Tuesday, June 30, 2015

Art as subculture

Every culture is full of subcultures. Professions as subcultures come with their own codes, language, expectations of the group, the culture's expectations of them, behaviors, attitudes, etc. Teachers. police, firemen, electricians, accountants, politicians, looking at each group gives us an idea of the subculture within the culture.

What results if we consider artists in this way? What do we learn about individuality, about expectations, about group identity, about behavior?

Monday, June 29, 2015

Latest scientific breakthroughs

World's first personality transplant:
With recent advances in brain research, scientists are on the verge of being able to create drug cocktails that will transform brain chemistry to produce a new personality in the user. Research trials will soon begin on a study group of 100 mothers-in-law.

The real cause for climate change:
Scientists have now discovered that the obesity epidemic in the United States has caused a shift in the earth's axis, thus melting the polar ice caps and effecting global warming. Computer models indicate that this problem can be solved by massive liposuction and distribution of the liposuction products to third world countries.

Men really are dickheads:
Scientists have employed specially designed equipment to trace nerve pathways from the male penis to the brain. During arousal, neural signals go directly to the area of the brain which controls rational decision making where they immediately short circuit.

Sunday, June 28, 2015

Education as business

For many years now many colleges and universities have been moving to a business model. Marketing departments, branding, commercial advertising, athletic sportswear and more. If educational institutions are businesses, then students are consumers.

Then why do tuition and related costs continue to rise so noticeably? Why aren't students saying they want lower tuition and fewer sports programs, fewer adjuncts along with fewer highly paid coaches? Quality education across the board instead of rock climbing walls and luxury dorms? Or is this what students really want?

What if students demanded face-to-face exchanges in the classroom instead of email exchanges online? What if students asked to be educated in their full humanity and not just to be viable in the job market? What if students demanded to be challenged and not just get the effortless grade? What if the students expected to be educated for life and not for the short-term market?

Saturday, June 27, 2015

Thought for the day

Why is it so easy for humans to hate another? Why does every major religion have its numerous practitioners of hate? How can hate continue to propagate through generations and centuries? How can so many individuals let their life force be driven by hate? How can hate's corrosive poisons not eat up every shred of humanity? Is good impotent?

Friday, June 26, 2015

Thought for the day

If someone wants to tell you a joke, listen. It may be offensive or make you angry or even start your day with a laugh. But listen.  Jokes are a way for our culture to bring up issues that are present but are hard to simply talk about. Issues that concern people, scare people, that people want to know if other people experience them too. Sometimes a joke can make a connection or start a useful conversation in a PC world.

Thursday, June 25, 2015


There's one thing our sex-infused culture has made clear. Sex is not sex.

Sex is the playing field for anger, violence, pleasure, commerce, money, ego, love, anxiety, communication, celebrity, spectacle, perversion, pornography and gender wars.

Oops, did I forget healthy human relationships?

Wednesday, June 24, 2015

Sick America...Mothering for little girls

For her 7th birthday, my granddaughter got a doll, a new doll of the contemporary world. This doll can take a bottle as the child holds it in her arms. Then it wets itself. But--and here's the hitch--the diaper the doll wears is disposable. So this doll requires a continuous supply of disposable diapers.

Cynical or not, I can't help but believe in the intentionality of the design of this doll. My only defense is to counter with the idea that my granddaughter must pay for "her baby's" diapers herself.

Sick America.

Tuesday, June 23, 2015

Thought for the day

Each of us creates a workable reality which is a balance between the tangible world and the metaphorical world. This balance is not static and forever, but a but a balance always in flux.

Monday, June 22, 2015

Thought for the day

Every child deserves an introduction to the world. Not only model in plastic or filtered through screens or experienced through video games or walled in by a city or found through a search engine. A world discovered by curiosity, by the senses, by experience, by stumbling, by engagement of the unknown and the imagination.

Sunday, June 21, 2015

Thoughts on Father's Day

Though gender stereotypes still linger and sometimes still seem entrenched, the feminists revolution has also been a revolution (though a quiet one) for men. Courts no longer give custody automatically to the mother. Men are single parents in increasing numbers. Men have had to rethink their place in the home, in the nursery, in the school, on the playground and even in the bed.

We know that everyone has a mother. But we can't say that for the father. And not because he is absent, but because he is an anonymous sperm donor. The government, in its quest to protect the child, has only encouraged the father to be absent. Fatherhood too often comes with no preparation and no commitment to the child, either civil or sacramental.

It is the right thing, in my opinion, for same sex couple to marry and to raise children. with two fathers or two mothers, gender roles in parenting  become a matter of consideration. In our culture we spend a great deal of time on defending our rights, but not enough time on acknowledging our responsibilities.

The mythological and archetypal figures of mother and father have been the concern of humans since time began. Perhaps it's time to look past gender roles and investigate the male/female duality and its role in culture now. After all, we were born into a world of dualities (light/dark, male/female, day/night, good evil) that we navigate each day.

Thought for the day

If you choose as your task making sense of the world, finding meaning in it, why not do this task a gift to everyone?

Saturday, June 20, 2015

Thought for the day

Justice is not something we find in the world. It's something we must tirelessly work to put in the world.

Friday, June 19, 2015

Where does art live?

I know when I make apiece of art, I don't often think about where it will live. Even if I have an idea of where it go or where I might like it to go, I have no idea where it will live its life. Some works of art, after decades or centuries, will spend their lives where they began their lives. Others move around many times before they find a place to call home. Some expected to be in home or office and wound up in a climate controlled space where they were cleaned regularly. Some expected loving care and wound in at a thrift store. Some exists eternally in the internet cloud, never knowing whether its a tangible reality, flickering image on a screen or simply a stored electronically array.

The great sometimes never knew their work would even have a life beyond its completion. Some know during their lifetimes that it will endure. For most of us its problematic. For me, at this point, my art mostly lives in the way it may have seeded itself in the consciousness of another and in the way my making of it has transformed me.

Thursday, June 18, 2015

Sick America.....guns

We all pay attention to the news. How many times have you heard of a gun owner thwarting a robbery or saving the lives of others in a home invasion or on the streets. Me, not many. How many times have you heard of a gun-related mass murder, a murder-suicide, a suicide, a child killed playing with a loaded gun? Me, lots.

Yet, this does not seem to weigh on the consciences of our legislators as they climb into the pockets of the NRA to fill their own pockets. For all the times they invoke the "American people," this is one issue in which they staunchly ignore the American people.

The banner of the Second Amendment goes up, and before we know it, guns are allowed on the streets, in churches, in bars, in schools, in the State Capitol. Even the Supreme Court opens the floodgates by conveniently ignoring the militia clause in its recent ruling.

No other industrialized country tolerates this insanity or experiences these massive numbers of gun deaths. Have we not left the era of the Wild West, vigilantes, lynch mobs and murder in the streets?

Sick America.

A baby

Billions of years lead to the formation of galaxies, solar systems, planets and elements. Elements form molecules, molecules become life. Evolution blossoms in variation, humans emerge. For two of them, an explosive moment sends 300,000,000 sperm racing to be the first to fertilize the egg. The winner sets in motion a nine month journey which ends in a painful exit down the chute. A baby is born.

Now what? Will you love it unconditionally? Will you burn it with cigarettes? Will you give it anything it wants? Will you struggle to feed it with breasts almost dried of milk? What will you teach it? Will your words be gentle? Will you bitch at it incessantly with foul words? Will you use it for your own purposes? Will you let it fail? Will you give it the world? Will you hide it from the world? Will you make it feel secure? Will you trap it in a cage of anxiety? Will you hold it tight? Will you hold it off? Will you teach it freedom? Will you teach it responsibility? Will you teach it what love is? Will you let it teach you what love is?

Thought for the day

A few statistics from an internet search:

Average annual cost to educate a child in the US:  $10,615

Average annual cost to house an inmate in prison:  $28, 893

Average annual salary for a prison corrections officer:  $41, 629

Average annual salary for an elementary public school teacher:  $42,356

Annual cost to house a prisoner at Guantanamo:  $900,000

Wednesday, June 17, 2015

Thought for the day

Like it or not, Americans will accept years of education in the English language because the curriculum requires and the culture values it. Likewise, as despised as it often is, Americans will accept the same of mathematics for the same reasons.

But, the visual language? Despite the fact that they live in an increasingly visual world, where they are entertained visually, marketed to visually, informed visually and live connected to screens, Americans see little value in visual art, a fact reflected in the curriculum.

Visual art has to continually valid itself, which is an exhausting, but necessary task, in contemporary American culture.

Tuesday, June 16, 2015

Mall moments

I don't usually go to the mall, but I had to bring my computer in for a check up. On the way to the Apple Store, I passed Victoria's Secret. I wondered what was the biggest size they carried in these intimate garments. I also wondered if the price went up as the size went down.

I passed other stores, of course. One had a female mannequin in very skimpy cut off jeans, which were unzipped. Another had a couple of male mannequins with noticeably obvious nipples.

Finally, there was a store and kiosk where it seemed like young girls could get a doll version of their future celebrities selves along with a free 10 minute video.

If I had the time, I would go throughout the mall and collect all of the store slogans and see what I could make of them. The mall has taken place of the cathedral...or is the cathedral of the religion of shopping.

Monday, June 15, 2015

Sick America--the Disney touch

At Disneyworld, visit the Bibbidi Bobbidi Boutique for princesses-to-be. "A magical beauty salon where any little girl can make her dreams of becoming a princess come true." Where she can live her "own fairy tale with the wave of a wand."

If you really love your daughter or granddaughter, you will go for the Castle Package, which starts at $194.95 plus. This includes hair styling, shimmering make-up, nail polish, costume and accessories and more.

Proud purchases talk about what memories this will create. It's likely though that the child's life will feel like a downhill ride from then on.

Sunday, June 14, 2015

Thought for the day

Reality is a bubbling stew of what you think it is, what others tell you it is, and what it actually is. But it's rarely what you want it to be. And that's where all the trouble lies.

Saturday, June 13, 2015

Latest E! News

Entertainment news headlines:

Country music depletes world resources of cliches

Justin Bieber's transgender nightmare

Rapper's union agrees to use the f-word "no more than absolutely necessary"

Joan Rivers' daughter reveals, "My mother's body is not biodegradable"

Hollywood stars hoard botox in response to rumors of impending shortages

Thought for the day

Many decry the unequal distribution of wealth in America; and rightly so. A person making $75,000 a year can complain about someone making 100 times that--$7,500,000.

But we must also acknowledge that those making $75,000 a year, make 100 times more than the majority of the world's poor who live on $2 day.

Friday, June 12, 2015


Dirt under the fingernails is usually good for the spirit.

Thursday, June 11, 2015

Sick America (this might have to become a new blog series)

I was mindlessly watching TV when a commercial announcer in a happy voice said this: "Parents know that kids want what they want, but what kids don't know is that their parents care." Cut to a happy little girl in a room over-stuffed with toys and furniture as happy music plays.

May seem innocuous enough at first. But the reality is it's just the opposite of what should things should be. Kids should know their parents care, and that they don't get everything they want. How much time, money and creative energy did it take to make this commercial?

The task of an artist

The task of an artist is not to be different, but to make a difference.

Wednesday, June 10, 2015

Thought for the day

Spectacle is transitory. Beauty endures.

Tuesday, June 9, 2015

Today's Cincinnati Enquirer

In today's Cincinnati Enquirer:

The Sports section is 12 pages, the front section of local news is 8 pages.

G8 global action, one column. The prattles of actor Chris Pratt, 3/4 of a page.

Among the 21 birthdays listed, not one scientist, visual artist or humanitarian, but plenty grade D entertainers.

Almost 2 full pages on triplets, but half a page on election abuse.

Almost a full page on Pete Townshend. Half a page on the ballot issue on pot.

Monday, June 8, 2015

An ordinary brown bird

I am a brown bird among the blue and red and yellow and multicolored birds. But I am myself, going about the business of being who I was born to be and doing what is in my nature to do. It is the humans who want our ecology and our web of connectedness and build more hierarchies.

Sunday, June 7, 2015


When in a person's life does s/he come to realize that humility is more important than power, giving is more important than getting, integrity is more important is more important than money and that the spirit cannot be starved.

Saturday, June 6, 2015

Bird song

Our ears are plugged in all the time to iTunes, to the radio, to the TV. Our heads get filled up with stuff that numbs our brains and puts our minds on permanent pause. We essentially surrender ourselves.

But the birds don't stop singing. And if we listen, their songs take us back to ourselves, back to nature, where we have a much longer history of connectedness than to technology. Wouldn't it be a gift to walk into the bathroom at Cracker Barrel or a local tavern and hear bird songs instead of country music or the plodding rhythms of pop music?

Friday, June 5, 2015


Skilled ISIS video marketing succeeds in attracting avid recruits. US video marketers succeed in attracting avid buyers of beer and designer footwear.

Poor citizens of third world countries answer interviewers in good English. American students can't write a good paragraph,

Americans have to have their $5 Starbucks. Most of the world lives on $2 a day or less.

What each middle class American has in the house would fill a neighborhood among the poor.

A car might last 10-14 years in the US. It can last 50-60 years in Cuba.

I let myself think about things like this, but I still, sadly, am not sure what to do about it.

Thursday, June 4, 2015

Why travel to Cuba?

Of course, our focus was the Bienal. The Bienal is not a meat market like so many art fairs in the USA. The artists are accessible, want to talk about their work, not engaged thru their dealers. The work is smart, colorful, dizzying in variety and essentially wherever you are in the city.The works are about ideas and issues not always given much attention in a capitalist art market.It spills into the streets and is there for all, not just the cognescenti. It has guts.

But even if the Bienal and its art would disappear, Cuba calls. It is not the Disneyworld experience of fun and fantasy. It is not the Europe experience of famous monuments seen from a tour bus. You are in it. Everything is an experience--eating, taxi rides, walking, standing in line, sitting and watching. In Havana Vieja you walk the streets hardly more than a few feet from someone's living room. You are in the now and in the 1950's at the same time. The colonial buildings are both remodeled and crumbling. If you go to the national school of the arts, an exceptional institution, and you want to eat lunch with the students, you have to bring your won spoon.

Havana is socialist and entrepreneurial at the same time. It is vibrant and crumbling. It is vibrant and blaring rhythms and somber economics. Cuba is contradictions at every turn. Go.

Wednesday, June 3, 2015

Political Cuba

Patria or Muerte. Slogans like this are all over Havana on walls and billboards. Most are faced. But the consequences of political Cuba are a daily fact of life. Many older Cubans still revere Castro because they know what life was like for the poor and uneducated under the America backed Batista regime which Castro toppled. Younger Cubans see a new, if uncertain, Cuba emerging after the deaths of Fidel and Raul.

The recent actions by President Obama to ease restrictions of trade and travel offer the Cubans new possibilities of a better and more economically sound life. Who  knows. Cubans love Americans and can distinguish the American people from the policies of the American government. In Cuba, all health care is free, even transgender operations. It is quality care limited by economic circumstances. Cuban literacy rates are higher than in the United States. But despite the high level of education, doctors and engineers drive taxis because this pays more. They aspire to make as much a hotel maids and bartenders, whose income is the highest in Cuba.

The history of US-Cuba relations of since the explosion of the Maine at the start of the 20th century is largely one of control and bullying by the US. At one point, Cuba almost became a US state, but US policy tried to control and stabilize Cuba for its own ends and those of American business interests. Different policy decisions would have made for a different America and Cuba today.

Monday, June 1, 2015

The Bienal

Since Americans cannot freely travel to Cuba, a license based on a travel purpose is required. Ours was to study Cuban art, particularly the Havana Bienal. This is a citywide art exposition of largely third world art including many Cuban artists. It is amazing that a country with such limited economic and technological resources can pull off something like this. But the Cubans did.

The work was in galleries, forts, former army barracks, old buildings, neighborhoods, along the seaside Malecon and in places that even in a week we could not discover. The work was traditional, edgy, political, spiritual, decorative, grand and intimate. There were installations, sculpture, performances, collaborations, painting, prints, drawings and more. The quality and intensity were admirable. There will soon be a copy of the Bienal catalog in the Cincinnati Art Museum Library for anyone who is interested.

Tour buses carried art professionals from around the world to Bienal venues, including many collectors eager to scoop up Cuban art. I was impressed for example by the studio of Kcho in the neighborhood where he grew up and now works and educates. He led a crowd through the neighborhood accompanied by costumed dancers on stilts from performance venue to performance venue. Jose Toirac did a series of images in which he compared the words of Castro to the words of Christ.  A young Cuban pianist improvised music to a score made from patterns in nature generated by Glenda Leon.