Sunday, July 31, 2016

The dark side

Has there ever been a period in human civilization where humans have not been the victims of and exploited by fear. Slavery, the Inquisition, the Crusades, wars, the Holocaust, European colonization, the list is endless. Every human being has fears and has a dark side. When these are accumulated and manipulated we can become convinced that we are drowning in a tide of darkness.

But there has never been a time in human civilization when we were without hope and courage. There were always individuals and groups to remind us of this: Ghandi, Martin Luther King, the grandmothers who raise their grandchildren,  those who run food pantries, doctors in war torn communities, advocates for the poor, the hungry, those searching for a better life. This list is endless too.

Crime statistics (crime is actually going down) and terrorist killings (we kill one another in higher numbers each day than terrorists kill others) make us fearful. But these are not messages to run inside and hide, but rather messages to go outside and help.

Saturday, July 30, 2016

Convention speeches

There was the convention speech that said, "I'll come down to you and we'll grovel in the dirt together."

And then there was the convention speech that said, "Join me on the high road and we'll help one another become better."

Friday, July 29, 2016

One sentence in Hillary's speech

At one point in her speech last night, Hillary acknowledged policemen, firemen, teachers, doctors, nurses and entrepreneurs as servants of the public.

I wondered, why not artists, too. Artists are rarely noted in the local papers, the local and national TV news. They are hardly supported in the national budget. Nobody interviews them for their insights.

Is this as it should be? Is this strange? Is this just America? Is this just how artists want it?

Thursday, July 28, 2016

The Trump trumpets...again

If you were a presidential candidate about to have security briefings, would you make the kind of statement that Donald Trump made about Russia hacking Hillary's emails?

Maybe at home Trump's kids would say, "Oh Daddy, that so silly, tee hee hee hee hee." But in front of the media and calling it just a joke.

Is discretion ever possible for an egotistical narcissist?


One of my biggest regrets in life so far is that I didn't dance enough.

Wednesday, July 27, 2016

What's up with white people?

It's indisputable that white people discriminate against black people--and other minorities as well.

But white people also discriminate against white people. If you're young, pretty, handsome, thin, buffed, amply breasted, rich, go to the front of the line.

If you are overweight, plain looking, work at an ordinary job, aren't talented, then go to the back of the bus.

The right class, the right pedigree, the right in group, wearing the right labels, in the boat now. Otherwise, put on a life jacket if you can find one and jump.

I suppose that if it weren't for  blacks and other minorities, whites would have to feed on their own.

Maybe it's time for WHITE LIVES MATTER.

The illusion of being rational

We like to think ourselves as rational beings, in charge of our lives, making rational decisions to move us forward in life.

But from the moment of conception, we are creatures of randomness. We are, even before birth, being formed by the behavior of our parents. Then out we come, and for a handful of years we are imprinted with a set of behaviors, beliefs and values even before we are cognizant of what's happening to us.

We build unexpected relationships with people, ideas, words, images that slosh around and bang into one another so fast we can't keep track of how they are constructing us.

We are impacted by the images of dreams and movies and TV that come to us and through us, some sticking and seeding. We are benefactors or victims of the culture we are in, all of its traditions, expectations, inoculations.

We are constantly at the mercy of chemicals, in the air, in the water, in our food. And the chemicals in our bodies. The hormones that surge through us and wash over our brains and exit as emotions or mental illness or disease.

These are the creatures we are. We try to mediate ourselves with religion, moral and ethical codes and laws. These are necessary but have their limits. But in the end, it's acceptance of and compassion for the wildly complicated nature of the human condition we need most.

Tuesday, July 26, 2016


If we are children of God, is this the best w can do?

If most of us practice a religion, is this the best we can do?

If good can defeat evil, is this the best we can do?

Monday, July 25, 2016


You know that you are a unique individual with a unique fingerprint, a unique DNA profile, a unique personal history. One of a kind. But the young black man? The drug addict? The terrorist? The politician? The white cop? The greedy businessman?

We embrace these and many more stereotypes to form our views of the world, to make us comfortable, to both box in and box our people. In some ways they make our lives easier, but they also make our lives narrower.

It would be magical to believe that each person we meet could become a full individual to us. But testing our own set of stereotypical beliefs by risking a bit of intimacy at the right time can be an enriching experience.

The wall starts to come down, human connections happen, compassion emerges. Instead of turning your back because of prejudice, fear, pride or culture, you find yourself surprisingly reflected in the mirror of the other.

Sunday, July 24, 2016

Easy beauty

I don’t know about you, but I’m tired of easy beauty. Flower pictures, beach scenes, barns. You know what I mean. They are comfortable and undemanding, cute and colorful. Eventually though they disappear into the walls or the furniture or their cuteness wears thin. They evaporate.

I’m also tired of easy beauty in adverting. Have a few seconds? That’s all they want or need. They’re filled with pretty people in pretty houses. They are young and beautiful in stylish bars having the time of their lives.

I’m tired of the easy beauty of sun-drenched spaces occupied by seniors in medicine commercials who in their ecstatic joyfulness fail to hear the side effects that will likely kill them.

Yes, I’m tired of the easy beauty whose emptiness washes over us daily. I want images that are the poetry of the visual language. I want images that stay fresh and keep asking questions. I want images that won’t let go of me. I want images that make me work.

I want beauty that is tough on me. How about you?

Saturday, July 23, 2016

Donald Trump's acceptance speech

Bullshit bullshit I will tell the truth. Bullshit bullshit bullshit bullshit cherry picked statistics
bullshit bullshit bullshit. Applause. Smile. Bullshit bullshit bullshit bullshit. (LOCK HER UP).
Bullshit bullshit bullshit. I will solve every major problem, and solve ti quickly. Believe me.
Bullshit bullshit bullshit bullshit. I am the law and order candidate. Bullshit bullshit bullshit.
(White people with funny hats screaming.)

Friday, July 22, 2016

Soul searching

The soul ascends upward.
Upward? There is no upward in the vast universe.
The soul disperses
Breaking into molecules of spirit
Searching to accumulate again,
Perhaps as consciousness.
The soul is life being the essence of life.
The soul ascends outward
Leaving behind the ugliness it could not cure.
Without a single sensory clue
We know when the soul is missing.

Thursday, July 21, 2016

An open letter to the Republican Congress

If you are a person of conscience, you must acknowledge that the recent and ongoing violence in America—involving police, suicides, domestic violence and accidental deaths—are consequences of our American gun culture. You must also acknowledge that the Republican approach to gun legislation makes you culpable in all of this violence.

America has a shameful record of gun violence in comparison to other first world nations. What must other nations think of us when they see a citizen legally carrying an assault rifle in the environs of the RNC convention in a potentially volatile  circumstance.

Your approach to gun legislation and your narrow view of the Second Amendment essentially imply that we are a country of citizens who fear one another and fear our own government, the very one you are a significant part of.

The time has come for you to get out from under the thumb of the NRA, to stop letting them buy you off, and to start truly representing the American people. It’s time for courage and integrity.

Wednesday, July 20, 2016

Making art

There are many things more important than art. But those are the very things that compel us to make art.

RNC convention...some questions

With all the bells, whistles and lights, couldn't the RNC find an escalator somewhere for Donald Trump to enter the hall?

Has anyone seen Melania Trump walk and talk at the same time?

If law and order is in, is compassion out?

Does party unity at all costs sound Communist to you?

Tuesday, July 19, 2016

RNC convention 2016...Day 1

Some observations:

As the cameras scanned the convention crowd, it was clear the the RNC is about as far as possible from representing the American people.

The talking heads were orgasmic about giving us the commentary that we've gotten ad nauseum  over the last several months. Why not let us hear from the conventioneers themselves and we can come to our own conclusions.

Donald Trump enters the stage. Rock star spectacle. No one with an ounce of humility would choose to be introduced that way.

Melania Trump gave the most cliche infused speech in the history of modern politics. With the plastic face of a seasoned fashion model, she described her perfect parents,  her perfect family, her perfect husband and her perfect life. She described how her strong moral upbringing led her to a life of modeling and how as first lady she would advocate for the poor and for children.

Monday, July 18, 2016

The periodic table

The elements of the periodic table haven't changed since early in the life of the universe. But the way their atoms combine into complex structures is constantly changing.

That brings us to you. In the 13 billion years of the universe there has been no structure like you. None. And in the life of the universe there will never again be another you.

So what are you going to do about it?

Sunday, July 17, 2016

Black and white in black and white

At this crucial stage of race relations in America, we have to look at the situation thoughtfully.

It's easy, with the media and social media feeding us the news, to see the relations between blacks and white in purely black and white. The black shooting victim is heroic, the white cop is racist. All blacks are innocent victims and all cops are racist.

Media coverage happens quickly driven not by solid and cautious coverage but by sensational and lurid responses. We're riled up, and informed and moderate coverage only comes later with much less time and attention.

Black cop, white male interactions, black on black crime, unfairness in judicial responses, get little response. Follow up responses from informed players are given little attention. All important perspective and analysis is lacking.

But black and white thinking is divisive and is a simplistic response to a complex problem. Black and white means choosing sides at a time when we must be breaching divides and seeking workable and healing solutions.

Saturday, July 16, 2016

How to deal with weeds

Mow down a weed. It comes right back up. Pull it up at its roots, and it's gone.

Right now we seem to be mowing down weeds in our approach to fighting terrorism, racism, police brutality and social unrest. A great deal of time, human capital and money are being poured into surveillance, policing and airport security. Our energies are drained by suspicion and fear.

How do we pull the weeds at their roots. We must believe in and act with humane responses to alleviating poverty. We must believe that all children, not just our  children, deserve a quality education. We must come to experience the satisfaction and positive energy of creating the real possibility of a good life for all.

Friday, July 15, 2016

Football season is soon upon us

America is stressed, with big issues to deal with. But not to worry, football season is upon us.

100,000 people will fill the stadium, while 100 people will be protesting on campus.

The fans will tailgate and get drunk, while the protesters will get maced.

The athletes will be put on pedestals and their transgressions forgiven, while the the protesters will be put in jail.

The university will revel in the TV coverage and revenues, while the protests will be swept quickly under the carpets.

The athletes will be interviewed for their achievements, while the protesters will remain anonymous beyond a few seconds on the evening news.

Local TV will continue to devote a third of its air time to sports, while America's big issues are lost among the petty crimes, the pet stories and the anchor chit chat.

Thursday, July 14, 2016


Maybe it's always been this way, but in America now the systems built to serve us are frustratingly inadequate. The political system, the judicial system, the educational system, the prison system, the legislative system just don't work anymore. While there are successes here and there, these systems are ponderous, status quo, self-serving, generally inflexible and don't serve the public as a whole.

As hard as they may try, these systems don't provide equal justice, respond to the will and the needs of the people, lead people to higher standards of behavior, prepare them for a more productive life, plan for the future, use public money wisely, act out of genuine public interest.

Ask yourself: Can everyone get a fair trial? Is a quality education available to every child? Can you trust your elected representatives to act with integrity? Do our systems support in us a life of dignity and public service?

Wednesday, July 13, 2016


By now we've become very good at memorials--mounds of flowers, grief, extensive media coverage, speeches by celebrities and political leaders, funerals and calls for action.

It's what comes after that we struggle with. How to eliminate the next times. How to attack the causes of the next times. How to each be an effective agent of change.

This is where President Obama hit the mark in his speech in Dallas.

First, we need to pay attention to character in ourselves and others. The media slobbers all over celebrity because we want it. It's easy. It's entertaining. We must begin to want character and seek after it in the individuals we call heroes.

Second, we must realize the culture we have is the culture we created. We want a culture of glamor, comfort, desire and personal wealth. We choose not to adequately fund quality education for all, mental health care, programs to lift families out of poverty and programs to aid children. So we get the culture that flows from these choices.

Tuesday, July 12, 2016


What happens if we put ourselves in nature and not above nature.

Then we expect and accept death in the way all living things do.

We acknowledge that the atoms and molecules that make us up are no different than those that make up all of the universe, and they will be recycled as they will. But most likely not into us again.

It is our destiny to become nutrients of the earth.

Can we live with that?

Then this is the time to do what can.

Monday, July 11, 2016

A good marriage

 A good marriage is when falling in love becomes staying in love.

A good marriage is when you annoy the hell out of one another but no one gets killed.

A good marriage is when acceptance becomes a part of love.

Sunday, July 10, 2016

Here we are again

Here we are again. Race in America. Cops killing citizens. Citizens killing cops. Black/white. White/ black. The ugliness, pain and seeming hopelessness of racial hatred.

But take a step back. No other civilized, first world country worships and uses guns like America. NO other country of this kind has the rate of murder and suicides and accidental shootings that America does. None has the government impotent and cowardly to deal with gun violence. No other has the NRA.

Now take another step back. Violence is a language in America. It's the language of manliness, the language of bullies, the language of spousal abuse. And America is in love with violence. We love it in our movies and TV dramas. We love it in sports. It perverts the true nature of the military and of policing. This is where we must begin to make changes.

America has to look honestly at its false sense of moral superiority and face the issues that are eroding its core values.

Saturday, July 9, 2016

Pick a side

Pick a side. That's how we are conditioned. There's always a good guy and a bad guy, and each of us is, of course, always on the side of the good guy.

But this scenario is really driven by our dark selves--hate, greed, pride, insecurity. It's the scenario of conflict: black/white, Sunni/Shiite, rich/poor, Republican/Democrat, Protestant/Catholic, Hindu/Muslim, Israeli/Palestinian.

The truth is that we are all part Satan and part saint. We have to make the choice, as hard as it may be sometimes, to deny our Satan and live our saint.

Hate is the engine of separation and conflict and the poisoning of the soul. Love and human dignity can transcend these hateful divisions. But look around. There's a lot of damned hard work to do, and it's everybody's job.

Friday, July 8, 2016

It's all hate

Suicide bombings. Terrorist attacks. Sectarian violence. Black men killed by white cops. There are many more scenarios fueled by hate.

The perpetrators are ticking time bombs of hate, each wrapped in a different narrative, each waiting for that trigger moment.

But how does hate root itself in an individual, and how does it stay rooted and growing for generations or centuries?

This is no contemporary problem. It's an innate problem of the human condition. It won't be solved by new set of rules or guidelines or procedures. Those can't change the human heart.

The great spiritual teachers have shown us the way. But we don't listen. So what is the power of hate? How can an individual not feel it destroying himself from the inside as he unleashes it on others?

Hate is not set in the womb. It's not a product of genes and hormones. It's a product of human culture, and so not very easily changed.

Thursday, July 7, 2016


My genes are me.
My habits and behaviors are me.
My relationships are me.
My mental state is me.
My body is me.
My decisions are me.
My diet is me.
My family soap opera is  me.
My mind is me.
My consciousness is my.
What I've given up is me.
What I've taken in is me.
My surface is me.
My depth is me.
And I'm sure there's more of me that I've forgotten.

But how much control I have over all of these aspects of me and how much these aspects are interrelated is a mystery, an absolute mystery to anyone who engages their own "me."

Wednesday, July 6, 2016

Hey good lookin'

Why should we listen to the experts? (And often we don't). All we need is the assurance of a good looking face, a sculpted body or celebrity to give us confidence as consumers. Garth Brooks can sell us underwear. Phil Mickelson can sell us medications. Pretty faces can sell us shampoo, dog food, anything.

Why does this work? What is the psychology? Do we buy into fantasy? Do we pay extra for perceived status? Is it deep seated human instinct? Won't good products sell themselves? Are we just dumb?

Tuesday, July 5, 2016

The generosity of art

On the front page of the Business section of today's NY Times is an illustration related to Donald Trump. The illustrator is given credit for a design that essentially rips off a visual format invented by David Hockney.

If this happened with a logo or design or product idea or trademark in the corporate world, the lawsuits would fly. (University of Kentucky just won a lawsuit to maintain control of the word

But, at its best, art has an unselfishness that throws new ideas into the world to be played with, visually discussed, pushed forward, welcoming dialogue. This is the generosity of art.

Monday, July 4, 2016


When a rancher brands his cattle, it's with a hot metal rod with his symbol at the end.

Trained as happy consumers, we get branded too. Corporations spend incredible amounts of money to generate logos and slogans to brand us, to sear their corporate identities onto us, to claim us as their cattle.

As an example, watch what happens at the Rio Olympics. Athletes galore will be branded on their clothing and equipment with myriad corporate logos. We will all know who owns them and allow them to own us too.

Sunday, July 3, 2016

The state of the arts 2016

The average person spends 6 seconds looking at a work of art.

The budget for military bands is 3 times the budget of the National Endowment for the Arts.

The Rolling Stones music is being used to sell either household cleaning products or dog food--I forget which.

You can hear Joni Mitchell singing in the bathrooms at Bob Evans.

For most people on the planet, visual literacy stops at the stick figure.

The most likely descriptions of works of visual art are "pretty" and "cute."

Thomas Kinkade is still the most collected artist in America.

Most Americans could most likely not name one living contemporary artist.

Saturday, July 2, 2016

Art...lock it up

An artist usually makes a work of art to eventually be seen, to communicate, the enlighten, to transform. And to be seen by many. But unless it happens to be a public work (installation, mural, video, etc.), it gets locked up for most of its life.

It's locked up in a studio, a collector's vault, the storage space of a museum, one person's home. Sometimes it's let out for a few weeks for good behavior, but then it's locked up again. Sometimes viewers can see its mug shot in the papers or the Internet, but it's still locked up. It's usually taken good care of, but it's still locked up.

Sometimes it's actually locked up because it misbehaved, broke the rules, rocked the boat. It will get paroled eventually, praised and then get locked up again.

Friday, July 1, 2016


Basquiat, $1 million. Jasper Johns, $1.5 million. Rothko, $5 million. Van Gogh,  $93 million. Art as a gift, priceless.

If art can't escape being a commodity, what can?