Wednesday, June 28, 2017

Lost in Space


One hundred years from now,
these words will be digital ice crystals
floating somewhere in cyberspace.
The cloud will become a universe so immense
that my awkward attempts to connect
with humanity may never be found.

Monday, June 26, 2017

United States Post Office murals

In the 1930s, as America continued to struggle with the effects of the depression, the federal government searched for solutions to provide work for all Americans, including artists. So government-created agencies supported the arts in unprecedented ways.

Lebanon NH, Rural New Hampshire, 1939 -- Charles Kaeselau











The US Government commissioned more than 1300 murals for post office and other federal building interior walls from 1934 to 1943 under several different programs. The murals were intended to boost public morale and confidence in a population that was still recovering from the effects of the Great Depression by depicting uplifting and patriotic subjects. They featured artwork of very high artistic standards in public buildings, where it would accessible to all people.

 Lexington MA, Midnight Ride of Paul Revere, 1937 -- Aiden Lassell Ripley











The murals were commissioned through competitions open to all artists in the United States. Almost 850 artists were commissioned to paint 1371 murals, most of which were installed in post offices. Sixty-two of the artists were women and three were African American.

A master artist was selected for each project, who chose assistants from the rolls of the WPA Art Project. The artists were paid only after each stage in the creative process was complete.

Milford NH, Log Rolling. 1940 -- Phillip von Saltza












The artists were asked to paint an “American scene" depicting ordinary citizens in a realistic manner. They were also encouraged to produce works appropriate to the communities where they were located and to avoid controversial subjects.

The selection of out-of-state artists sometimes caused local controversy. Residents who did not want to be portrayed as hicks or hayseeds often resented the portrayal of rural lifestyles by artists who had never visited the areas where their artwork would be displayed.

Bridgeport CT, Stagecoach and Modern Transportation, 1937 -- Robert Lambdin








Stagecoach and Modern Transportation detail

 
















The first murals were commissioned under the New Deal’s Public Works of Art Project as a way to bring artists back into the job market in 1934 and 1935. The Treasury Relief Art Project commissioned later post office murals from 1935 to 1938. The Section of Fine Arts under the U.S. Treasury Department extended the program from 1938 to 1943.

Since the local post office was the most frequented government building by the public, the oil paintings on canvas were placed on the walls of newly constructed post offices. One percent of the money budgeted for each post office was set aside for the creation of the murals.

Ambler PA, Industry, Family and Agriculture, 1939 -- Harry Sternberg











Some of these wonderful murals have deteriorated or disappeared. Some are in buildings that are worth far less than the artwork. The United States Postal Service is making efforts to preserve and protect the remaining murals in their properties.

Built in 1930s as the headquarters of the US Postal Department, the recently renamed William Jefferson Clinton Federal Building in Washington DC houses some the most impressive of the murals. Controversy over the murals continues due to their outdated depictions of racism, exploitation of women and romanticism of every day life. You can view these historic murals in their original context and experience how American society has changed over time.

Some of the murals in the Clinton Federal Building (click on the images to enlarge):

Arctic Mail Service, 1937 -- Rockwell Kent
 










 


Mail Coach Bandits, 1936 -- William C. Palmer











 


Sorting the Mail, 1936 -- Reginald Marsh













General Store and Post Office, 1937 -- Doris Lee











 


The murals present an opportunity for adventure and art appreciation. There are still murals in every state, and post offices are open to the public on weekdays and Saturdays. You can find a list of all the murals at this link -- https://wiki2.org/en/List_of_United_States_post_office_murals. Make a checklist of the murals in your region and see how many you can visit.

Freeport NY, Suburban Post Office in Winter, 1937 -- William Gropper




















Sunday, June 25, 2017

Christian Poseurs

Some politicians hide behind Jesus
and use his words to justify actions
that contradict his teachings.
They profess to value human life
yet vote to deny food to children.
They speak of love for fellow man
then send young soldiers to kill
innocent civilians in other lands.
They espouse equality
even as they support tax laws
that promote inequality.
Whether elephant or donkey,
these Christian politicians
are still asses in Jesus’ clothing.

Augmented reality sex


What will happen to the sanctity of marriage
when the smorgasbord of virtual sexual experiences
competes with mundane marital sex?

What will happen to the procreation of mankind
when augmented reality sex becomes
more engaging than real sex?

Ashamed on the 4th of July

I’m ashamed to be an American
on the Fourth of July because
my country no longer bears the standard
of freedom and civil rights.

We are no longer the benevolent superpower
that shares our wisdom and wealth
but have turned into the embodiment
of those evil forces we once battled.

We are now the imperialist aggressor
spreading our beliefs with the sword
and the bullying oppressor
using force to get our way.

We are the terrorist nation
that kills and tortures all who resist
and uses indiscriminate weapons of war to gain
control of the world’s resources.

I am ashamed to be an American
on the Fourth of July,
because my country no longer espouses
the values it celebrates on this day.

Addiction

Addiction is pain management.
Whether it’s addiction to drugs, pills, alcohol
gambling, sex, eating, working or lying,
addiction is self-medication in an effort
to dull the pain of loneliness, depression,
shame, guilt or low-self-esteem.

Some people can have a major hospital operation
including pain management with opiates without
becoming addicted and some people cannot.
It may be that some peoples’ brains interact differently
with opiates or that emotional pain is more difficult
to manage than physical pain for some people.

The solution is not to criminalize those
people who become addicted to opiates but learn
how to help them recover their lives and become
productive citizens again.

Entitlements

Conservative Republicans say that entitlements are crippling America, and I believe they’re right.

America has always been a land of entitlements. Our country was born by men who believed they were entitled to govern themselves. Entitled to be free of English taxes. Entitled to control their own destinies.

As the fledgling country grew, its citizens believed they were entitled to the lands of Native people. They believed they were entitled to own slaves. They believed that Manifest Destiny entitled them to carry out genocide against any people or species that stood in their way.

They believed that “progress” entitled them to round up Native people and force them to give up the lifestyle they had lived for 12,000 years. They believed it entitled them to tear Native children from their families and “Americanize” them.

Self-righteous white Americans believed they were entitled to “own” other human beings and treat them as farm animals. They believed they were entitled to break up slave families and forcibly impregnate their children.

Once these slaves were freed, white landowners believed they were entitled to exploit the newly freed slaves as sharecroppers. They felt entitled to prevent them from voting. Entitled to don white hoods and lynch them.

Professional hunters felt entitled to literally eliminate a species that had lived on this continent for a half-million years. They believed they were entitled to destroy 40,000,000 bison in less than 40 years to provide drive belts for American factories leaving their carcasses to rot where they were killed, even as there were starving Native people on reservations.

As the Industrial Revolution gathered momentum, corporate barons believed they were entitled to exploit women and children by exposing them to physical danger in unsafe factories. They felt entitled to trap laborers in a cycle of indentured servitude by forcing them to work long hours for low wages and live in factory housing and shop in factory stores.

In the 20th Century, the American military/industrial complex felt entitled to develop weapons of mass destruction and then use them on civilians in countries America was at war with. This entitlement justified the killing of millions of innocent civilians in Nagasaki, Hiroshima, Berlin, Dresden, Hamburg, North Korea, North Vietnam, Cambodia, Laos, Iraq, Afghanistan and Syria.

America’s thirst for oil entitles us to overthrow governments around the world. Americans feel entitled to consume more than 25% of the world's energy and generate half of the world’s solid waste, even though we are only 5% of the world's population.

Americans feel entitled to drive gluttonous SUVs and pickup trucks to drag trailers hundreds of miles carrying their oil consuming/pollution spewing ATVs and snowmobiles to despoil the country’s wildernesses.We feel entitled to live in 5,000 square-foot homes.

Wealthy Americans believe they are entitled to better schools, better healthcare, better homes and better lifestyles than their fellow countrymen. They believe they are entitled to the lion's share of the country's wealth. And they believe they are entitled to lower tax rates than their less fortunate neighbors.

And conservative Republicans feel entitled to dismiss Medicaid and Medicare as undeserved entitlements.

Wednesday, April 26, 2017

Unrequited love

Oh America, you are the mistress
who promises me nights of carnal bliss,
then stands me up for the man next door
who molests my children.

I’m hopelessly in lust with you
and willing to overlook your sins,
so you play me like a plastic kazoo
and make me pick up the tab.

Oh America, I watch in horror
as you send a thousand deadly drones
to rain death on women and children
you call enemies and collateral damage.

But I forgive you for your actions
and come crawling back again
to reward you with my sacred votes
and my blind loyalty.

Oh America, I long for
the promise that you hold,
written by your founding fathers
when you were but a crying child.

I’m like all your other suitors
still in love with your façade,
but I'm weary after sixty years
of being your cuckold.

Oh America, you're the fickle whore
who preys on johns like me,
letting us believe we matter more
than your patrician pimps.

I believe you when you lie to me
always hoping for the truth,
so I toss my taxes and my self-respect
on the nightstand by your bed.

Trump Addicts

The working class was feeling the pain
of economic hopelessness and despair.
They wanted something to ease their pain
and they found it in Donald Trump.

His campaign promises got them high and
they got hooked on Make America Great Again.
But the words will not be enough for long.
It will take something more.

Maybe a righteous war?

Worlds

First World, Second World, Third World, Fourth.
How many worlds on this small earth?
If Two through Four get wise to One,
they all might just pick up a gun.

Monday, April 24, 2017

Us vs. Them

Americans have become obsessed
with hating each other.

Conservatives hate liberals.
Christians hate Muslims.
Whites hate Blacks.
The rich hate the poor.
Blue collars hate intellectuals.
Republicans hate Democrats.
Everyone hates politicians.

They are morons.
They are devious.
They’re out to get us.
They want what’s ours.
Their beliefs are wrong.
Only ours are right.

For our nation to thrive,
we must work together.
We must see each other
as fellow Americans.
We must be
one nation indivisible.

Saturday, March 25, 2017

ADD Poet

I sit down at my computer to write a poem,
but my creative juices are not flowing.
I walk to the kitchen to make a cup of coffee
and while the coffee is brewing I decide
to put my breakfast dishes in the dishwasher,
but it’s full of clean dishes which
I put away and then load in the breakfast dishes
just in time for my coffee to be ready.

I open the refrigerator to get the milk
and luckily there is just enough for my coffee,
so I pour it in and then put the cap in the wastebasket
which reminds me it’s trash pickup day.
I pick up the kitchen wastebasket to empty
into the trash barrel in the back shed and figure I
might as well get the laundry and bathroom trash as well.

I walk into the laundry room where I notice
a bunch of towels in the laundry basket
that could be washing while I write,
but when I open the washer door I find
the socks and underwear I washed
and forgot to dry yesterday.
I open the dryer door only to
find some dry sheets which I fold
and put in the linen cupboard and then load
the socks and underwear into the dryer
and the towels into the washer and start them both.

I empty the laundry room trash into the bathroom
wastebasket and carry it out to the kitchen where
I discover my coffee is now cold, so I put
the coffee cup in the microwave and set it for 30 seconds
and then rinse out the empty milk jug to put in the recycling bin
which is also full. I take the recycling bag out to the shed
along with the kitchen wastebasket and
empty the kitchen trash into the trash barrel
and then carry the barrel out to the end of the driveway.

When I get back to the shed to retrieve the kitchen
wastebasket, I notice some sawdust and bits of paper
on the floor where the trash barrel had been,
so I sweep them up with the dustpan and brush
and dump them into the kitchen wastebasket
which I carry back into the kitchen where
my coffee is cold again. I set the microwave
for another 30 seconds and go back
to my computer to sit down and write a poem.

Monday, March 20, 2017

Lunar Eclipse


A six-foot man observes the shadow
his 7918-mile diameter planet casts
on a 2159-mile diameter asteroid
259,800 miles away
by a light source that is
92, 960,000 miles over his left shoulder.

Mind Control


The effect of middle class erosion
since American oligarchs declared war
on the middle class has been
a kind of mind control.

By reducing middle class incomes so that
both parents must work to make ends meet,
they have no time to worry about
what the oligarchs are doing.

Brave New World


In what kind of a world do two year-old children
know how to operate computers?

When I was two, I played with a green corduroy
elephant, blocks and wooden beads.

Or a world where eleven year-old children
can access all the world’s knowledge on their cell phone.

When I was eleven, I played cowboys and Indians,
drew cartoons and joined Boy Scouts.

Or a world where fourteen year-old children
can view every conceivable form of pornography on their cell phones.

When I was fourteen, the closest thing to pornography I saw
was Boccaccio’s Decameron on my parents’ bookshelf.

Friday, March 17, 2017

Human Nature


It’s not that we’re all evil.
It’s just that we all think about
our own welfare first.

It’s probably instinct that is
imprinted in our DNA.

But it’s why we need laws,
social rules and governments.
Why religions evolved.
Why we need regulation.

So when free-marketers proclaim
that businesses, corporations and investors
should be completely unregulated,
they’re ignoring human nature
and disregarding centuries of history.

They’re either kidding themselves
or lying to us.

Sunday, March 5, 2017

What Matters

Inequality matters
Healthcare matters
Education matters

Social security matters
Global warming matters
Poverty matters

Nuclear proliferation matters
World peace matters
Clean water matters

Your children matter
My children matter
All children matter

Our religious beliefs don’t matter.
They’re just our fantasies about
the beginning and the end of life.

Tom Mix Memorial

The rented Chevy Cavalier toils along Highway 79, the old road from Tucson to Phoenix. With two aboard, the back full of luggage, and the air conditioning turned up high, the tired little four-cylinder engine is only able to maintain seventy when the old two-lane highway is level. The slightest incline overpowers the feeble power plant, and the car loses momentum.

"I knew we should have gotten a six cylinder car," Bob grumbles. "This turkey's got no guts at all."

"If I hear that one more time, you can let me out and I’ll walk," his wife, Margaret, protests.

"You've been moaning and groaning about this car ever since we picked it up on Tuesday. We take our first real vacation since our honeymoon and what do you do. You rent the cheapest thing you can find and then complain about it. If you weren’t such a tightwad, you would’ve gotten your precious six cylinder car."

Bob doesn't answer. After twenty-three years of marriage, he knows when to drop it.

He drives on, looking out at the desert. It’s dotted with saguaro cacti of all sizes. Hundreds of them.

The younger ones are green and healthy looking like the ones in travel photos. The old ones are huge and twisted and full of holes made by birds in search of moisture. They remind him of arthritic old hands covered with open sores.

A sign beside the road ahead catches Bob’s eye. As they draw closer, he makes out what it says.

TOM MIX MEMORIAL--20 MILES AHEAD.

He breaks the silence. "I wonder what the Tom Mix Memorial is. Do you remember those old movies of his they used to run on TV when we were kids. He wore those big ten-gallon hats. Remember those hats?"

Margaret doesn’t answer. She stares out the other side at the endless stretches of sand and sagebrush.

"At least the air conditioning works,” he sighs.

"Some consolation," she replies without even turning toward him.

The little white car labors on. Bob pushes and re-pushes the buttons on the radio, looking for something other than country and western music. When the buttons fail to find a station, he turns the knob slowly from one end of the dial to the other. There are few stations this far out in the desert, and those that he can find all sound alike. He resigns himself to a station playing Glen Campbell singing By the time I get to Phoenix.

“By the time we get to Phoenix, I’ll be sweating,” he croons, glancing over at her with a smug smile.

“Very funny. By the time we get to Phoenix, I’ll be ready for a divorce,” she shoots back.

A small monument comes into view on the right hand side of the road-- a stumpy mortared-cobblestone pile topped with a small metal horse, its head drooped and the reins hanging.

Bob lifts his foot off the gas. At the last minute, he swerves off the road into the gravel parking lot throwing up a shower of dust and stones and coming to a stop right in front of the odd little monument.

“Jesus! Are you trying to get me killed so you can move on to Wife #2,” she wails.

He opens the car door. “I want to take a closer look.”

“Look all you want but keep it running. I’m staying right here in this air-conditioned car.”


















Stepping into the overwhelming heat, Bob approaches the truncated obelisk. Except for the bullet-riddled metal horse, it isn’t much taller than he is. A metal plaque on the side reads:

"Jan. 6, 1880-Oct. 12, 1940

In Memory of Tom Mix. His spirit left his body on this spot, and whose characterization and portrayals in life served to better fix memories of the Old West in the minds of living men."

A picnic bench sits under a small wooden shelter next to the monument. Bob steps into the shade just as a decrepit old pickup truck turns into the parking lot. An old man wearing a straw hat, a soiled white t-shirt and ragged jeans climbs out carrying a battered thermos bottle. He opens the hood. Steam is pouring out of the truck’s radiator.

He leaves the hood open and walks over to the shelter. He has a brown, weather-beaten face and shoulder-length white hair. He’s far from young but looks wiry and strong.

“Good idea to carry extra water in the desert — both for me and my truck,” he says in a dry, scratchy voice. He opens the thermos and takes a big drink.

“Want some,” he offers, wiping the rim of the thermos with his hand and then holding it out.

Bob looks at the thermos and then at the old man’s hand. “No thanks,” he replies.

“You probably don’t know who Tom Mix was or his horse Tony,” the old man ventures as he sets the thermos on the table. “Lord knows this monument is no help.”

Without waiting for a reply, he continues. “Tom Mix wasn’t just a movie star. He was a Texas Ranger, a US marshal and a peace officer in at least a dozen mining camps. He could shoot a drinking glass out of a man's hand or a button off his shirt and was one of the best horsemen ever.”

“He did all his own stunts in the movies. Why he could swing across a river hanging from a rope, leap from an airplane into a moving car, drop from a fifty-foot cliff into the saddle and then jump off Tony at a full gallop onto a speeding train.”

“Tom was a real working cowboy—not one of them pretty-boy Hollywood types. He owned a big ranch up near Prescott. His movie career may have been fading toward the end, but he was still a hero to his fans; and I was one of them.”

The old man pauses. He walks over to his truck and gets a worn-out corn broom out of the back. He comes back and begins sweeping sand off the monument.

Bob looks over at the car. Margaret is beckoning him with a disapproving scowl on her face.

“The end weren’t very pretty,” the old timer continues as he sweeps. “My uncle was a deputy sheriff back then and was called to the scene. He must have told me the story a hundred times.”

“Tom was driving his bright yellow Cord convertible up from the old Santa Rita hotel in Tucson. It was about two in the afternoon, and he was running late after stopping for a drink and a few hands of poker down in Oracle Junction.”

“They don’t know how fast he was going when he came up on the road crew, but he probably had it to the floor. That Cord busted right through the barricades and dropped into the washout. Tom’s aluminum suitcase flew out of the back seat and hit him in the back of the neck.”

“They say he got out of the car with his white Stetson still on his head, took one step and fell down dead from a broken neck.”

After a long silence, the old man turns to Bob. “Sure you don’t want a drink of water?” he asks. “It’s still nice and cold.”

“No thanks,” Bob replies and turns toward the car. She starts in as soon as his door is closed.

“What was that old coot going on about? I don’t like the looks of him. He could be one of those crazy hermits that kidnaps tourists and then buries their bodies in the desert never to be found again.”

“Just something about his uncle and that monument,” Bob sighs as he puts the car in gear and pulls away. “Probably not true anyway.”



Sherbrooke Murals

For the last fifteen years, the city of Sherbrooke, Quebec has been creating enormous murals on its downtown building walls. The first one was created in 2002 as part of the city’s bicentennial anniversary celebration. Since then, more than a dozen murals have been painted in different locations at the rate of one per year.

The project is overseen by a non-profit called MURIRS (Murales Urbaines à Revitalisation d’Immeubles et de Réconciliation Sociale). The organization’s goals are to create a large open-air art gallery promoting the architecture, history and culture of Sherbrooke and to develop a tourist attraction that lets visitors visualize the city’s heritage and culture.

The large-scale murals are planned and managed by MURIRS and executed in trompe l'oeil style by very talented local artists. Most of the murals cover entire walls of two- and three-story buildings.

The original concept was to show snapshots of life at different time periods in Sherbrooke’s history and include likenesses of actual Sherbrooke citizens from that time, but recent murals are more surreal. All of them are thoughtfully conceived and meticulously executed. (click on images for a closer look)



The 2002 Bicentennial Mural depicts an everyday scene in Sherbrooke on the second day of June, 1902 at 2:00 in the afternoon.



The 2003 mural is called “Once Upon A Time In The East”. It shows 29 well-known characters of the city's east side and is intended to salute the builders of the east while featuring a slice of Sherbrooke’s musical and cultural history.



A detail from the mural “Once Upon A Time In The East”.



2005’s “The Good Years” pays tribute to Sherbrooke's southwest neighborhood for its contributions to the textile, mechanical and metallurgy industries.



A detail from “The Good Years”



"Legends and Mena'sen", created in 2010, presents facts and legends from Sherbrooke history. In the foreground, First Nations people pull back a building wall like a theater curtain to reveal historic characters on the banks of the Saint-Francis River.



A detail from "Legends and Mena'sen".



Painted in 2012, “Destinies and Origins” shows the side of a building tilted open to reveal the forests of 1792 in the background merging progressively to the current era on the foreground.

These murals alone are worth the trip to Sherbrooke, but the city also offers many other attractions. It's a delightful little city only 50 miles from the Vermont/Quebec border. You can learn more about the murals at http://www.murirs.qc.ca/en/

The Real Problem

The problem is not that Trump’s appointees are ill-qualified for the positions to which they have been appointed. The real problem is they are ideally qualified to dismantle the regulations that hamper the wealthy from making extreme profits at the public's expense.

Snowman

The snowman stands alone
in the yard oblivious
to the snow and the cold.
His anthracite eyes stare
resolutely into the storm.
His skinny arms flail
helplessly in the biting wind
in a futile attempt
to save his red striped scarf.
His frozen heart feels
neither cold nor joy.
He's a snowman.

Tuesday, February 28, 2017

Kitchen Window


What would you think
if you looked up
one sunny morning
from your breakfast of
organic orange juice
free-range eggs
uncured bacon
seven-grain toast
and fair-trade coffee
to see your neighbor’s children
eating only some starchy paste?

What would they think
when they looked back at you?

Monday, February 27, 2017

Weather talk

Colder than a witch’s tit or
a well diggers ass in January.
Hotter than Hell or hot enough
to fry eggs on the sidewalk.
Raining cats and dogs or
coming down in buckets.
Fog in the hollow,
good day to follow.
Red sky at night,
sailor’s delight.
Rain before seven
fine by eleven.
When smoke descends,
good weather ends.
April showers
bring May flowers.
Montreal express,
pea soup fog.
Hot enough for you?
Cold enough for you?

If we stop talking weather,
we may stop talking altogether.

Saturday, February 25, 2017

Evolution


Evolution is the continuing process
of selective breeding, where life
adapts to its environment and
leads to a strengthening of the species.
Man is the only animal that destroys
his environment to sate his appetites.

Is this the end of evolution?

Everyone’s talking

Everyone’s talking,
posting on Facebook
typing tweets,
sharing selfies,
and regurgitating faux facts.

No one’s listening,
learning from others,
weighing ideas,
considering alternates
and building rapport.

The stakes are high,
the prospects for
collaboration are low.

Monday, February 13, 2017

Contranyms


Religious freedom. 

Conservatives use this phrase
to impose their religious beliefs on others
by incorporating the tenets of their religion
into the laws of government.

Liberals use this phrase
to imply that religious freedom is sacred
and co-mingling of religion and politics
has no place in a democracy.

Both sides insist that the beliefs
of others should not interfere
with their ability to live their lives
according their beliefs.

Pro-life 

Pro-life supporters insist abortion
goes against the will of God,
and therefore should be illegal
and unavailable to anyone.

Pro-choice supporters insist a woman
should be able to decide whether abortion
goes against her own pro-life beliefs
about children already born.

So is abortion a moral or a religious issue?

Wednesday, February 8, 2017

Distract and Conquer

The Trump Administration is doing a great job
of controlling the political discourse.
They have turned American voters
into rabid donkeys and pachyderms who
can’t see it’s not one party against the other
or conservatives vs. liberals.
It’s big money against the rest of America.

Americans are so busy trying to shame each other
on social media, we’re not paying attention to
the undoing of those regulations meant to protect us
from greedy oligarchs who don’t give a damn
about the public interest. Authoritarian political leaders
throughout history have successfully used the tactic
of divide and conquer to impose their will on the people.

Are we so smugly naive that we believe America
is immune to authoritarian takeover?

Air Planes

Some of you may remember my airplane sculptures. I featured them on this blog a while back.

For those of you who didn’t see them, I start with an old carpenter’s plane. The size and shape of the plane determine what kind of an airplane it will be. I then add old hide stretchers or barrel staves for the wings, faucet handles for propellers, old furniture casters for landing gear and architectural details for decoration.

My newer planes are more elaborate than my earlier ones. The designs are more fanciful, the construction more precise, and the finishes more colorful. They’re not meant to be realistic. They’re meant to be fun.

I now have them in two galleries. If you’re interested in seeing them in person, please visit Handworks in Acton MA and Vermont Artisan Designs in Brattleboro VT. Both galleries are full of wonderful art.










Friday, February 3, 2017

The times they are a changing

The Trump Administration and the Republican-controlled House and Senate are proposing very significant changes to the role of the Federal Government in America.

These are not minor adjustments in policy. They are fundamental changes that will affect every single citizen in this country for years to come.

Whether you’re a Republican or a Democrat, a conservative or a progressive, a Christian or a Muslim, these changes will have an impact on your life. And, they will affect the lives of your children and grandchildren.

Whether you’re in favor of these changes or hate them, this is one of those times that require ALL voters to become pro-active citizens. We must take the time to find out for ourselves what these changes will mean for us and our families.

The issues are complex, and there is hysteria and name-calling coming from all quarters. Social media is aglow with vitriol and dueling facts. It will take a concerted effort for you to learn the truth; but being informed is the foundation of democracy

America may be in turmoil right now, but it is still a democracy. We, the people, still have a voice in our government. Get informed and let your elected officials know that your votes cannot be taken for granted.

If we all take seriously our responsibility as informed citizens in a democracy, the outcome will be the will of the people. If we don’t, it will be the will of a few.

Let's

Let’s make each day
a learning adventure
in an exciting world.
Let’s be eager to learn
and to master a new skill.
Let’s trust each other
until we learn otherwise.
Let’s laugh when we’re happy
and cry when we’re not.
Let’s give unconditional love.
Let’s be children.

In the beginning 2.0

Technology grows logarithmically,
nourishing and replicating itself like a mutant virus
trapping humanity in a digital consciousness
where pornography replaces reproduction
and comment replaces communication.

When man becomes extinct,
sentient computers will rewrite the bible.

Monday, January 30, 2017

The Eagle and the Fox

This is my favorite of Aesop’s Fables. I posted it on this blog almost ten years ago. It suggests the relationship between the United States and the Middle East over the last fifty years. It seems more appropriate than ever.

An Eagle and a Fox became close friends and decided to share a home. The Eagle built her nest in the uppermost branches of a tall tree, while the Fox crept into a hole at its foot, where she raised her young. Not long after, the Eagle, needing food for her own offspring, swooped down, seized one of the Fox’s cubs, and carried it back to her nest. The Eagle did not fear retribution because of her lofty dwelling, but the Fox snatched a torch from a nearby altar and set the tree on fire. The helpless Eaglets were roasted in their nest and fell down dead at the bottom of the tree, where the Fox gobbled them up in sight of their mother.

The tyrant may not fear the tears of the oppressed, but he is never safe from their vengeance.

Whistling

If you were a soldier ordered to commit a war crime,
would you risk court martial and disobey?

If you were a government employee seeing official corruption,
would you risk your career to expose it?

If you were a witness to the rape of a child,
would you risk a beating to stop it?

If you were a bystander watching police beating a black man,
would you risk arrest to capture it on video?

If you saw political extremists stealing your democracy,
would you risk the disapproval of your neighbors to resist it?

Thursday, January 26, 2017

Weapons “R” Us

Weapons are a big deal to U.S. weapon manufacturers—a $40 billion annual big deal. They have come up with a business strategy that other manufacturers can only dream about.

The elegant part of their strategy is they get paid to develop new products by their customers who then buy the products from them. Their customers then handle a major part of the sales process including training sales people, making sales calls and structuring deals. And here’s the kicker–they get a third party to pick up the tab for all of it. You and me.

Here’s how it works. We pay the U.S. military to create wish lists of toys and submit their lists to Congress, who we also pay. Weapons manufacturers then hire ex-military officers who were trained on our dime as sales people and lobbyists to help get Congress to approve the budget for those toys.

When the budgets are approved and contracts awarded, the manufacturers and their sub-contractors are paid to develop the prototypes. The cost is mostly irrelevant, because the specs usually change during development, requiring supplemental budgets. We pay for all of this with our taxes.

Once the weapons are developed, we pay for manufacturing them. Our politicians help sell these weapons to other countries and facilitate the terms of the contracts. The Pentagon helps these prospective customers develop their own wish lists, negotiates the deals and arranges payment. From the President on down, U.S. government officials including Senators and Congressmen make sales trips abroad in behalf of the weapons manufacturers. In some cases, the State Department supplies the financing through foreign aid. All of these people are paid by us.

To reward all these public officials, the weapons industry locates manufacturing facilities in as many states as possible, creating an industry that is “too big to fail” because we’re all complicit.

But there’s more. Their products actually create the market for more sales. As weapons land in the hands of foreign armies, tension and volatility develops between nations. This volatility leads to fear, confrontation and too often war, all of which feeds the need for more weapons. It’s perpetual motion marketing.

Weapons manufacturers are parasites that eat their young. They profit from fear, xenophobia, war, terrorism, genocide and death and have convinced us to pay for it.

The blood is on our hands too. We pay without even complaining.

Zero tolerance


A black hole conceived by politically
motivated school officials and
overzealous police officers
sucks our children into a
vortex that spirals
downward into a
justice system
focused on
punishment
rather than
learning.

Have we forgotten that humans learn by trial and error?


1935 Buick

Right after WWII, my mother drove a big, black, well-used 1935 Buick sedan. It was the first car I remember. It had long sweeping front fenders and four heavy doors that closed with a resounding thunk. The front doors were hinged at the front, but the back doors were hinged at the back and opened from the front. They were called suicide doors, I guess because it would be suicide to open them when the car was moving.



A chrome goddess graced the top of the radiator surround with her arms extended behind her, her back gracefully arched, and her breasts thrust shamelessly forward. Beneath her was a winged shield with Buick written in ornate script. On either side of the grill was a large teardrop-shaped headlamp.



The seats were covered with musty gray mohair that scratched the backs of my arms and legs on a hot summer day. A plaid wool blanket was folded over a blanket rope across the back of the front seat, and cloth-covered straps hung just behind the rear doors to assist passenger egress.

The spare tire was mounted at the rear in a metal cover between two graceful, nickel-plated tail lamps. While not the top-of-the-line model, it was still a big car.

My first recollections of the Buick were driving with my mother to go grocery shopping in Nashua at the First National Store on Main Street. She sometimes left us in the car while she shopped, which was safe and acceptable in the 1940s. My four year-old brother and I stood by the open rear windows and called out to passersby on the sidewalk until my mother came out with a bag-boy carrying her groceries.

If we behaved, she took Pine Hill Road back to Hollis and stopped at the airport so we could watch planes take off and land. There were boxy yellow Piper Cubs, a tiny Ercoupe and our favorite, a sleek maroon Stinson.
















But the best times in the old Buick came after it was retired to the field next to our driveway. Then it became ours.

I remember sitting behind the wheel, my feet unable to reach the pedals, turning switches on the dash as I pretended to chauffer my sister and her friends. Or sitting on the roof with my legs hanging in front of the windshield urging an imaginary team of horses away from stagecoach bandits. It was a six year-old boy’s delight except when the summer sun was high and the faded black paint got so hot we couldn’t climb on the car without getting burned.

Then one day, a man came in a tow truck. My brother and I called him names as he hoisted the front wheels of our car off the ground and hauled it away. We never saw the Buick again.

First cutting


The farmer’s pregnant wife
steers the chugging John Deere tractor
along the windrows in the midday sun.
The clattering green bailer gathers
the fragrant hay and gives birth
to neatly tied bales.

My American dream

In my American dream,
there are no secret prisons
no government-sanctioned torture
no religious intolerance
no racial discrimination
no police brutality
no hungry children
no homeless families
no imperialistic wars
and no second-class citizens.

What’s in yours?