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 -- 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 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.


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.