "I have a Dream" speech--and that all of that was just 'coincidence'.  This tells me that he is either one helluva dumb-ass, with virtually no knowledge of American History...or he is a man who lies with a straight face and expects people to believe WHATEVER he says.  Actually, I believe he is BOTH.  But, I do not believe he is so stupid that he chose those two parameters for his 'coming out' speech as a leader of American Evangelical Christians....by 'Divine Providence'.  And, by the way, his choice of words there is a little bit unsettling to me...simply because it is the exact wording that Adolph Hitler used to describe his ascendancy to the role of Fuerher, i.e. Germany's Savior.

In fact, there are way too many similarities between how Beck seems to see himself and how Hitler viewed himself for me to look away and pretend that they aren't there.  At a time when the German economy was in collapse, people were out of work, the political system was in a shambles....this man of humble background and apparently even humbler intellect (have you tried to read Mein Kampf?) emerged to proclaim that Divine Providence had chosen him to lead Germany back to a place of Honor and prominence in the world, which was their rightful place among nations.  Too late, the German people found out that what this really meant was to crush the rest of Europe and as much of the world as possible under the jackboot of Nazi rule...and the vast shame of being the perpetrators of the Holocaust.

So, as you watch his antics, and see his audience of followers swell, ask yourself where all of this is headed. Pay attention to it. Take it seriously.  The lessons of history are harshest when you realize that you were warned and still remained passive.

Wednesday, August 18, 2010

Moon of the Shroom....

Where we walk in the woods each morning there are TONS of mushrooms, and they really come into their own this time of year.  Beginning in mid-August and through September, one can see easily over 20 varieties if they are looking as they walk.  There is a couple I see there often, Pat and Mike...and their dog Max.  Pat is an amateur mycologist who photographs fungi and knows all of their latin names.  I am doubtful that I could ask her a question about mushrooms that would stump her.

Yesterday, I ran into them as we were headed in and they were headed out.  I brought up the topic of mushrooms and Pat said it is shaping up to be a very good year for them.  So, as I walked on, bearing this in mind, I scanned the forest floor for fungi of all sorts.  Last year I came across a variety known as 'turkey tails', which seem to grow all during the warmer months and are very beautiful as they go about consuming dead branches and tree-trunks.  Just the other day I happened on some fungi that were growing smack dab in the middle of the trail--telling me that they had basically sprung up overnight--and the cluster was exactly the color of 'cheese puffs'.  I didn't feel inclined to give them the taste test, however.  Pat told me that this variety is called the "lobster mushroom", and it IS edible depending on what and where it is growing. As she said this, I was mentally crossing it off my list of possible forest treats. But, it did look a lot like cheese puffs.

As I walked on one of our favorite trails, I saw a beautifully formed, large snow-white mushroom.  "Snow white", being just my descriptor for them, not an allusion to Disney's character.  There was a smallish capped shroom the other day that was British soldier red...and as it enlarged it became a warm, beautiful brown.  I also came across some large flat-topped fungi that are dead ringers for pancakes....until you turn them over, of course.  We need a little rain to 'plump up' the duff of the forest floor and sprout a new crop.  My wife gave me several mushroom books last year, but I will not know as much as Pat does anytime soon.

Mostly, I just like seeing the amazing diversity of these living plant-forms that burst forth in a day, and then either get eaten by the critters, or simply dissipate a day or two later. 

Thursday, August 12, 2010


In my last post I mentioned that we put over 70 million tons of carbon dioxide into the earth's atmosphere.....EVERY DAY.  I found myself wondering how to picture that.  I mean, how big is a ton of carbon dioxide in its gaseous state?  Well, it would actually occupy 556.2 cu. meters. Okay, how big is that?

556.2 cubic meters equals 727.5 cubic YARDS, and that is 19,642.5 cubic FEET. Okay, how big is that?  To help myself visualize that I looked up the volume of an Olympic-sized swimming pool.  It is 648,000 gallons, and that equals 86, 625 cu. ft.  That would mean that about 4.41 tons of gaseous carbon-dioxide would FILL AN OLYMPIC SWIMMING POOL. 

Since we are emitting 70,000,000 tons of CO2 daily......we are putting approximately the volume of 16 MILLION Olympic pools into the air.......every single day.  Since a regulation pool is 164.5' x 82' and has an area of approximately: 14,965 sq.ft. or 1662.8 sq. yds.  simple arithmetic tells me that we are covering an area of over 116 BILLION sq. yards...to the depth of over 6 feet.....with gaseous carbon dioxide.

I still just cannot get my head around it.  Okay, there are 4,840 square yards in an acre.  Therefore each ton of CO2 (at 1662.8 sq. yards) covers a little over a third of an acre, i.e. .343 of an acre.

So, 70 million tons of CO2 covers about 24 million acres to a depth of six feet. I grew-up in New Jersey, and that state has only 5,586,560 acres, or 8,728 sq. mi.  And so, we're releasing into the atmosphere a volume between four and five times the size of New Jersey (six feet deep) every day.

And, I STILL just cannot get my head around that......or the idea that there are some people out there who have the temerity and even the pure audacity to think we can make this massive and steady input of a 'greenhouse gas' into the climate of this not so huge planet we live on and that it will not have any effect. 

It would be better to simply admit that a person who thinks this way is just hiding under a cloak of simplicity and ignorance....than to think that they are actually intelligent and simply refuse to accept the stark power of the Truth that is confronting us:  WE NEED TO CHANGE WHAT WE ARE DOING TO THIS PLANET, OR BE PREPARED TO ACCEPT THAT WE ARE PLAYING A CENTRAL ROLE IN OUR OWN EXTINCTION.

Thursday, August 5, 2010

Truth and Denial.......

This is a response to a comment on the last entry here.  I am not going to attack the person who took the time to share her opinion.  I am glad she did.  I hope that she will not take this as either an attack or an insult to her intelligence, but the fact is we are living in a world--as previously noted on this blog--where Truth (yes, with a capital 'T') is becoming progressively more ephemeral and endangered.  And that is a problem.....for all of us.

In order for a society to be a society it must have communication among its constituents.  If the members of it cannot speak to each other and hear each other, that society will eventually tear itself apart.  There are many examples of this: China 1927, Russia 1917, Germany 1871, and again in 1933.  Japan in the 1920s and a host of smaller countries, including many so-called Islamic Republics.  What these times and places all have in common is that some people had ideas of how things should be, and others disagreed.  An inability to communicate and rectify the divergent views of the citizens resulted in revolutions in which the stronger element simply took charge and in many cases imprisoned or simply eliminated those who disagreed with them.

In every case the opposing forces had to resort to armed subjugation or conflict instead of using the power of communication to find a solution that at least partially met all parties needs.  When communication breaks down history tells us that armed conflict and tyranny almost always result.  Mao Zedong himself said, "All power flows from the barrel of a gun."  And, ultimately, he was right.  But, it is never a painless or wholly satisfactory process or result.

So, when people start to say, "This is true because it is what I believe," or, "This is the Truth because I say it is," or worse yet, "This is the Truth, and if you don't agree, you don't belong here," trouble is here and things are about to get nasty.  Truth is NOT a relative concept.  Nothing is 'true' because you want it to be....no matter how badly.  Truth in earth-bound affairs is based on a collection of FACTS, not opinions.  Truth is almost always able to be established in concrete situations by gathering information about it.

For example: a murder case where there are multiple suspects, definitely a body and a crime that are a reality.  Truth is this: someone was killed.  It wasn't a suicide or an accident.  Suspect A was in Siberia at the time--we have proof of this, so he didn't do it.  Suspect B doesn't have an alibi, and does have plenty of motivation to have done it, but there's no immediately apparent forensic evidence to prove it.  There are two other possible suspects.  At this point, a very methodical investigation works on building a body of evidence, actual FACTS.....things that are physical proof of something.  And, eventually, all the evidence seems to point to the Truth.  A trial is held and the testimonies of witnesses and accused are considered, but the real proof of guilt lies mostly with  THE FACTS.

Well, there has been a very long and painstaking investigation--which still continues--and there has been a vast mountain of evidence collected and analyzed.  The Planet herself is the strongest witness...the 'victim' in this case.  And, the jury is back, has been back for several years now.   The verdict is overwhelmingly clear: the massive amounts of carbon-dioxide that we pump into the earth's atmosphere, i.e. 70 MILLION TONS EVERY DAY, are indeed causing a shift in the earth's climate.  Scientists all over the globe know that this is TRUE.  It is a scientifically established FACT.

So, people who still wish it weren't so, who still insist on claiming that all of the documented changes that are taking place are "....just cyclical and normal", are making the truth conform to their own viewpoint.  They are denying and ignoring and obfuscating because they don't like the real TRUTH.

The problem with this is.......that it just causes clouds of indecision, a lack of determination, a distinct lack of willpower with regard to taking any measures necessary to steer the planet AWAY FROM DISASTER.  People who think and act in this way are pushing the accelerator instead of leaning on the brakes.....and I submit that this is just about the worst thing a person can do if they really care about the future of not just their own kids and grandkids.....but the entire sphere of life that inhabits the planet Earth.

Do you really want to be playing at doing something so mindless and counter-productive when our future hangs in the balance?

Wednesday, August 4, 2010

Can't We All Just Get Along?

Ah, the pleading refrain of Rodney King.  You remember him: the fellow who was caught on video being beaten half-to death by LAPD, way back in '91.  Hardly seems possible that almost twenty years have passed since he uttered his plea.

So, here we are at the end of the first decade of the 21st century and we seem to be back-sliding somehow.  I read that Komosolskaya Pravda, a major newspaper in Russia, published an article blaming the record making heat-wave in  Russia this summer on--get this--an American weather weapon.  Yes, a super weapon of such capability that we can now control the weather in other parts of the world.  And, of course, we would choose to do this--according to Pravda--because we're intent on short-stopping Russian economic growth.

When I read this I was stunned, not by the idea that such a weapon might exist--I would bet the ranch that it does not--but by the fact that major spokespeople in Russia would think that we would target them, if it did.  Somehow, the mindset has become perverted to the point of needing to blame us for what is actually an outgrowth of global warming.  That isn't mere conjecture on my part; numerous scientific sources are citing the anomalous heat of the summer of 2010 as such.

I was relieved to read that President Medvedev himself  issued a statement to the effect that the Russian government knows this is climate-change related and that the U.S. is not responsible.  This is actually a hopeful sign, because the Russians have not admitted that global warming was either real or caused by human activities prior to this point in time.

But, my initial reaction to the Pravda article was, "What is going on here?  Are they watching Fox too?"  It is just so far out there, so paranoid and conspiratorial to get from a rational look at the ever vaster volume of science that supports global warming.....to "The Ameircans are doing it with a secret super-weapon."  Wha?

Of course, the irony in all of this is that, more than anybody else--although the Chinese are doing their level best to pollute as much as they possibly can--we ARE 'doing it'.  But, we're just doing it the old, hard way, with massive energy consumption, ignoring most of what we could do to lessen our impact on the planet. Besides, what makes the Russians think that a country that watches Fox News and thinks it is real, could be smart enough to make a super weapon to manipulate the weather?  If we could really do that....it is also likely that we could learn how to behave in a way that wasn't destroying our host planet.

And, I see no sign that we're there.....or even really headed there with any sense of urgency or responsibility.

Saturday, July 31, 2010

Phyto Who? Say what?

I happened across a brief article the other day, on I believe it was The Daily Beast.  It wasn't even a feature piece, just an 'also ran', a kind of "...oh, by the way" article.  It said that scientists have now proven to their own satisfaction that there is a major die-off of phytoplankton occurring in the world's oceans.  With over 250,000 data points, stretching back over at least five decades, they believe that this began in the 1950s, but that it is accelerating in the present.  They also believe--based on the data--that global warming is the primary cause for this.

They have noted periods of such die-offs in the past and have associated them with changes in ocean currents by La Nina, and the warming this brings to a belt of water near the equator in the Pacific Ocean.  These pull-backs have also resulted in the starvation of species ranging up the food-chain, including the marine mammals and other pinnacle species at the top.  Almost in passing, the article mentioned that phytoplankton  are responsible for about 40% of the oxygen that plants put into our atmosphere, and, to that end, they are one of the primary sources of photosynthesis.

If this piece had appeared in the N.Y. Times, it might have been buried somewhere back in the sections, and on page 9 of that section.  There was no attendant alarm, no sense of urgency even. It was just a tid-bit of news offered in the probable hope that readers might feel it interesting.

Hmmmmmmmm.......    My reaction, on the other hand, was a little more like, "Holy CRAP!!!!  It sounds like they're saying that one of the pillars that sustains a viable atmosphere on our planet is waning..... and (by extension) we're all going to DIE," which, of course, is true....I just wasn't planning that we'd slowly suffocate en masse.

But, hold on there, cowboy, maybe that is just a little too 'Chicken Little'.  Maybe we'll get by just fine on less oxygen.  Maybe some geniuses at MIT or Cal Tech have already worked out how we can survive the accelerating degradation of the atmosphere...and they figure it's all so routine that it isn't even newsworthy. 

On the other hand, maybe this news is just so HUGE in its implications that nobody, as in not a soul, can really get their head around it and make the extrapolation of impending doom. Maybe it is just too far-reaching and too radical, and that makes it simply 'unreal'.  But, if we were to really accept it and act accordingly, the changes in how we are conducting our lives would have to be so sweeping and dramatic that we cannot even imagine what life would be like.

I imagine that it is kind of like laying on the beach in Banda Aceh sunning yourself.  Suddenly your companion says, "What the f**k is that?!" and you follow their pointing finger out to the horizon....and you see something.  It's different, and it is real and it's big....very big.  And, you just cannot comprehend that a wall of water 30 feet high is coming straight at you....so you sit and you stare.  And, when it finally sinks in what is really happening........

It's simply too late.

Is that what we're doing here in the early years of the 21st century?  By now, every intelligent adult--which, by definition means those who are not sticking their heads in the sand--knows that we have already visited, and continue to inflict, some terrible things on this planet, things that are beginning to have effects that we can now measure, but which will culminate in ways we can only hypothesize in the present....but are looking rather 'dark', to put it mildly.  It is becoming increasingly clear that we are damaging our host planet to the point of eventual non-viability for life as we know it.  And, the more we learn, it becomes apparent that my use of the word, 'eventual' may be rather optimistic.

The scientific community has been playing Chicken Little for so long now, that many of them have simply given up hope that anybody will listen, or believe that we really are in the early stages of the Sixth Great Extinction.

I watched a video of Farley Mowat--one of Canada's great gifts to the world, via his books--speaking with Paul Watson, the founder of the Sea Shepherd Society, while sitting in chairs on Farley's front lawn, overlooking the ocean.  In mild tones, devoid of anger or alarm, they simply agreed with each other that we are watching the final acts of a species that is going to be the first ever to be responsible for its own extinction.

But, for reasons I seem unable to comprehend, I find that some part of me just refuses to let go, like a drowning sailor who lets his grasp on the life-raft loosen and peacefully drifts down into the depths.  My grip on HOPE simply will not release.  Maybe it is the last thing I have that keeps me wanting to be here each day, trying to be a Human Being, and to somehow, in some infinitesimally small way......to make a difference.

 These images are: macro-photography of diatoms, a very common form of phytoplankton, and a 'bloom' of trillions of such organisms seen from space. 


Wednesday, July 28, 2010

Follow on: Angela Bordeau

I found a photograph of Angela Bordeau (whose roadside memorial I just wrote about) and I wanted to post it in order that you can get a sense of who the young woman was.  It didn't feel right to have her remain just a name.

                                   ANGELA MARIE BORDEAU, b. 2-12-1991, d. 6-15-2010

The Death of Honor.....in local government

By now you must have heard or seen the news stories on a small town in California called Bell.  While the 38,000 citizens of Bell were looking the other way, the local politicians were looting the town's coffers to the tune of millions of bucks.  Seems the foxes were in charge of the chicken-coop and dining on gourmet chicken dishes.

The town manager, was getting a salary of $787,000, the police chief was near a half-million, and the members of the city council had all given themselves salaries in the $100K range....for their PART-TIME positions.  They did this even as they were laying off city workers, and cutting back dramatically on city services.  Apparently, they arranged all of this by giving themselves the right to not only set their own pay rates, but doing so in 'closed meetings'.  When the story broke, the citizens of Bell were obviously outraged and now there is going to be some sort of reckoning.  The state attorney general's office is looking into whether or not laws were broken and exactly how the thieves managed to do all this in defiance of the state regulations that specify maximum compensation rates for such positions.

At first glance, it appears they simply passed a resolution stating that they would not abide by state guidelines.  Hey, now there's a capital idea: don't like a law, or a 'guideline', just make your own law saying that you don't intend to conform.  I just cannot imagine how long they thought they could loot the city like this before it came out.  But, it is a perfect example of how people are empowering themselves to ignore the common good, set aside whatever is in their way....and do exactly what they want to in order to serve personal desires.  There is even a law in place in Bell that may require the city to pay an outrageous pension to the manager once they get rid of his sorry ass.  I think they need a good law firm and should just not pay the a**hole.  Put it all into the hands of a higher court system and show that these people were acting in bad faith, solely in their own interests, and sue the hell out of them for good measure.

When the city manager, a charming lout by the name of Rizzo (hmmmmm.... could he be related to Ratso Rizzo?)  was confronted with the massive wrongdoing that has happened on his watch, he went into a lengthy dissertation on all the good things these kind people have done for the city:  better lighting, nice parks, blah, blah, blah.  Are you kidding me?

Maybe tarring and feathering scoundrels and running them out of town on a rail was set aside too soon.

Monday, July 26, 2010

Angela is Missed.....

I went for a long(ish) motorcycle ride on this perfect summer day.  I chose a loop that would take me up into Maine's 'outback', through the mountains and foothills where the towns are tiny and the people are sparse.  I passed through Farmington--where the earmuff was invented--and the town of Strong, probably so named because you shouldn't bother trying to live there unless you are.  If you live in a populous or even a semi-populous area, you may not be able to really picture just how far out in the boonies some of these little villages are. I passed a sign that said, "Danger Many Moose Collisions in this Area", and someone had spray-painted across the bottom: "490", just in case you really didn't get what they meant by "..many".  Or maybe it was a person who just enjoys keeping score, and baseball seems so remote up there.

I was motoring along through a town called Carthage--'town' referring to a legal boundary more than any recognizable settlement.  I mean, if someone said "Let's go downtown and get some groceries."  You really wouldn't have a clue which way to go.  T'ain't nuttin' dere.  And, I came around a curve, down a shallow hill and saw a lot of pink.  There was lots of pink paint on the pavement, and all kinds of it on the roadside and even in the woods.  I slowed and then turned around, came back and parked the bike. I got out my camera and began recording the scene in front of me.  It was both quite astonishing and very moving.

It was clear that I was looking at, indeed witnessing, a roadside memorial site.  It was an assemblage of materials and items that were serving to record the pain of apparently a large number of people, all of whom knew a nineteen year-old woman named Angela Marie, who died on this spot about six weeks ago, on June 15th.  I could see where a vehicle had left the road and torn up some trees, and I also know that such roadside 'shrines' are commonplace all over rural America.  In some places I have been it is a more formalized practice, with a plain white cross marking the spot where a person or persons have died.  In Carthage Maine, it was a vast and pink outpouring of emotion, with light-sticks festooned in the trees, beads, plastic flowers (they do last longer), a poem, a bare spot on the tree that her car hit where one was invited to leave a message for her by the presence of a Sharpie stuck in the bark....at the very spot where her vehicle struck.  I have never witnessed such a passionate outpouring of pain and love as this spot was reflecting.

In the road, adjacent and partially on top of where a large pink heart had been painted, were copious burn-out marks, evidence of a kind of arcane ritual of squealing tires that actually did seem to fit in somehow with the entire rest of the scene.  My assumption is that Angela was fairly passionate about the color pink.

When I had recorded the place, I put my helmet and gloves back on and slowly motored away from this spot.  I didn't hear of her death at the time, but it was in the papers that Angela Bordeau, of Mexico, Maine,  was in a single-vehicle accident, late at night, and was declared dead at the scene.  Franklin County sheriff's deputies reported that speed played a role, the tires on her '03 Saab were all bald and she wasn't wearing her seat-belt.  A part of me would like to know what was going on with Angela that night. The Willie Nelson song, "Angel Flyin' too Close to the Ground", comes to mind.

But, I do know that what I witnessed on that nondescript stretch of country road left an indelible impression and on some level I cannot really imagine a more effective means of demonstrating how painful it was--and is--for those who did know this young woman, to have her pass from this world too soon and so violently.

Rest in Peace Angela Marie

Thursday, July 22, 2010

I Have Seen the Angel of Death.....and she drives a white Focus.

Being far too jaded to actually RUN for exercise, I choose to ride a bike.  I have a nice Trek hybrid--read: old fart's bike--and it has some useful accessories, like a wee computer that tells me when I am slacking off, a tiny bell so that I can warn pedestrians when I overtake them without giving them a heart attack.  I also found a genuine AIR HORN.  It consists of a clear-plastic soda bottle with a rubber cap, a hose up to a smallish horn on the handlebars and you fill it with a bike-pump.  This sucker is not merely loud, it sounds kind of frantic, like "Holy Crap!" but higher pitched.  I also wear a hi-viz lime t-shirt and have a rear-view mirror mounted on my helmet.

Despite all that about one and a half times a week, someone tries to kill me.  Mostly, it is because they are just dim-witted, speaking on a cell phone, typically clueless and other sundry handicaps. If you ride a motorcycle--as I have for about 45 years--you come to know that most drivers are basically A) not very competent, and B) not very intelligent.  I suppose you could argue that these go hand in hand....and, of course, they do.  But, there are also very bright people who totally suck at driving a vehicle.  And I've met some seriously 'slow' people who can do just fine when it comes to anything from a farm tractor to a semi. So, let's just say that there's some overlap, but the bottom-line is that MOST of the drivers on the open road are very limited in their understanding and their skill set when it comes to the act of driving.

Well, you combine this fact of life, with a psychological 'glitch' and you can end up like the woman who tried to kill me today.  I was pedaling along, nearing the entrance to the hallowed site where we get to 'eat with the King', and as I approached the entrance, a white Ford Focus pulled alongside me.  I saw her begin to brake, and I surmised immediately that she intended to turn in and have a visit with His Majesty.  I just didn't quite get that she was willing to kill for a cheeseburger.

Because I knew her intent to turn was about to manifest, I put my thumb on the red horn-button.  As she slowed to my speed and I realized that she didn't plan on waiting for me to move ahead of her, but intended to go for the goodies THROUGH ME....I laid on the horn.  Trust me, there is no way you cannot be alarmed at the sound of this horn.  It actually hurts my ears when I use it.  Remember, I am also wearing the bright lime-yellow shirt that highway construction crews wear; I am lit up like a freakin' big, fat LED on wheels here.

And ........HERE SHE COMES, turning right into me.  My choices are limited at this point: I can abandon the bike and dive onto the top of her car--an act I might have been capable of when I was in the infantry and loaded to the eyeballs (okay it wasn't the eyes that were loaded...I was just being coy) with testosterone....or I can brake heroically, and try to out-turn her as she dives in front of me.  If I blow it, I will be under her wheels.  Luckily, I did the latter and pulled it off.....but, I was shaking like a leaf afterwards.

Since I was headed into the parking lot now.....I pedaled up to where my nemesis had taken her place at the take-out feeding trough.  She stared straight ahead, pretending I would go away if she didn't look at me.  Her window was up and her door locked.  Seems only prudent, eh.  So, I loudly--recall I was a sergeant in the U.S. Army Infantry now--informed her that she had no right to cut me off like that.  She waved her hand in a 'Whatever' kind of kiss-off.  And so I cussed her roundly up and down and then rode back down the parking lot to resume my ride.  It was one of those incidents I am not willing to let pass.

We live in the same small town.  Sooner or later, I will see her tooling about in her wheeled, white weapon, and I will get her plate number and at that point I will file a complaint for 'driving to endanger'.  I see stupid all the time on my bike....far too many times to count.  But, this.....this was MALEVOLENT.  And, we're not finished.

Of course, it's also possible that one of her fellow angels--like the cell-phone wielding Angel of Numbness--will take me out before I can follow through.  I accept that as a risk of being out there on public byways.