Wednesday, March 31, 2010

Trolls Under Our Bridge......Canaries in Our Coal-mine

Back in December, I posted a blog on the murder of two young women who were hounded to the point of killing themselves:  Hope Witsell and Jessica Logan.  And now it seems that they were just two of many more young women who have followed the same path to solving a problem that seemed to have no other solution than dying.  As if this were not tragic and horrifying by itself, there now comes a new term to describe sub-human behavior on the part of people who 'troll' the internet and post messages on so-called 'memorial' pages.....with the sole intent of offending, assaulting and injuring the families of young people who have died, by whatever means.  These evil-doers are called, "trolls".  And, it seems to be an apt description of them because no decent human being would act the way they are.

When I refer to the fact that the long-standing practice of Honor is dying, this is what I am talking about.  Some idiot kid with a computer sees a chance to rub salt into the raw wounds of a family in mourning and sinks to the task.  The intent is to get a reaction.  It is also to HURT.  Now, some psychologists, or 'humanist' people might seek to understand this behavior.  Yes, I think that is important, because unless we do have some handle on why so many young people have this otherwise inexplicable urge to inflict pain on people who are already suffering, then we cannot address the underlying causes.

But, there is also the fact that we all live in a supposedly 'civilized' society, sharing the same space, both physically and now, virtually.  Without some agreement that treating each other with at least a modicum of respect in place is necessary and, in fact, all begins to break down.  You see it in the angry mobs, spitting on congressmen, and calling them hateful epithets; you see it in the explosive growth of hate groups and militia;  you see it in the behavior of people behind the wheel, when they cut people off, break into lines, do whatever THEY want, despite how it impacts anybody else.  We are in danger of forfeiting our 'civil' conventions, and replacing them with: "Get the f**k  outta my way, a**hole."

I, for one, do NOT believe that these internet 'trolls' are acting out in a vacuum.  They are not isolated sickos who have some deep-seated mental illness that compels them to act in such a sadistic fashion.  They are looking at the society around them and distilling a 'code of behavior', based on all that they see.  "If it is okay for adults to be sadistic and hateful, then why not  me?"  This harkens back to the quote I mentioned by Dr. Temple Burling: “Kids need to be brought into the folds of a family and society and civilized. Otherwise, they will never learn how to be members of society and remain in a wild state.”

These kids are mirroring behavior that their own observations have told them is 'normal', even routine.  And, the anonymity of the web insures that nobody will come back at them.  So, it becomes a game of torturing a family that is already in agony over the loss of their child, of hounding the wounded, trying to inflict even more pain...and then laughing about it when there is a reaction.  Either we begin to recognize that we are seeing one more canary in the coal-mine, or we 'tsk, tsk' and go about our own business.  If we keep on ignoring all of these 'canaries' we will one day soon find that the air in our coal-mine of a society is now UNBREATHABLE.

Tuesday, March 30, 2010

Where the Dogs Go.....

Well, I tried and tried, but I just cannot seem to find out who said, "If they don't let dogs into Heaven, then I want to go where they do."  It might have been Mark Twain, but I don't know that for sure.  What I CAN tell you is that this is how I feel, and have all of my life.  I am a confirmed dog-lover, admirer, protector, and so I suppose my fate is sealed.  Fine; so be it.

So, I thought I would put this offer out there and see if it has any takers:  on December 21st, 2012, apparently some serious changes are planned.  It could even be that the oft-mentioned 'Rapture' will be happening.  If that is the case, I am already planning to stay behind, and I believe I have all the necessary qualifications to do that.

So, if you are one of those people who will be, uh, 'headed UP', I just wanted to offer to take care of your car after you leave.  If you drop your keys and signed title in the mail to me, I promise I will come pick-up your car and take care of it as if it were my own.  Now, of course, I could be swamped with requests to do this, so I may have to create a small waiting list....but, if your car has a name like PORSCHE, FERRARI, McCLAREN, LAMBORGHINI, etc. I will do what I can to get to it as soon as humanly possible.  NO TOYOTAS PLEASE!!                                                                                                                

I promise, I will take care of your exotic sports car as if it were my own.

Thanks for letting me be of some use in these difficult times.

(psst...if you have a car like one of those mentioned probably don't have to worry about going 'up' either....I just thought it was worth a try.)

Saturday, March 27, 2010

Flash Frozen.....

Nah, this isn't about the fish you saw in the supermarket's about what happened in the woods around here last night.  After enough days of sixty-something weather to spoil us, get us running around like spring was really here to dropped into the single numbers last night.  A Canadian high--different than the one they are now writing prescriptions for, eh--moved in and brought a mass of wicked cold ayuh with it.

So, when I took the Golden Girls up to the woods this morning for our daily walk, I was amazed to see what had happened to the larger puddles and pools of standing water.  This freeze came on so hard that the water formed the biggest crystalline shapes I have ever encountered.  The beech leaf in the frame gives you some idea of the actual size of the crystalline structures in the pool. 

It comes as no surprise that the process by which ice forms and how crystals organize themselves is something that has been looked at in great detail and depth.  There are, in fact, entire websites devoted to this:, is one example.  As an artist I don't really feel drawn to the science of it, although I do appreciate that this is one of those cases where that level of knowledge seems to be telling us that Nature has its own indigenous intelligence and that it is absolutely stunning in its scope.

What appeals to me, indeed, pulls me up short, reaching for my pocket-camera, is the sheer beauty of these constructs.  Whether it be the infinite diversity of snowflakes, or a simple puddle that has undergone transformation in the night, the ways in which water organizes itself are enough to make me stare in appreciation.  There seems to be a message there for the passer-by: harmony is appealing at a very fundamental level.  In the same way that a well-bowed violin, or a well-played piano chord, can hold us with its vibrations until it fades into the silence, a visual harmony can impart its own small gift.

And, oddly enough, whatever that little shot of Beauty is, it gives me a feeling of hopefulness.  I can't explain how that segue works....but, it is there.  I have felt it far too many times to doubt that it is real.

Something in the Way She Moves Me.....

Sarah Palin has been recruited by John McCain to help him remember where he left his brain.  Just kidding....sort of.  She IS getting equal podium time in his Arizona stumping though.  He is such a dry piece of toast, that he apparently needs her--all gussied up in a black motorcycle jacket...a new look that is sure to draw some 'woofs' from the Harley crowd--to help him not put audiences to sleep as he drones on about his intent to repeal the Healthcare Reform Act...just in case anybody thought he WASN'T on the side of the insurance companies.

My wife had to physically restrain me when Palin appeared on the evening news tonight....I was on the verge of throwing something at the t-v.  Her voice now sounds like broken glass to me...but, that's not the real problem.  She is just so caustic and abrasively derisive as she mouths her brainless opinions of President Obama's first real victory, and tells us that we really HATE the idea that insurance companies will finally have to practice some restraint in their desire to separate us from our money while denying as many claims as possible.

In all the blather about whether or not this new law will be the end of democracy as we know it--which I hope it WILL BE, based on the fact that it may move us away, at least a little bit, from being sheep that the insurance companies get to fleece--she is, of course, one of the most prominent voices in stirring the conservative rank and file into a lather.  And, just in case anybody doubts her intent, she has used the term 'reload' to describe what she wants the band of idiots to do.

May I remind you at this point, that I am NOT A LIBERAL. I am just an American citizen who is waaay beyond sick of corporate GREED, and of companies who have given themselves permission to rape and plunder ALL OF US. What I find truly stupendous is that so many people out there across the land, really don't seem to get that this is what they have been doing all along.

Thursday, March 25, 2010


I am aware that some people will attack this blog...or question my opinions.  That's fine.  I am a tough old bastard, with a thick skin.  Take your best shot.........THEN DUCK!!  But, when a person hides behind anonymity I will not give them a voice here.  Come as you are...not as a voice from behind a curtain.

Somebody (who has apparently been deprived of having a TELEVISION) expressed skepticism that Rep. John Lewis was really harangued with the 'n-word' as he entered the Nations's Capitol. It is not my intent to cite my sources, nor to verify that what I express here is 'true'.....but, if you think that I am going to sit here and tell intentional LIES, all the while complaining about people who do....then you are a f**king idiot. 

The fact is that this was recorded by the media on VIDEOTAPE... and they had to bleep it in order to not offend the audience with this odious epithet.

This harkens back to the idea that people are going to believe what they WANT TO HEAR....not what actually was said, done or put forward in some fashion.

So, from the cover of anonymity, small people will snipe, deny, try to avoid the TRUTH in any way that they can.  This is a perfect demonstration of the Death of Honor....which I have been pointing to all along.

Wednesday, March 24, 2010

Consider this......

This is a plea to all those who read this blog.  First, let me say that I am very grateful that you do, and I feel humble before that responsibility, dedicated to giving you my most cogent and sincere observations...straight from the Heart.

I also believe that this medium--the web--is a new form of consciousness, one that almost miraculously connects all who participate, in ways heretofore unimagined.  It has the power to transform.  I really believe that.

I also have a deep foreboding that we are entering a time when the very fabric of our society is undergoing some sweeping and dramatic changes.....not all of them for the better. { See my last post, to know what I am referring to, please,}  If you believe what I am attempting to do here is of any value in the overall effort to keep the truth and a balanced viewpoint fighting the tide of deception, lies, hate-mongering and self-interest....then I ask you to share this blog with friends and acquaintances.

If you feel it is worth reading.....for higher reasons than mere entertainment....then please just tell people about it.

And....dat's all folks.

Tuesday, March 23, 2010

Echos of the not so distant past........

After the Health Care Reform bill passed in the house on Sunday, Rush Limbaugh uttered the following words on his radio program:  “[T]hey won yesterday. They won because they held congress and the presidency and therein lies the lesson. We need to defeat these bastards. We need to wipe them out. We need to chase them out of town. [...] “They must my friends, be hounded out of office. Every single Democrat who voted for this needs to know, safe district or not, they are going to be exposed and hassled and chased from office. We now have leftist radicals in charge of your healthcare decisions rather than doctors”

In a speech he gave on the verge of gaining the chancellorship of Germany, Adolph Hitler used the word 'vernichtung' more than two dozen times.  The translation is: ' to exterminate', or 'to destroy'.  In meaning and character, it is IDENTICAL to the phrase Limbaugh used. Hitler was using it to express what he envisioned for the Jews of Germany and of Europe at large.  And, amazingly, in the disasterous 12 years that followed, a vast majority of Germans claimed they simply couldn't imagine that things would spiral out of control, culminating in, of course, the Holocaust, and the complete devastation of their country and much of the world.

Limbaugh is a hate-monger.  He has a talent and a limitless appetite for stirring hatred in the hearts of his listeners.  It makes him happy to do this apparently.  He gleams with pleasure when accused of so doing.  But, he has now crossed the line of what is morally permissible and conscionable.  When he tells his audience (estimated to be between 14 and 25 million people, via 400 radio stations) to "...wipe them out", he is speaking to people who, to some degree, may be willing to take what he is suggesting literally.  Out of that many people, I am willing to bet that there is a certain percentage who are low-brow enough, and seething with hatred to the point that they will start down the path toward acting out.  
The Tea Party rallies are a good example of the mob mentality at large.  As Rep. John Lewis was walking into the capitol to vote on health care reform, people in the crowd were shouting racist epithets at him.  This man was savagely beaten in one of the Selma Alabama he is, 45 years later, being called the 'n-word' on the steps of our nation's capital?  Barney Frank was harangued with homophobic rhetoric.  How revealing of the mentality behind these rallies. Nevermind that this is crude, hateful, and disgusting behavior on the part of one citizen toward another, it is a stunning lack of respect for lawmakers, the nation's democratic process and just plain thuggish.

These people are free to be out there registering their discontent.  Amen.  But, for them to think that racist, homophobic, Nazi-esqe behavior is permissible, says to me...and should to everyone who is paying attention...that we are crossing the Rubicon here. We are turning towards a veritable chasm of darkness, with two sides so hateful and even violent (in rhetoric, so far)  towards each others' opinions that healing may be impossible if we continue down this sad path.  

A democracy where one side's views are attacked outside of the legal process, where intimidation, vileness and core disrespect are not really a democracy anymore.  It has become a battlefield, and the object is no longer a harmonious society where the rule of the majority becomes policy.  The object becomes that of winning at any cost.

And, I am wondering just how high that cost will go. 

If human values are not clung to with a sense that our HUMANITY is what is truly valuable, and we trample the opposition with steel-toed boots whenever possible, we will find ourselves in a society that is approaching being unlivable.


Saturday, March 20, 2010

Train Graffiti, Part 2

My original impulse to photograph boxcars happened before I began to notice how the graffiti painted on them was so much a part of them.  I actually started looking at these all-steel containers as symbols of the 'iron age' and industrialism in general.  I moved in and recorded details of their door latches, and I found that the rust, fork-lift damage, general wear and tear was interesting by itself. Here's an example:

It didn't take long before I realized that these 'heavy metal' images would benefit from also having the colorful efforts of graf artists over-sprayed on them.  And so I began looking actively for the corners of boxcar doors that had this added element.  What I found eventually became an entire body of work that spoke to the relationship of not just the transformative application of color on such a cobby background, but also said something inexplicably appealing about the relationship of these outsider artists to their chosen 'canvases'.

Here are a few examples of this unique pairing of heavy industry and young artists who are using it as a means of reaching a broad audience:

I also began to notice that the lettering and numbers on the boxcars combined with the graffiti in ways that was unexpectedly interesting and even serendipitous in its possible meaning and interpretations.

In 2005 I had about 40 of these photos in a museum show at the University of New England, alongside my 'straight' photos, and the images of the graffiti stole the show.

More coming....

Thursday, March 18, 2010

What is art......Graffiti on Trains, Part 1

From '04, to '07 I made frequent trips down to a local rail-siding and walked the strings of boxcars that are parked there as they await their turn in a nearby warehouse.  What I found was a stream of graffiti that varied from inspired and skillful, to inane and inept.  I became interested in who these 'outsider' artists might be, and began to research their culture....and, they do have a confluence of interests that constitutes same, complete with its own dialect, terminology, hierarchy, all easily accessible on the world-wild-web, of course.

My attention has been focused only on graffiti that was done on railroad boxcars.  I do, naturally, recognize that this art-form is also vandalism, but a mid-level railroad manager confided to me that putting Rust-o-leum on their rusty rolling stock doesn't really harm anything.  Their primary concern and defensiveness stems from the potential liabilities and the fact that rail-yards are extremely dangerous industrial sites, where even experienced rail workers occasionally get injured or killed.  The idea that some pubescent kids are wandering such a place in the dark of night--which is most often the case, of course--is enough to give me the willies too.

But, there is this de facto community of truculent--mostly juvenile--souls who are doing this, and I have felt that such effort and the product of it, is worth sharing with an audience other than just the people who are sitting at a grade-crossing watching a train pass-by.  By any reasonable definition, this IS ART. Make no mistake about that.  Of course, as mentioned above, it varies greatly in scope and quality. But, as you can see from the accompanying images, it has visual appeal, a definite visual language, and even some social and psychological messages embedded within each piece.

I have come across statements that reveal genuine concern, puzzlement and anger over the state of our society and the planet.  For example, one young 'bomber' (a Canadian term for graf artists stemming from 'spray bombs', their name for spray paint cans) wrote: "Does God Care?", a very poignant and reasonable question, given the ongoing strife in the world at large.  Another painted, "...I think, therefore I hate.", a pretty acute insight, for a person of any age.  And, that is just a couple of sentiments in a veritable stream of them that are riding the rails across the country for all to see.

When you stop to consider how a so-called 'outsider' artist, and a teenager at that, in many cases, can ever find an audience to witness his/her concerns and creative outpouring, putting your work on a traveling 'wall' is about as effective as anything one might think of.  

This is such a rich and extensive subject that I cannot even begin to encompass it in one posting, and it deserves more.  So, I will post more images and more in-depth information about this as time passes.

But, in the meantime, have a look at work that was done for no reward, from pure intent to communicate, even if that statement is something along the lines of, "Hey!  Here I am," which is pretty much an element in almost any art, throughout history.  The petroglyphs of the American southwest, are little different in their intent, and the vast majority of the modernist movement is essentially hitting us up-side the head with that message too.

Friday, March 12, 2010

What is art.....smoking pipes

Well, I have a confession to make.  I smoke.  Yes, that's right; I use tobacco.  In fact, I love smoking and I haven't touched a cigarette for decades. It is the lore of the briar that I am drawn to and what many consider to be the gentle art of pipe-smoking.  For those of us who cherish this 'vice' there are artisan tobacco blenders out there who obtain and blend the finest tobaccos grown all over the world.  There are over 2600 blends available to the puffer and some of them are just as satisfying as a fine and rare wine is to a connoisseur of the grape.

There are also a small coterie of pipe-makers who have taken making a smoking pipe to the level of art.  Many of them are in Denmark, a country where pipe-smoking has been an integral part of the culture for centuries, and there are a few extraordinary makers in Japan, with the rest being scattered across the globe. The pipes from these artists are so prized and in such demand as collectibles that most of them actually go un-smoked, and are sold originally for multiple thousands of dollars.  To get a pipe, for instance, from Nana Ivarsson, a young female Dane who is a third generation pipe-maker, you will have to pretty much find an aftermarket item, or get in line.  Her work, like that of most of the great Danish pipe-makers, is characterized by clean lines and a flowing design, executed in briar that is so exceptional that just the beauty of the wood is a marvel in and of itself.

Japanese makers, with their cultural heritage of taking crafts to a level that is both imaginative and amazing in its execution, turn out some of the most intricate and mind-boggling pieces.  The images presented here are a spare sampling of a few pipes that I have looked at with admiration and even joy.

Craft becomes art when the person making an object pulls out all the stops and allows a free flow of creative impulse to come in.  Coupled with flawless craftsmanship, the beauty and feeling of such pieces is an artistic statement that rivals that being made in any medium one can think of.


Thursday, March 11, 2010

The Whopper of all Whoppers......

I was born in 1945 and grew up with WWII always in the background. The school library was stocked with well-worn issues of National Geographic and, curiously, the ones from the war years were the ones with missing covers and dog-earred pages. Apparently, my classmates also wanted to know more about what had happened just before we arrived. I read every book in the library that was about the war. Some especially memorable editions from the Landmark Series dealt with the Doolittle Raid on Tokyo, in 1942, The Battle of Britian, and the Russian tank battles on the Eastern Front. There were also several books that bluntly and graphically documented the Holocaust. I spent hours staring at the images of corpses piled like cordwood. I simply could not imagine what it would have been like to find yourself in Auschwitz or Treblinka. My young mind could also not encompass that human beings could be so heartless and cruel. Part of me didn't want to accept that I was a member of a species that could act in this way. I also knew that my heritage was, at least partially, German.

But, it was not until I was a rambling, hitch-hiking hippy in Germany--the summer of '71--that I heard my first 'revisionism'. Sitting around a campfire in the Allgaeuer forest of southern Bavaria, with a group of young Germans, I was incredulous to hear a 21 year-old, Dieter, proclaim that the Holocaust never happened. He went on to explain that it had been a complete fabrication on the part of the Allies, in order to give them sufficient reason to persecute Germany after the war. I didn't really think he was serious at first. But, as the conversation continued, I suddenly realized that not only was he dead-serious, but he really believed what he was saying. I just got up and left. I could not find any words, in either language, that would suffice to express what I was feeling and thinking.

Over the intervening years it seems that Revisionism has taken on a life of its own. Whether it is a bunch of angry skinheads, or Iran's leader--fondly referred to in our house as: "I'm a nut-job"--or some Birther/Truther/Nine-elevener zealot who is putting it forward...the myth persists. I find this, on one level, utterly repugnant and even incomprehensible...and, yet, on another level I clearly 'get' why such people need to believe this greatest of all lies. In order to put forward their agenda, they need to pretend that White Power--or radical Islam--versus Israel--and all Jews by extension--is an epic opposition of good and evil. This is why Nazi propaganda consistently equated Jews with the Devil, and my low-brow neighbor thinks that President Obama may be the anti-christ.

Therefore, it simply does not matter that hundreds of thousands of people still alive today actually witnessed the Holocaust, that it was meticulously recorded by the perpetrators themselves, that no other event in human history is more clearly and firmly documented and simply TRUE. It was a pursuit on such an abyssal level of darkness that it completely re-defined what we mean when we use the word, "evil". It is of such a monstrous and repulsive nature that it may well be impossible to ever transcend it....although, we apparently are willing to keep trying. NONE OF THAT MATTERS to people who desperately need to believe that their cause is essentially that of good.

Hence it was that the Nazis felt most of their soldiers should be wearing the above belt-buckle, boldly proclaiming that the very troops who were savaging as much of the world as they could manage...had God on their side. Say what....? Oh, yes indeed.

It is worth noting that there is some significant overlap in the kinds of people who are willing to make this gigantic leap of imagination. They tend towards portraying themselves as being threatened victims, rather than being dangerous to others. Radical Muslims are waging a Jihad against all non-Muslims--and apparently many Muslims as well--because their very existence is in jeopardy, as they see it. White Power cretins are preparing for the coming Great Race War, because they feel they're on the brink of being overrun and wiped-out. Never mind that the Caucasian race has been inflicting some stellar mayhem of its own for a thousand years or so. "Don't Tread On Me" flags, (with the rattlesnake on a field of red &white stripes) have become popular at Tea Party rallys. Conservative America is arming itself at a level never seen before in the history of our country...all because they are sure they are about to be dragged off in the middle of the night.

People who abandon the truth also abandon reason. They are willing to toss fact and concepts such as truthfulness to the four winds, because such tools for grounding any viewpoint in reality are contrary to what they are claiming. The idea that this means embracing a level of chaos and insanity in the pursuit of their cause is far more acceptable than dealing with the inalienable facts of history. These people are not merely deluded and arguably unbalanced themselves, they are the 'crazy-makers', the chaos-bringers of the world.

This idea of discarding the Truth and substituting your own, more palatable, version of reality, is not new, and it is rapidly gaining popularity right now. One hopes that sanity and reason will prevail, but if the current trend persists, with a major media network playing the role of Goebbels propaganda ministry, while pretending to be 'fair and unbiased', even as its commentators lie at the drop of a hat...all bets are off. We desperately need to have a national dialog, about all the issues, not just health-care reform...and that will remain impossible as long as the crazies keep lying.

Or we could just let the crazies have their way and keep fiddling while Rome blazes.

Sunday, March 7, 2010

More engraving....outside the box, on shotguns

I just wanted to share a few more examples of extraordinary gun engraving. These pieces are so far from traditional work that they are establishing a new high-water mark in a field that is many centuries old. As you look at these, bear in mind that all of this imagery was created in steel, with chisels, scrapers, and other very tiny tools....all by the hand and eye of a master craftsman.


Lies, Lies.....All Lies

It is beginning to seem sort of surreal out there across our great land. There was a time when the concept of 'Truth' was simple: it was based on verifiable FACTs. Either something was true or it wasn't, based on the litmus question: 'did it really happen, or not?' Our entire legal system revolves around being able to distinguish and PROVE, beyond any reasonable doubt, that something either took place or it did not.

For it to have 'happened' meant that an actual event or circumstance had really manifested, yes, on the physical plane, here on Earth. Either it did...or it didn't. Seems a simple criteria to meet, right?

Well, hold on, because we are now moving into a time when people are treating that as if it were both optional and irrelevant. You may ask yourself how that is possible. And the answer is simple: people lie and say it is true...and a whole host of people accept it as true, BECAUSE THEY WANT IT TO BE TRUE. And, once we depart from the 'truth' being grounded in reality....we are suddenly in a great and dismal swamp. Nothing is either true or false, because suddenly it is all subject to a set of criteria that are unclear. Achieving the political or religious goals of a group is seen as more important than being HONEST. Whatever it takes to get there is fine, because, hey, WE'RE RIGHT!!

This means facts are subject to question and suspicion--and, ultimately, DENIAL--simply because they don't agree with someone's opinion or--worse--their ideology. Used to be that people believed everyone was entitled to their opinion and even though we might agree or disagree with them, well, hell, it was just their opinion and they were free to opine absolutely whatever they wished.

The new 'ethos'--if one can call it that--is that my opinion is the truth and yours isn't, so to hell with you and why am I even listening to your lies. Holy Cow, Batman! The widespread acceptance of this means that reasonable discussions and well-spoken arguments become IMPOSSIBLE. There are no longer divergent opinions, only your lies and my truth.

Any political, religious or ideological group who embraces this as being the modus operandi of a society, is walking in the hob-nailed footprints of tyranny. The Nazis, the Soviet Communists, and name your period in the development of western religions....all used the exclusion of any dissenting or incompatible viewpoints, as a basic measure for both obtaining and maintaining POWER. By doing this they relegated all opposition to the status of outlaws...and persecuted them mercilessly, often with lethal penalties as a part of their terror mechanism.

Many Germans who survived the Third Reich reflected back on how it all came to pass, and most of them agreed that by the time they realized what was really happening to their freedom, it was long gone. Only about 15% of the 68 million Germans who were alive when Hitler and the Nazis came to power were avid and committed Nazis themselves. Approximately 70% were so-called 'go along to get alongs', and refrained from any outward dissent because by the time they knew it was out of hand, they knew that the Gestapo would simply sweep them up and put them into the concentration camp system. Only another 15% resisted, either through passive methods, or actively. BTW: Most people think there were just a few KZs (Konzentration Lager) but there were actually over 250, more than enough so that any sizeable town or city had one nearby. People who might mutter their discontent with the lack of availability of meat, for instance, could expect to be informed on and receive a wee hours pounding on their door by men in black leather trenchcoats. This is how terror works: it instills the firm belief that you conform, or pay terrifying consequences.

So, when I hear people telling lies on what is supposed to be the 'news', and passing these lies off as 'truth', what I really hear is the first wobbly steps of a terror mechanism getting its legs under it. Yes, of course, we are still a good distance from what happened in Germany, but it didn't happen there overnight either.

I wrote recently about 'The Big Lie' as developed, refined and used to great effect by Hitler, Goebbles et al. The BIG part only arrives after people are successfully conditioned to believe a littany of 'little' lies. Holding onto the basic underlying necessity of any statement--political, religious, philosophical or otherwise--being based on solid facts is something we cannot, must not let slip quietly away in the night. The liars need to be recognized as such and widely rejected and condemmned for using shabby and unacceptable methods to put forward what is really merely their OPINION.

Sinclair Lewis said, "When fascism come to America, it will be wrapped in the flag and carrying a bible."

All we need to do is sit back and be complacent in the face of the little lies...and we soon will be hearing big ones. Not long after that we will be in deeper sh*t than anyone now imagines.

Thursday, March 4, 2010

Do You REALLY Want to know.........?

Lately, I have been unable to avoid the fact that the huge preponderance of our local news, here in Maine--and I assume it's the same around the country--is about pathos. It has probably always been this way, but now I am just more painfully aware that tuning in means I am going to be bombarded with one story after another about insignificant people acting in shabby ways.

Why, exactly, do I need to know that some high-school drop-out murdered his ex-girlfriend and her current boyfriend in some sordid apartment in (name your city, or town)? I mean, what end does it serve? How am I benefited in the least by knowing this? And, if I were to survey the entire viewership, how many people out there in t-v land would feel that this was in any way relevant to their lives?

I am going to hazard a guess that it would be on the order of a tiny fraction of one percent who actually wanted to see such a story. But, somehow, along the long road to the present, we have developed the resignation--indeed, the expectation--that this is somehow what constitutes 'news'.

It would be of great value and of interest to many--unless I am alone in feeling this way--to have some kind of scientific study done on how this nightly ongoing deluge of pathetic people acting in pathetic ways affects our general well-being. What, exactly, might be the relationship to this constant stream of negativity (and the hopelessness it unavoidably alludes to), to the sharp rise in prescriptions for anti-depressants?

Most people are vaguely aware that the use of antidepressants has skyrocketed in this country. In the last period for which statistics are available--2005--use had risen 48%. Over 118 million scripts were written in another recent year. One source indicates that approximately TEN PERCENT of all men and women are using prescription antidepressants. And, that is discounting the people who are using non-prescription approaches, such as St. John's Wort. And, as if that weren't troubling by itself, there is an ever steeper rise in the prescription of antidepressants for CHILDREN. Apparently, our kids are looking around at this society and it is depressing to them too.

I don't think it is a stretch to say that we are rapidly becoming a nation of depressed people, or more properly we WOULD be depressed if we weren't so drugged-up. The evidence all seems to point to this fact. And, for us to be watching news stories that simply relate an endless stream of people acting badly, just seems to be one more brick on an already over-loaded cart. One medical source indicated that he feels it is a wonderful thing that so many people are availing themselves of the help that is out there. HOLY COW, BATMAN!!! What he's really saying, is that if we all just take enough 'happy pills' everything will be okay.

This makes me want to write a novel that I have imagined for years: a small town in E. Nowhere has a family doctor who eventually has the entire town on happy meds. It becomes like a dream-town, where all the people are happy...sort of. They are also not really alive, just kind of cruising in a state of drug induced pseudo-euphoria. And, it all goes downhill when a stranger moves to town and sees what has happened. The struggle is to deal with life on a 'reality' basis, instead of just medicating it all away.

But, my real point here is this: Why do the news reporting media have to remain stuck in the notion that it is their sworn duty to tell us every little sick and sad story that comes their way? Why do they think we need to know, that we benefit, or that WE EVEN CARE?

What is Art....the pursuit of perfection

Those of us who make our living as artists are often so caught-up in what is widely acknowledged to be the world of so-called 'fine art', that it is easy to forget that there are other artists who are working in media that don't get much, or any, mainstream attention.

Since early hominids first learned to pick up objects and use them as tools and weapons decorating those tools, but most especially their weapons, has been a part of every culture world-wide. If you have ever visited the collections of arms and armor in major museums (the Metropolitan, for example, has a stunning collection)you know how much effort and skill has gone in to this most traditional art-form. At times, it has veered off into levels of embellishment that are downright gaudy, and sometimes it has become so pedantic that it is almost invisible. The endless English scrollwork on London best guns is like that. It is just so repetitive and relentless that it becomes an integral part of the metal and is seldom worthy of a second look.

But, there are gun engravers out there who pride themselves on their creativity and originality, and they have developed skills that are so difficult to master that one looks at the result and almost cannot imagine how it was accomplished. Many of these master engravers have enough work lined-up that their time is accounted for until they retire. Some are in such demand that the only hope of ever owning their work lies in finding a piece on the 'estate' market. If a dead shark in formaldehyde is worth $11 million on the open market, these pieces, at prices under a million, often mere hundreds of thousands, constitute a real value....the key word being 'real'.

When I look at the work of these artists, it jumps out in stark contrast to the entire modernist cesspit. All the Schnabels, Freuds, Savilles and their ilk are caught in the bright glare of the truth: they are purveyors of inane and unimportant ideas, feelings of disgust, annoyance and sadly cynical game-playing. Theirs is not the pursuit of perfection, but something profane and against the human instinct to hope, to allow for goodness and perfection, even against the tide of our times which seems to be so negative and chaotic. They are aligning themselves with all the negativity and their work is just a form of piling on. Who needs it? I have a deep-seated sense that, ultimately, history will look back on their work as being infantile and idiotic. Time has a way of putting things into perspective.

Just the simple fact that the work of these engravers was conceived and executed with the goal of being as utterly perfect as the human mind and hand are capable of creating, transmits a feeling that buoys my spirit. I know one of the engravers whose work is pictured here, Steve Lindsay, personally, and to hold one of his engraved knives in one's hand is to experience a feeling that you are holding something precious and fine. It has nothing to do with the monetary value; it has to do with the energy that he has poured into the piece. Hundreds of hours, peering through a binocular microscope as he carefully chisels, peens, scrapes and even creates texture by making pin-point dots, all become a reservoir of palpable energy that is available to the viewer/holder.

This is just one more example of art that was made with consummate skill, loving care and a great deal of purity of effort. It is not merely 'fine art' it is 'heart art'.