When The World Calls You To Battle

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I am never far from sadness.  Ever.

The acceptance of our losses is an epic battle, one fought in the heart and mind, one whose internal scars and wounds are not always so easy to see in others but is all too often the centerpiece of our concentrated emotions, set in gold, front and center on the altar of our soul.

I approach loss, the feelings hopelessness and injustice, the self-directed, constant and ever so destructive self-recrimination differently each time they appear and proclaim their challenge.

Sometimes I am lucky and when the wounds reopen, I am armed with the weapons of critical perspective and the grace that I will, after a short skirmish, emerge victorious once again and return to quiet and the pursuit of the betterment of my soul.

But the battle can be one of nearly complete destruction.  We are at times unprepared for the onslaught and the sadness and depression that kicks down the battlements we have in place as easily as a child stomping a sand castle.  It is then that we come near peril.  There is nothing to be done but stand and take the rain of arrows pointed directly at our hearts until we fall.

If we have hope and have people of good will about us, the chances of surviving the onslaught increase exponentially.

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I am currently working on a second book and the title is very telling: Confessions of a Traveler: Finding My Way on an Unknown Planet.  It is not a simple thing to write nor should it be so.  It is primarily the account of reentering the world and a celebration of those remarkable people of good will who found me and guided me back toward life.

Intentional or not, these people did something I thought could not have nor have deserved: they came to my defense and brought me from being wounded on the battlefield to finding succor and health.

 

Adversity is like a strong wind.  I don’t mean just that it holds us back from places we might otherwise go.  It also tears away from us all but the things that cannot be torn, so that afterward we see ourselves as we really are, and not merely as we might like to be.”

Nitta Sayuri, Memoirs of a Geisha by Arthur Golden

 

My hope is that I can show everyone that what I most needed was to embrace the world again, and the only way that was to happen was to have guides and teachers to show me how to let that happen and not fight the world, but hold my flag high and get back into the fight.  They show me purpose.  They show me possibilities rather than forcing me to continually revisit my failings.

 

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‘Road Map’ from my comic strip The Padre: Life with Father

 

I am grateful beyond measure to those who understand me and know that all things are temporary, all roads are connected, and all I need do is trust myself.

That’s how you win.

 

 

ONCE UPON A TIME

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Once Upon A Time. . .

. . . there was a President of the United States who, despite the opposition of many of those who were in his Government, made great strides to bring his citizens prosperity and health, steady growth and equal rights, all the things that matter in a Democracy.  He was gentle but firm, he was wise but had an open mind, and he loved his country more than tongue could tell.

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He guided his people though many storms.  He fought against those that would harm his citizens great and small.  He and his lovely family were a shining example to the people.  The President told them time and again, “Yes, We Can.”

It was the people who benefitted from his term.  It was the men, women and children who were sick that found care available to them because the President knew that his constituency was the most important responsibility anyone could ever have.  The people needed to be cared for, tended to, mended if the need was there, fed, and housed.  Most importantly, they needed respect and love.

Yet in the dark of night those who would take away the rights of the people met in virtual secrecy to plot the overthrow and subjugation of the people.  These men and women did not care at all about the child that lay dying, the child unfed, unclothed and unloved.

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They sought to line the pockets of the already wealthy members of their ‘class’ by taking the food from the mouths of those poor children.

The soldiers that had gone to war against the foes of the people and served the great nation with dignity came home to no homes at all, for those who did not want the good President to succeed had done everything they could think of to stop him from caring for those soldiers.

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If the good President of the People did a good thing, they made every effort to stop him.  They did not care for the people; the only thing they truly wanted was division, to cause the good people to believe that our President was a failure.

And, sadly, they managed to sway many of the people who came to believe them.

And those who believed the dark men came together in heated ignorance, not caring about the child, not caring about the sick among them, not caring for those that did not have a home, not caring for those whose rights were trampled.

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They brought to power a man who lied to them to get their vote.  They placed in the highest of offices a man who held no regard for the child of need, the man in want, the woman in pain.  They did it because they were too frightened by what the candidate said, and it made them afraid.

They did not see that the man was lying to them.  They were given free rein to hate, to exclude, to prevent, to occlude.  They were let loose to do the things of which their candidate approved, whether he said it or merely implied his approval.

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They proclaimed him the new president.  The beginning of a new era dawned in their hearts where it was acceptable to beat and terrorize those who were different from them, the ones they feared.  They stood and cheered the coming of a new savior who will make their world into what they imagine is the perfect world – for them.

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They proclaimed it FIRST DAY.  But the citizens who saw those of darkness rise to power proclaimed it LAST DAY.

As the good President left his office he tried his best to assure the citizens that there were good people, even among those that had been persuaded by the dark man, and tried to calm them by being strong, by being the example of grace and strength that they knew him to be.

For some that was good enough for them; they said to themselves that if the kind president said such things, it must be so.

Yet for the great majority of the good citizens of the country, the accession to power of the men of the dark meant that they would always remember it as LAST DAY.

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The LAST DAY they would have a President of grace and reason.

The LAST DAY they would live with good men at the helm of their society.

The LAST DAY of being cared about by the majority of those tasked with the protection of those citizens who were not only good Americans but patriots.

The LAST DAY of peace for some time to come.

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The LAST DAY they would tolerate the lies and secrecy of the incoming president who, in fact, considered himself and his family as ROYALTY.

The LAST DAY they would tolerate the progress of their country to be reversed.

The LAST DAY they would tolerate the rise of fascists into power.

So in all the land, the questions were raised: how did we allow this, how did we get here, and what can we do to stop the dark men from harming our children, how can we save our sick, our poor, our hungry, our homeless, our downtrodden, from the hatred and lies the dark men will bring?

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Listen to reason, said the President of the People as he left his office.  Fight the dark with the light, the hate with love, and be first and foremost a believer in the truth that Democracy can be.

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Make the changes and use your collective raised voices to do it.  Stand for what you believe in, expose the lies, unearth the truth, and most importantly, BE THE INSTRUMENT OF CHANGE.

It is not the LAST DAY.  It is the FIRST DAY of our fight to stop the darkness and to bring our country into the light, where it belongs.

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Goodbye, Mr. President. You were the best champion we could have had, and we will remember. We will be what you wish, and that is to be the guardians of Democracy and of the Constitution. We fight the dark.

 

 

Dear Rest of the World

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I’d like you all to know that you cannot judge Americans solely on their inability to be quiet in a nice restaurant, or for wearing flip-flops to dressy events. You can’t judge a whole country just by the few that rankle – which brings me to the reason for this letter.

We love our country, we really do, but there’s been some sort of miasma that’s descended on us, some sort of haze that’s gone into our brains. We would all like to think ourselves a brainy, get-up-and-go sort of people, but I’m thinking that image is kind of outdated. We’ve become complacent. We like everything spoon fed to us so that we don’t have to understand anything for ourselves. We like to be pampered, we like everything shallow, and preferably super-sized. Apparently that refers to our choice in political leadership, too.

Please realize that this doesn’t apply to the majority of the people in this country. The majority of us voted for Hillary Clinton, who actually worked on the pursuit of good relations with the world, unlike the winner of this recent election, who would rather tweet you the news that he’s sending some bombs your way because you are ‘bad’ or ‘terrible’ since you managed to piss him off for some stupid and inexplicable reason he’s concocted.

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You might think that all of us in the U.S.A. are just flat out nuts, but that’s not so; only some of us are, and a great many of us are just as bewildered as the rest of the world at how this moron managed to get to the top of the political heap.

We don’t understand how someone who can’t spell can achieve the high station of the presidency. We don’t like him, you know. We may seem confused but the majority of us were looking for someone sane to talk to your people.

So I, on behalf of myself but echoing the sentiments of many Americans, would like to ask for a few favors.

Please, when this moron coming into power insults you, take a look at who’s doing the insulting. I mean for God’s sake the guy can’t take a crap unless someone compliments his outsized ego.

The only thing that matters to him is money, and most of us don’t have any thanks to the corporations he represents. Therefore, he really doesn’t consider us worthy of attention (unless we were able to shit dollars. That might perk him up).

Please, when we come to your embassies seeking political asylum because we just can’t live in a country that’s fascist, please don’t point and laugh and say, “I told you so!”. That’s almost as cruel as how we treat Syrian refugees, or Mexicans.

We do have feelings, you know.  Or at least some of us do.

Lastly, please don’t think that we all want to fuck over everyone on the planet. We don’t. We’re just as fucked as you are. Maybe we deserve it, maybe we don’t. Just believe me when I tell you that this situation won’t be forever.

Someday soon the moron will do or say something so outrageous that his own supporters will throw his ass in the street. Or we will soon have another election where a sane person comes to the White House. No matter which it is, this idiot being crowned this coming Friday is only holding the scepter for a miniscule moment in American history.

Those of us who want peace will work harder than ever to make up for the damage these assholes do. That’s the best we can offer.

I hope you forgive us for this travesty. Please, send help. No, seriously.

Thanks!

 

 

Combatting Racism and Other Forms of Intolerance at the Source: A continued Conversation with Adilifu Fundi

[Adilifu Fundi, author of the books Trouble in Black Paradise and Moving on The Road To A Man-Song Sanctuary, posted a response to a video I reposted on Facebook regarding the remarkable exercise taught by Jane Elliott.  This continued discourse regarding this subject is a remarkable lesson in and of itself.  Please see Adilifu Fundi’s blog, https://renaissancemanjam.wordpress.com/ ]

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First, please read the previous blog post HERE:

Re: Jane Elliott and a Conversation on Combatting Racism at its source: The Conversation Continues

[Adilifu Fundi, in response to the previous blog post above]

Thank you so much for bringing attention to such an enlightening subject thru this blog. It is rare (if ever) that a broader Caucasian populace sees whites themselves (such as Jane Elliott) clearly & graphically “defining” racism; clearly demonstrated is how its so normalized in daily white behaviors (where high-Holy moralizing is irrationally employed in explosive emotional rebuttals, which effectively deflects “sensitivity”). White gays not thinking they drag all that racist indoctrination along with them–& not realizing how deeply that racist baggage actually stunts their own tactical perspective (when pushing for gay progress) has gay towers being built on sand.

Stunted also is the greater insight on what substantial gay progress even “looks like.” For such a deeply hated, persecuted & castigated group (as is gays) to have its “urgency” for progress so watered down by whites here, who are so tied to their spoon-fed illusion of privilege–lulling them into self-absorbed gay cultural dismissal & abandonment–is a living breathing tragedy. White gays who really want their bigoted relatives to “walk the humanitarian walk” must take the first step.

You are the envoys that teach your relatives how to treat you (& your multicultural gay family) & Jane Elliott’s work will move you out of the realm of “toddlers.”

[My response – my personal observations:]

As with all of our potent discussion, again, you are right. It is never merely recognition of the existence of those racist attitudes that come forward, but the ‘illusion of privilege’ that sadly waters down the sense of responsibility as a human being to change this attitude in a real way.

For me the real way of moving toward change was to deny the illusion of privilege. As a gay man who has had to struggle with additional factors in youth (being ‘lower middle class’, a ‘victim of abuse’, etc.) I subsequently learned a lesson that I did not want to face, which was the responsibility I had for making those changes in my own life. Attempting to accept people for who they are, by the “content of their character” as Martin Luther King said so famously, is in and of itself tainted by the relentless and poisonous teachings of our youth.

It is the judgment itself that must be called to account. There can be no real and true judgment of another being without their assessment, motive and subsequent action being the only measure of judgment. In determining what I felt was necessary assessment I was forced to use these measures, and I did not like the person I found when that judgment was levied.

To this day I am of the opinion that people can and do change; that, when confronted with their own tainted belief, accepting that change is critically required.

What can be done?

In my case it was to agree to three very important changes. First, I had to admit that within me was teaching that must be discarded. And indoctrination that has been instilled using ‘illusion of privilege’ is most difficult to dislodge; it is an insidious thing. In fact I had to recognize that these ‘teachings’ existed, learned to work through my shame, and then make it my lifelong choice to work against those imposed teachings for the remainder of my life.

Secondly, it was important for me to understand that there is a path toward change that includes not only the recognition, evaluation and change, but understanding what this change really requires, and that is the understanding of the commitment I was embracing. Jane Elliott holds up a mirror and shows people the absurdity of their ‘illusion of privilege’.

As someone who wants a thing that all humans want – acceptance – I had to decide to which portion of this society I was directing that want, and if in fact I was morally able to extend such a hope. The pervasive teachings of those in authority with a mission to degrade the soul of those placed in their care showed me their callous desire for control. Learning how they continued their delusional methods of the infliction of pain as subjugation and acceptance as reward for following their dogma made me quite angry. I had to come to a conclusion that my understanding of my required change would mean not allowing myself to be deluded by such tactics.

Lastly, it was learning that this change was not and could never be instantaneous. This change was to be gradual because I cannot learn all these intricacies, all of this absorption of experience, knowledge, fact, and understanding merely because I want it precipitously. I have to balance what needs to change with how to change it. Recognition is the first step, understanding what is required next, and with the application of those two fundamental elements, perhaps I will come to the last; patience in accepting that real understanding comes with the life-practice learned in the process.

I cannot speak for anyone else, of course, but I know this to be true in my heart: I know that the things of which we often speak (knowledge gained, history learned, poison exposed, and teaching others ways to change the course of their thinking) are the only real ways that I can change myself. You teach me and enlighten me in so many ways, and in fact often show me how much farther I have to go to make some changes, but with enlightenment often comes not only the joy of release but the acknowledgement of the pain I have caused others. It is these two results of that enlightenment that force me to continue along my path.

Great change is a thing to work toward. Those who choose to ignore this change must get out of the way of those who understand that the only way for humanity to move ahead is the rejection of ‘illusion of privilege’ for that is in fact the most perilous of attitudes. Willingness to suffer painful recognition of the problem in the hope of change is the path that I must take. As to others it is my opinion that they must as well, but I cannot teach them by any method other than the one that I apply to my own soul, and I am of the opinion that I will never be a better man unless I am willing to admit my fault and work toward holistic, humanitarian and healthy approaches to these issues

Jane Elliott and a Conversation on Combatting Racism at its source

http://www.pbs.org/wgbh/frontline/film/class-divided/

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[Adilifu Fundi, author of the books Trouble in Black Paradise and Moving on The Road To A Man-Song Sanctuary, posted a response to a video I reposted on Facebook regarding the remarkable exercise taught by Jane Elliott.  This response is a remarkable lesson in and of itself.]

Adilifu Fundi:

Here’s the oh so rare situation where a “critically thinking” white person actually calls white people out on their normalized racist privilege–underscored by exposing the fact that those whites (posturing in “innocence”) are absolutely, totally “aware” of what the white run & controlled “system” is doing to Black people. They are totally “aware” of how they participate in it & benefit from it, without the courage to confront it. “Truth” means they would have to change their own behavior.

Whites clearly know that to confront white racist reality is to suddenly draw white retaliation fire toward “them”–& it would be far worse, as they would be branded as “traitors.” (they’ve definitely seen photos from the South where white figures were far more desecrated, hanging in effigy next to Black ones, with signs saying they “merely thought about integrating”). It’s the equivalent of these same whites standing up to stop a homosexual from being pummeled by a vicious mob–bravely stepping out of the nasty “pack”–the gumption to protect humanity right in the community where they live.

I believe Jane Elliot is the same incredible teacher who would conduct racism workshops in her predominantly white classes (as seen on an early Oprah Show). The white students for an entire day would have to be subject to how Blacks are treated, reminding those students (who could hardly take it any longer) that they have to suck it up and endure, as they are part of “that” group which cannot escape from who they are (or what they “look” like). Her workshop tactics were reminiscent of what we as Black social/educational repair trainers & multicultural sensitivity facilitators would employ; we welcomed her & praised her as a white person confronting whites with hands on humanitarian reality.

[Note: Please take the time to review the original post and the dialog to which Fundi next refers by clicking the paragraph to go to Ainsworth Forgenie’s  Facebook page.]

And I’ll now address the line of dialogue triggered on this post–which is revealing. Shawn in particular (driving the opposition & resistance to historical developmental reality–& resistance to cross cultural “empathy”) doesn’t even hear irony in himself when he refers to “us” verses “them” in his altruistic retort.

The very notion of “us” (whites) compared to “them” (Blacks & all others considered “outsiders”) is a white racist construct, designed by white supremacists (historically controlling the country’s discourse thru media, the entire educational system, “radicalized” Christianity, etc…). It employs other whites psychologically with the job to keep “outsiders” in their place with religious fervor–making them feel its their moral duty to do so. If Shawn were so “neutral” or not guilty of “reflecting racist behavior,” he would have referred to “us” as the entire human race, combating those sectors & individuals who target “some” for discrimination.

Instead, he sticks to “comfortably” being the white “us” (even though he has a “Black” in-law). Neither Shawn, nor any of the other whites on this post who refute Jane Elliot’s “point,” would have stood in that room. She would have methodically called them to task in front of all those white people, itemizing for their conscious perception irrefutable examples of white systemic control–crafted to have catastrophic physical & psychological consequences on nonwhite targets–& designed to endure cosmetic appearances of “progress” in a situation still tightly controlled by whites. She would have called them on it. By not standing Shawn & his philosophical supporters could & would have simply just blended into the room–which is her point–thereby simultaneously deflecting any clear-cut examples of their internalized racism being made palpable (& unavoidable); the oh-so clever way whites avoid being “educated” about racist reality itself.

Like socially successful Blacks who confront racist reality Jane Elliot represents “power”–disconcerting white female “power” (brave enough to step out of the “integrity killing” pack). I believe the “white proper” term for these “reps” is rabble-rousers. Ironically if those “bad apple” Blacks that Shawn speaks of actually mended their brokenness from centuries of racist “containment” (& the Black “gotten overs” who’ve sold-out would suddenly find “allegiance” to Blacks they’ve left behind) pulling their combined “boots” up would bring a huge concentrated “force” crashing upon racism in the system–laying bare & putting Shawn’s racial privilege in jeopardy of falling on an equal plane. A thing Shawn would not be “altruistically” praising!

This is my response to him:

What a response! And what a lesson! Adilifu Fundi, your direct illumination of this issue is important and your aim at the heart of the problem is right on target.

The article that I quote below in Smithsonian Magazine regarding the historic lesson taught by Jane Elliot brought to me something that I learned a long time ago: those who are taught to hate as the ‘standard model’ that their parent’s espouse will continue to live in unconscious ignorance because they learn another powerful secondary model to support their ‘justified’ position. That secondary model is the willful continuation of the concept of ‘us v. them’.

Living in willful ignorance (knowing in your heart and mind that what you have been taught is uncomfortably wrong but continuing the cycle by passing that education on to others) is a construct of self-perpetuation, and that cycle does so much more than perpetuate, it doubles the poisonous teaching with each generation. I personally believe that it is more important as a species that we learn the most important of lessons. We must learn to negate the spread of the poisonous teaching of racism and the early indoctrination of the young by those who willfully and tragically harm their own children by teaching them the most horrible of lessons: it is perfectly acceptable, in fact preferable, and is your duty to reject teaching and knowledge that differs from what we teach you.

In other words, the continuation of willful ignorance and fostering the ‘us v. them’ mentality.

I encountered this teaching early in my life and confronted it in the teachings of the church with which I was affiliated. Separation into classes (income, race, sinner v. saved, etc.) perpetuates the idea that one is more evolved and better than another. In reading the article mentioned below, I found a quote attributed to Booker T. Washington that makes a phenomenally interesting and disturbing point:

“I am afraid that there is a certain class of race-problem solvers who don’t want the patient to get well, because as long as the disease holds out they have not only an easy means of making a living, but also an easy medium through which to make themselves prominent before the public.”
(My Larger Education, Being Chapters from My Experience (1911), Chapter 5, Pg. 119-120)

As long as there is a reason for some to prosper by the suffering of others, as long as there is the ideal among the self-deluded, as long as there is a perceived benefit to the creation of ‘class’, the sad fact is that willful ignorance will continue can only be fought with teaching the lesson so forcefully brought to light by Jane Elliott’s exercise with her students – that real power exists in freeing the human race of this most heinous of poisons.

Real power rests in the hands of those willing to overcome their own fear. Power is not the ability to control others through repression; power is in fact the acceptance that these fears hold us back from becoming what we can be, from reaching our potential, and then forging a path that brings us toward truth and away from the teaching of hate.

Without being willing to understand our true faults, without standing against resistance of accepting uncomfortable truth and taking the responsibility for our education of both our children and ourselves to end this madness, those who insist on belief that fosters exclusion for some perceived ‘benefit’ will continue to foist this ‘education’ and inflict harm not only on our society but on the future.

My friend, thank you for your insight and your illumination.

[Link regarding the article in Smithsonian Magazine:]

‘Others have praised Elliott’s exercise. In Building Moral Intelligence: The Seven Essential Virtues That Teach Kids to Do the Right Things, educational psychologist Michele Borda says it “teaches our children to counter stereotypes before they become full-fledged, lasting prejudices and to recognize that every human being has the right to be treated with respect.”’

Read more: http://www.smithsonianmag.com/…/lesson-of-a…/…

 

 

Smoke, Mirrors, and Robots

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A common theme for science fiction stories is that man, having come dangerously close to committing self-destruction, creates a race of robots that prevent this from happening; we give them absolute authority over us and they take advantage of our gullibility and turn us into a race of slaves.

Another ending to that story is that we admit our ignorance and inability to govern ourselves and as a subservient race we are cared for and kept as ‘pets’, seen as inferior life forms forced to bend our will to ensure our survival, never to progress to a free status as an independent species.

Then there is another, more frightening, more plausible possibility: we fight them, we suffer, they don’t.  In the movies, we win the day and overcome our robot/alien adversaries.  We as a species learn a deep lesson that forever changes us and makes us consider artificial intelligence taboo.  We never again allow machines the possibility of ‘thought’.  This theme is central to the Dune series of science fiction novels.

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Robots as depicted in science fiction films are mostly the standard metal collection of blinking lights, twirling antennae, clumsy gait, artificial and obvious.

And then Fritz Lang directed the film Metropolis, where the beautiful robot turns on the working class with the evil intent of disrupting a form of collectivism and the idea of unionization and solidarity being preached by the lovely Maria.  The robot is given Maria’s features so that it can lie to these workers and subvert their efforts and thereby keep them under control to continue to provide the status quo of lifestyle of the industrialist ruling class.

Subversion and control by a soulless tool in the guise of a human body.

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We are dangerously close, metaphorically speaking, to a very similar situation.  Donald Trump’s choices for top cabinet positions defy the direction of the agencies that they are to head.  This is subversion, this is recklessness. This is the direction Trump has set for the country: set up those who will cause havoc for the agencies they are meant to assist and who are charged with the task of protecting the assets and citizens of our country, thereby keeping everyone off-balance and confused while Trump works behind this smokescreen.

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The purpose of the smokescreen is two-fold; it makes it easy to hide your true intent and work in the dark to suppress those whom you govern.  But it also makes it possible to set up the force to be used against uprising masses by installing the military in key positions intended for private citizens alone, and by setting up the ‘billionaire class’ in the positions that protect and ensure the welfare of the citizen.

This, I believe, is the true purpose behind Donald Trump’s choices for his cabinet.  This is a strategy taken straight out of fascist ideology.  With the Russian interference into our election coming to light, with Trump’s attack against our government agencies that have found this truth combined with his rejection of the truth and his rousing his followers into the belief that their government is lying to them in this regard, there is a frightening conclusion to be made.

Donald Trump is setting up America for a fall.

He takes us for suckers.

He is, in essence, staging a coup.

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Trump will keep both Democrats and Republicans confused and fighting each other so that the sleight-of-hand tricks aren’t brought to light.  He will use those he has placed as heads of agencies to perform for the ‘elite ruling class’ and their allegiances will be solely to the rich and the stockholders of corporations that benefit from worker suppression and the continued lowering of wages and erosion of protections of those workers.

By placing generals and other military leaders into positions of control over the American populace and using them to coerce, traumatize and put fear into the hearts of this country’s citizenry, not to mention the  ability to persuade the military to use such tactics, Trump creates a ready arm of his authoritarian/fascist government to take his orders.

This is reason enough to stop Donald Trump from ascending to the post of Commander-in-Chief.  But now that the truth has been uncovered that the Russians have had a direct and undeniable effect on the outcome of a U.S. election, and that Donald Trump has been the beneficiary of this intrusion.  Trump erodes our most sacred of citizen’s rights and responsibilities and the basis of our democracy, our vote.

We must remove the smoke and mirrors.

We cannot allow the influence of foreign governments to sway our political choices of who shall govern.

We cannot allow Trump’s assertion that our agencies of government are ‘against’ him, or worse, lying.

The continued aggression and buildup of misinformation he feeds to his ‘followers’ must not be allowed to continue and worse, blossom into the unthinkable.

We cannot allow America to be turned into a fascist state controlled by those few whose interest is merely what they can horde.  We must not allow ourselves to be fooled into submission and to summarily hand our collective souls to the lying, duplicitous robots whose only intent is to rule without the good of the citizenry as its top priority.

 

 

ARTWORK CONFIDENTIAL: A Gallery and some back story, too (it’s fun, free to peruse and it’s what I love to do)

I think it a fine thing to admit to artistic eccentricities if you are strong enough to hang the the results on your walls and to share your vision with others, because it’s laurels if you do well, or your being shown the door if you fail.

I really hope that you get a bit of an idea why art is a central focus in my thinking; any form of expression, be it music, poetry, art, dance or plate spinning for that matter are essentially the same thing to me  (okay, the jury is still out on spinning plates to The Sabre Dance).  For me the drive is to fulfill the image’s demands, and the image tells me what it requires.  

It is the telling of a story, the emotions and observations that I must express, or whatever mad idea I need to to eject from brain and heart and let fly into the universe.  

These images and related back story highlight the circumstances of how they came to be and other insights.  However, I assure you that I am very perplexed at how, when I find myself pleased with my attempts I am humbled to remember that I am my own worst critic.  That fact isn’t quite as terrifying as it used to be.

Indeed, I find that this stance prevents excessive hubris and reminds me that that it’s quite alright to be dedicated and that means working with an eye for my most demanding of clients – me.

I have come to see what it really says about me, and that is rather than being a negative thinker and self-direct that negativity inward, I make these images with the aim to better myself.

Being critical is all part of the ethos of being creative.  It is essential.  It is a process that is beneficial for if you use subjective forms of expression, you must evaluate that expression to ensure you are true to your path, that you are not a deluded nutbag or a charlatan blowing smoke up your own (or anyone else’s) butt.

Here, friends, is the illustration of my learning: failure, change, success and setback, moving toward a goal .  I hope you enjoy them.

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This is where I went very often to hang out, create, think, and have experiences; the beautiful Golden Gate.  It is probably my favorite spot on earth.  I was taking photos with my video cam and a couple walked by and had this stuffed rabbit.  The rabbit agreed to pose for a photo and I made it somewhat psychedelic, very carnival, and I love that feel of energy in SF and I loved living among such fun and exciting artists.

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See my info card on this work below.

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I loved this and it is in a dining room of a business associate in Connecticut.

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I totally love my mom, and at her house in Florida I asked her help in executing an idea I had.  She held a sheet up over the window to soften the very blue light, I used a single 40 watt bulb on a small lamp, a 12×12 mirror tile, and pearl shampoo and of all things, chocolate sauce from the fridge for contrast and depth.  Mom stared at me like I was from Mars and said, ‘You’re pretty weird.”  High praise indeed.  But this photo is only balanced for light and a little warmth in the color adjustment, but very, very little.  I love this madness.  There are three works from that fun experience and it proved forever to my family that I may be weird sometimes, but it’s good weird.

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This hibiscus flower is one of the smallest sized varieties I have ever seen, so of course, being contrarian, I make it look like the size of a hubcap and rendered in a comic strip treatment in a photo editing software.  Way fun.  Nutso color!

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These were in a friend’s garden in Florida.  They are Apple Blossom Amaryllis and they are absolutely gigantic.  I shot this outside in the coming dusk.  I love horticulture, and bulbs and lilies in particular, but when I saw the outcome of this photo I decided that I had made an image that as flowers go was the best I had created to date. This flower’s petals are incredibly thick and fleshy and it stands almost 2-1/2 feet tall.  The graduated green to white and pink is to say the least.  A very impressive flower.

 

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I decided that I would try to mix colored light and use it exclusively in some photos and portraits.  It originally was an attempt to create dynamic work using reflection and refraction and controlling the result.  These are wonderful lead crystal that were presents from a friend.  Using yellow, red, blue, pink and green light and a mirror, the decanter and the vase were transformed.  I love this technique.

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The first time I met my friend Marino was a photo shoot at my apartment.  We had established a rapport through a  mutual friend and online, but had met on that day.  He was wonderful to work with.  He is sixty-five years of age.  I was astounded at his musculature and I like to do body study, so I  took this photo and made three different edits of it.  This I like best.  It reminds me of 1600’s Dutch anatomy sketches, but carefully augmented with primary colors.  I learned a great deal in that shoot, and made a good friend.

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Wild and I loved making this work very much.  Everything in this painting is just popping right out of the frame.  It was in a dining room in Boston but don’t know its location now.  It is a combination of many techniques and media and is based on musical notes on an invisible stave.  The media: ink, gouache, crayon, pastel and whiteout.  I used my fingernail to make certain highlights deeper and have a sense of depth by scratching them out of the paper.  In person it’s quite the colorful work!

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There’s a certain sense of frustration when a photo of your work can’t effectively capture the color and depth of a painting, but this instance is unusual in that I scanned the only copy I had –   a scanned image that was an instant Polaroid.   The edit to even remotely resemble the original was a real balancing act.  The subject, Crocosmia, I wondered who I sold it to because I simply could not remember, but it’s been found; it resides at the farm of my friends Heidi and Curtis on Martha’s Vineyard.  There they produce Martha’s Vineyard Sea Salt.   I am so grateful to know that this painting, which has a very special place in my ‘art heart’, is living with good friends and is appreciated and loved enough to be lived with for all these years.

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This is another Florida flower from a friend’s home, and it’s a Nun’s Lily.  I had never seen one before.  I took the photograph in almost pitch darkness with a flashlight and the only other light from the sky.  I edited several different versions of this photo since I like a challenge and this photo was almost impossible and worse, only 1MB of data in the file.  I am fond of yellow and decided to try for a wet-look, saturated, unusual result.  Got it, I think.  Sometimes working on color alone is a learning experience but the abstraction is just as enlightening and teaches me much.

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Same photo, maxed out in the blue/yellows and with a virtually non-existent background, like floating in space.  Outer space.

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In learning to use editing software as a worthy tool and not resorting to the ‘instant fix’ simply because it’s easy, I spend time trying to understand how to produce subtleties the software is capable of producing.  I used this more intensive, less automated approach for this self-portrait.  I wanted to create the illusion of a pastel work, including smudging, and a soft colored background that was more ‘authentic’ to me. My goal was met; however, this may be the single most software-intensive work I have produced to date.  The process involved roughly eighty or so sensitive software steps.  It’s forever burned in my brain as the lesson: No Slacking – you gotta do the work.

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There are some delightful photos from this series, portraits that show my friend Jim beaming a fantastic smile!  I am always interested in composition, geometry, light, drama, tension – many elements that serve the work and force me to make interesting creative choices.  This example it is an edit that removed virtually all of his identity because it is a geometric body study that is in my view hypermasculine and genuine. I use it as an example to show others the variety of my work so they understand that I approach things rather differently but always honor the simple and powerful with reverence.

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This wonderful swirling vortex of light and color is the inside of a paperweight that my mother owns.  It is remarkably small and with my video camera was an interesting object to shoot.  I shot this on her sun porch in the middle of Hurricane Wilma, and let me tell you that the stunning dichotomy of shooting this lovely photo with a piqued intensity of  concentration while surrounded by a whirlwind of pounding rain, lightning, flying palm fronds and the threat of flooding at my feet – well, it was such an experience that I used it as the illustration for a collection of solo music that I wrote and performed called Some Big Deal.  It’s also (with two others of the set) included in my book Devolving in Eden.

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My eyes are laser-blue and are a family trait.  I was re-editing a lot of old photos that I had managed to save after a computer failure, and although I had lost half, by serendipity I later discovered the remainder on an unmarked disc.  During an editing sessions of self-portrait work to learn software processes,  I realized I had completed a group of photos that did not have my eyes in them at all, or my eyes were covered with sunglasses.  So I rectified that by taking this photo, removing every other element but my eyes, brows and the bridge of my nose, changed the saturation of color and made the result into a purposely indistinct horizontal shape in a square frame.  Anyone who knows me instantly recognizes me not only physically but in attitude as well.

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This is a bas-relief at a museum in Orlando, and that wall is a remarkable work; the color is neon-bright and is mesmerizing.  I found it quite interesting because in spite of its upbeat coloration it is somehow inherently frightening and seething with potential violence.  I was so enticed and intrigued by it that it was used as the illustration for a poem of the same title in my book Devolving in Eden.  You can see the book and read it almost in its entirety by clicking on the book image button for a preview.

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This painting is a memory of a landscape near my current home.  It is a flat piece of farmland in Farmington, CT, a place where one night I saw for the first and only time I saw the Aurora Borealis with my own eyes.  I drove through this area each morning when I worked in Hartford.  In the spring the morning fog settles on the land, the sun illuminates it and dead corn stalks, weeds and the budding foliage through the mist is an image I keep in my heart, although the painting itself has been lost.  I hope whomever has it loves it.

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Walking down Market Street to my office in San Francisco’s Financial District in the morning after a night out with the guys would have been unbearable had it not been for the very forgiving morning fog and cool clouds that fly through the early morning sky, glowing, lovely and so comforting.  They soften everything and make it a little magical, too.  If you look closely at the top left you can see stars in the velvet of the coming morning; it is a wonderful memory of my old home.

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I was heading to my car in a lot near a friend’s house in Orlando and I took this photo of the glowing dawn clouds in a flawless, almost Mediterranean  violet sky.  In a puddle on the ground, of all things! I then turned the photo upside down and the result was it seemed as though the parking lot asphalt that was drying was a ripped tear across the image.  It always reminds me to carefully consider and observe the simple, fleeting wonders that just fly by us.  I am always happy to capture such images and I am quite fond of this.

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Learning elements of design can drastically change your entire approach to the way you see the world – and yourself.  I made this self-portrait to exaggerate color, texture and light to be a ‘religiously inspired Italianate feel’. But it was so much more to me than that.  I saw many things in the work from my personal perspective: a beautiful, haunting, sad, ethereal and fragile image; yet there is clear determination and a sense of discontent and concern that comes through it.  It found its place as an illustration for a religious-themed poem entitled Tyrant in my collection of poetry, Devolving in Eden.

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A second shot in the colored light technique of the same two pieces of crystal with a distinctly different composition and a more energetic vertical thrust.  I really do find the technique interesting and have recently purchased a set of LED lights that are remote-controlled, color-mixable individually and are going to be a lot of fun to discover how I can change and augment this technique.

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Third in the series of colored light work and this one reminds me of how in these compositions even subtle changes of angle and reflection/refraction of the glass can be interesting study, fun and a good lesson in being consistent with your work, your methods and your directed energy in its creation.

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My friend’s house in Florida was one interesting shot after another for me.  A passion-flower, crimson and exotic, picked from a plentiful vine for the purpose of contrast against a beautiful green plant pot excited me, but then . . .

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. . . it REALLY got crazy with that single flower.  I shot it in close-up and it somehow became in my mind a half plant/half animal kind of life form creeping across the table.  It still is a surprise when I see it for it seems to be alive in a very different, very unusual fashion and it seems to be alien, off-world.

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And now for a little bit of nonsensical fun that I just cannot help but enjoy.  With certain people or with certain photos, my brain says, Hey, What’s the Story?  I blow it all up by making a single-panel story, always fictional and completely out of character of the person, and they are pure fun and whimsy.  Besides, I just can’t seem to resist: I like to take these things to the absurd sometimes.  This is not a cat named Stanley but a cat a friend had named Trigger.  He always seemed to be a bad kitty and therefore required being told, “Bad Kitty!”, but any cat owner can tell you that they manipulate us like total pros and we know it; that is of course the moral to the story.  Below: Marino gets into an argument on the phone but teaches us a lesson.

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Marino was a good sport!

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This is a close up with a deep depth-of-field of three very small glass jellyfish paperweights that I own.  It is a rather painterly expression of tone and form, and the curve is so pronounced yet subtle at the same time.  The tone was the exercise for me, though, and to use as little processing as possible in its creation.  I don’t always stick with wild image editing or coloration;  I believe that the image itself directs the creator and tells them what they need.  The axiom, ‘Simplicity is elegance’ is a good rule to remember and the harmonic elements of this image are captivating to me.

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Moody, dark, but light on the horizon.  This is Castro Valley in San Francisco taken from a vantage point to the west. I was soaking wet, but there was something driving me to continue shooting in spite of the downpour.  When I saw this photo I originally thought it was unusable, but in a last-ditch edit attempt I found a scene that was in such contrast to the beautiful and fun Castro Street that it is in my client viewing portfolio and it is to me an observation that would move someone who lived there most especially.

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Same day, same rainstorm on its way out over to the East Bay and I am thrilled to have this memory in my head and heart.  Several of the other shots in this series were lost, but there were three that were saved, and each time I look at them I am profoundly homesick.

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Best friend, incredible artist, performer and his awesome alter-ego, Uta Schrecken.  This photograph is entitled Uta Schrecken: Portrait Number 1.  It has been for me a delight on so many levels and so completely shows that Uta Schrecken (my friend Michael Gilbert, who inhabits this whirlwind) is a master of the art of ‘giving great face’.  There’s no one person who so makes me go nuts in the crazy-wild-fun art department and it has been a true pleasure to have chronicled the many moods of Uta.

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This is one of the earliest watercolors I attempted.  The very first attempt to use watercolor I decided to collectively title ‘Mud Pies’ and were total failures.  Watercolor is a very difficult medium to work with and takes great technical skill; it is a challenge to any ‘paint pusher’.  But this example surfaced and I caught a piece of it that made any sense at all to me.  It was an exercise in learning how differently colored backgrounds change the perceived color of any foreground elements.  I’m going to try watercolor again sometime when I have endless patience and see if I can do better.  If you want to meet a friend of mine that is a real and true master of the medium, meet Richard Bolingbroke, who is one of the most technically astute watercolorists I have ever had the pleasure to know.

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I have been blessed to have surrounding me some of the most talented people I could wish for, and anyone that admires people who try to experience simply everything – and doing it with finesse and grace  – please, meet Heather Cherry.  This photo she took of herself backstage prior to a performance with the Marin Shakespeare Company.  I edited because it was such a great photo and I had the idea to make this into a ‘magazine spread’ kind of edit, and wow, got it, I think!  She can walk a tightrope, wrangle lawyers as an assistant, make people say, ‘WOW!’ when she ropes a steer, cause a swoon with her incredible honeyed, sexy, throaty voice, and she will make you one hell of a turkey gravy if you’re exceptionally lucky!  And note the review by the Guardian – that’s not fake – it’s real.  She is hella oh yeah wow!

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I end the show with yet another self-portrait, but this one is not for effect, it’s simple, direct and a good illustration of me (I know, there’s several self portraits, but it’s only because I was the only person around when I wanted to shoot).  But this is quite accurate, I think, but what do I know?

THANK YOU FOR TAKING A LOOK AT MY WORK.  If you like it please message me and tell me what it is that you liked and why; it’s good to know the elements to which you respond.

I sincerely hope you enjoyed them!

If you have questions, again, please get in touch.  And if you like anything else about my blog, please, subscribe or follow!