Sunday, January 31, 2016

A poem

While I sleep, warm beneath the comforter,
A young woman in India is thrown into a hole
And pummeled for working a man's job.

While I sip coffee, thinking how to build my day,
A Syrian mother sleeps in rubble with her child,
Starving both for food and hope.

Does knowing this make me a better human being
Or turn my crosses into mere splinters?
I will still sit down for a full meal,
Including wine, coffee and dessert.

Saturday, January 30, 2016

The Ten (art) Commandments

The Holy Church of Art

The Ten Commandments

I.          Thou shalt not worship false gods of art.

II.         Thou shalt not covet thy neighbor’s art.

III.       Thou shalt not deny thy own artistic self.

IV.        Honor the mothers and fathers of thine art.

V.         Thou shalt not kill the spirit of art.

VI.        Thou shalt give each work of art the time it deserves.

VII.       Thou shalt not steal from another artist, unless it be honestly.

VIII.     Thou shalt not lie in thine art.

IX.        Thou shalt not call art that which is not art.

X.         Thou shalt not fuck with art.

Friday, January 29, 2016

Authentic self

I think it's hard in these times to find an authentic self. A time of spin, peer pressure, hyper style, massive advertising and marketing, psychobabble, media influences, resumes and interviews and personal freedoms.

To do this takes attention and effort. But at some point the authentic self emerges and asserts and sustains itself. No longer are there pieces of the self generated in different encounters with the hope that they add up to the whole.

Thursday, January 28, 2016

To be or not to be

I work hard not be an asshole.

How about you?

Wednesday, January 27, 2016

Thornton Dial

Art can be adorned with things like style, aesthetics, taste, investment value, status and more. But then we pay attention to how art's dressed and not to what its most naked meaning is.

Thornton Dial, who died recently, was an illiterate, self-taught artist who worked much of his life at farm work and a list of menial jobs. He devoted himself to his art for his whole life and eventually became nationally recognized.

This is what he had to say about art:
Art is like a bright star up ahead in the darkness of the world. It  can lead poeples through the darkness and help them from being afraid of the darkness. Art is a guide for every person who is looking for something. That's how I can describe myself: Mr. Dial is a man looking for something.

Tuesday, January 26, 2016

When anything is art

This is the season of endless rankings and award shows. When anything can be art, why not have a ranking system to help sort things out. So from bottom to top, here's mine:






Monday, January 25, 2016

2 stats

The average college football team has a ratio of 1 coach to every 4 or 5 players.
Wouldn't it be nice if that were the case for the ratio of faculty to students?

The average cost to house one prisoner for a year is around $30,000.
That could be the salary of one person devoting 40 hours a week to rehabilitating that prisoner.

Sunday, January 24, 2016

Frustration and hopelessness

Lynchings and immolations in Mexico, bludgeonings in India, stabbings in China and Israel, terrorism in France, mass kidnappings in Africa, political killings in Venezuela, forced starvation in Syria, stonings in Saudi Arabia, Donald Trump in America. The list is  almost endless.

To me, so much of this brutal behavior is a consequence of the disenfranchised having no voice, no hope. What can we expect in a world in which wealth is so disproportionately spread, when power is a epedemic, when status is the measure of importance, when false heroes abound, when media spin blocks out truth, when the voices for the poor and for justice and equality are so easily silenced?

Saturday, January 23, 2016

Arts fantasies

Discussion in the TV newsroom:
"We have an important sociopolitical issue we have to weigh in on, and we need an expert to consult."
"Let's call an artist."

The Cincinnati Symphony Orchestra had a perfect season this year. They're invited to the White House to be honored.

Long lines are snaking in front of the Contemporary Arts Center to see the new show. Patrons are reported to be passing up the cafe to go right to the artwork.

At a recent opening at the Art Academy gallery, there were actually more people in the gallery than outside drinking, chatting and snacking.

The Cincinnati Enquirer bumped a front page story on the Bengals to cover a local artist who was featured in the Whitney Biennial.

Friday, January 22, 2016

40 years teaching art

What did I learn from 40 years teaching art? I'm still trying to figure that out. But here's a start.

--Talent can be the basis of a life in art, but it comes with no guarantee.

--You won't get very far without discipline and passion.

--You must have a well of perseverance and personal integrity to draw on.

--You have to believe in yourself even when and especially if the world doesn't.

--You already have a voice. Make it smart, articulate and persuasive,

--Don't be afraid to bang your head against the world and see wha happens.

--Some art is better and more powerful than other art.

--Creativity and imagination are fuzzy ideas that you need to make clear for yourself.

--Your art will be no deeper as an entity than you are as a person.

--If you want to think outside the box, it's best to know what the box actually is.

--An artist is the expert on his/her work so must be knowledgeable about the ideas, themes and concepts that form the basis of the work. Do research.

--Responsibility to yourself and responsibility to your audience are linked together.

--Much can be learned when art moves from a making process to a language process.

--An artist should never trip over the mythologies created around him/her.

Thursday, January 21, 2016


Life would be no more than a soap opera without the arts.

Wednesday, January 20, 2016

45 years of teaching

What has 45 years of teaching taught me?

--Cultural forces outside of the classroom require changing strategies in the classroom.

--Teaching focused on dispensing information makes no sense in the Internet age. Strategies for thinking, pattern seeking and problem solving are where it's at.

--The authority figure in the front of the classroom with students looking at the backs of one another's heads makes limited sense anymore.

--Teach in a circle format, emphasize connection, all accountable to the success of the class, the teacher a learner as well in the process of education.

--Make as great an effort as possible to reach and teach the student as a whole person.

--An education is not about a degree or a skill or a profession. It's about being a full human being.

--A teacher should encourage curiosity and a love of learning--a helluva difficult thing in a culture that floods us with the pedestrian and the mediocre.

--A curious, educated, interesting human being will always be a productive member of society.

Tuesday, January 19, 2016

Two things

In today's NY Times there are two interesting facts that speak volumes about our world today.

1.   62 individuals control the same amount of wealth os the poorest 3.5 billion people on the planet.

2.   Due to a housing shortage in Delhi, India, the homeless pay a small amount nightly for a blanket and a place to rest in a sprawling sleep market.

Monday, January 18, 2016


On this Martin Luther King Day, I wonder how hate gets learned and then sustained over generations and even centuries.  How can anyone hold onto such a corrosive emotion over time? And even believe they are doing the work of God?

Sunday, January 17, 2016


If you don't find mystery, you don't find life.

Saturday, January 16, 2016

Bill and Mary

Bill: Have you heard about global warming?

Mary: Yes, just the other day I went out and bought some new summer outfits.

Mary: Why don't we have sex any more?

Bill: Define sex.

Bill: What did your mother say about the loan?

Mary: She said I should have married a doctor.

Mary: My mother said next time we come over to be sure to bring the dog.

Bill: Did she mention me at all?

Friday, January 15, 2016

Time and attention

What gets more  of our time and attention than a dead refugee child washed up on a Greek beach?

Mylie Cyrus twerking on stage

Justin Bieber's new album

The latest eruption on Marriage Bootcamp

Jennifer Lopez sparring with her boyfriend in the  boxing ring then having sex with him there

Who was yawning and sleeping at the State of the Union Address

Who was snubbed at the Hollywood awards shows

Who wore the most shocking dresses

The antics of NFL players

Anything Donald Trump says

Thursday, January 14, 2016


I woke to a sunlit morning
Birds singing cheerily
And scratched my balls

On the rainy drive home
I picked up the milk
But forgot the bread

The playoff game consumed me
And I in turn consumed
Beer, chips, spicy salsa

A breakup with the girlfriend looms
"But how?" I ask
"email" says my major dude

Wednesday, January 13, 2016

Capture art

Capture art.
Lock it up until it can pay it own ransom.
Then sell it again into slavery.
Let it out every once in a while for a walk among the living.
Lock it up again.
Reward yourself for being its keeper.
Is that the life that art was made to live?

Tuesday, January 12, 2016


Coaches and players love to talk about how playing the game of football teaches important lessons of teamwork, sportsmanship, discipline and so forth. That may be true for some, but obviously not true for all. Now the NFL, the parent body, is under scrutiny for cheating, for mishandling of player behavior and for failing to pay full attention to player injuries.

But what have been lessons taught to and by fans? NFL games have become rowdy, drunken events which discourage the family experience (current tagline: "Football is family.") Aggressive fan behavior and foul language are becoming the norm.

Monday, January 11, 2016

Leonardo di Caprio vs. the Syrians

Well, the annual ritual of endless Hollywood award shows has begun. For months, the stars will get all dressed up, walk the red carpets, be gawked at and interviewed, glory in media attention, get expensive gift bags for showing up and collect their awards in tedious thank you speeches while the public eats it all up.

So Leonardo di Caprio reportedly had to endure extreme and demanding circumstances in making his latest film, for which he was undoubtedly paid millions. There was never a doubt his safety would be of paramount importance. In the end, he collected his paycheck and showed up at the Golden Globes to win with adoring attention from millions.

But who pays attention to the victims and refugees of the war in Syria? They endure the most dire of circumstances day after day. No hope. No rewards for their suffering. No recourse. Nothing but more suffering.

What does it say about our culture when our attention is directed in such skewed and disproportionate ways?

Sunday, January 10, 2016


Most people aren't very interested in art because most art isn't very interested in people.

Saturday, January 9, 2016

The lens

A photographer has an array of lenses through which to see the world: microscopic, macroscopic, panoramic, soft focus and more. The world looks different through each lens, each lens attempting to capture a piece of reality, each contributing to a search for the whole.

The same is true for each of us. We can choose to see the world through a rosy lens, a dark lens, a hopeful lens, a scientific lens, a feeling lens or a lens of absurdity or more.

One of my favorites is the lens of absurdity, where humanity seems to be at its wacky best.

Friday, January 8, 2016


The brutal and inhuman jihad which ISIS is waging against those they consider infidels has caused widespread fear among us. The media help whip this fear into a frenzy. We don't fear being killed in a car accident or in a mall by an angry gunman or in a school by someone who is  mentally ill or in a murder suicide in our own family. Yet any of these latter incidents is more likely to kill us.

There's no glamour for the media in death tolls that slowly accumulate from automobiles, alcohol, suicides, murder-suicides, person-on-person murders, gang violence. These number in the tens of thousands each year.

The religious hatred in radical Islam is only different in degree from the racial hatred of the Aryan Nation or the Ku  Klux Klan or the hatred that is at the root of gang violence or the hatred that drives those who are intolerant of the beliefs or sexual orientation or religion of others. In fact, in some cases these groups dream of restoring turf and dominance as ISIS does by resurrecting a failed past.

Fear can bring a healthy caution. But fear should not be a knee-jerk reaction lacking any measured reason.

Wednesday, January 6, 2016

Nursing home

Yesterday I spent an entire day with  my 91-year-old dad at the nursing home where he now resides. I had been in nursing homes before, but never for this long. To realize the complexity of all these laundry persons, kitchen persons, therapists, administrators, nurses, aides and maintenance workers doing their jobs simultaneously for all of the residents so rooms are cleaned, resident needs are met, showers are given, meals are served relatively warm, individual personalities are dealt with, corridors are kept unclogged and all the other things I didn't observe.

It was a real help to me to now  know exactly what a day is like for my dad, from wake up to bed time. If we live long enough, we are all likely headed there in one capacity or another. I don't think it's morbid to start to think about his. I suspect that who we are now is who we will be then. Grumpy, still grumpy. Pleasant, still pleasant. Feeling entitled, still feeling entitled. What expectations we have of family now will be the same as we will have then.

I want to prepare myself now. Will I be the lady who hums in her wheelchair all day? The man with the blank face? The resident who greets everyone with her eyes? The one who perseveres?

I don't know. But I do know I was happy I spent this whole day with my dad.

Monday, January 4, 2016


Everybody needs a little serendipity in their lives. So try this.

Take a walk that's aimless.

Have a view of the world that's frameless.

Have a thought that's shameless.

Let the things be nameless.

Hold experiences blameless.

Saturday, January 2, 2016

Some new memoirs

Forever Young: How To Never Grow Up, by Justin Bieber, 10 pp., big print

Silicon Valley: My Badass Beauty, by Kim Kardashian, 132 pp. with an appendix of documentation of cosmetic surgeries

An Intimate History of My Penis: And By the Way it is VERY Big, by Donald Trump, 853 pp.

Congressmen of Courage, by John Boehner, 2pp.

Balls and Bullets: The NRA Makes Me Feel Like a Real Man, by Wayne LaPierre, 218 pp.

Stoning, Smiting and Other Ancient Nomadic Rituals: How the Bible Guides My Life, by Ted Cruz,
1072 pp.

Friday, January 1, 2016


As contemporary Westerners, we typically see time as a linear construct. It follows the track from past to present to future. We push back to the beginning of time's line, the Big Bang, and speculate ahead to the future, whose seeds we have already sowed.

Indigenous cultures see time as a cycle and mark it with seasonal reckonings, eternally present ancestors and rituals of renewal and regeneration.

In fact, we actually live a combination of both of these concepts of time. We name it in linear increments and celebrate it with cyclic regularity. For example, imagine yourself as a dot on the rim of the wheel of time's train. As you travel inexorably forward you repeat loop after loop after loop.

This path of time is filled with ups and downs in a geometry of rhythmic beauty.

Best wishes for a 2016 in which these ups and downs are lived with beauty, ever arching forward.
And be sure to enjoy the ride.