Archive for the ‘self-employment’ Category

Chronicles in Ordinary Time 112: For what did they die?

November 23, 2016

Tonight I watched an episode of Star Trek Next Generation; “Dormak” for those who were/are fans. I wasn’t that much of a fan, mostly due the ‘chemistry’ between myself and the characters. The short version of “Dormak” is that an alien Commander places himself and Captain Picard in a place of danger in hopes that the element of danger would bring the two cultures to a place of cooperation and communication. The alien culture uses metaphor to communicate—the words, “Juliet on the balcony” to explain the concept of ‘romance’—however, their metaphors came from their own storytelling; Picard wasn’t able to understand the metaphors. The Commander of the alien vessel gave his life in hopes that communication could begin.

Gene Roddenberry’s vision of Earth’s future—a vision where people of all faiths and pigmentation could live together in harmony. A future where war is considered a last resort; a future where people could live out their highest good.

On December 4, hundreds of veterans plan to “deploy” to Standing Rock Indian Reservation in North Dakota to join in protest against the planned Dakota Access Pipeline. The event, Veterans Stand for Standing Rock, is a call for veterans to “assemble as a peaceful, unarmed militia” to “defend the water protectors from assault and intimidation at the hands of the militarized police force and DAPL security.” CNN

Tonight, in a hospital in North Dakota, a 22-year old college student faces the possibility of an amputated arm, due to a concussion grenade that went off as it hit her arm. People in hospitals deal with hypothermia caused by the militarized police using water cannons to repel unarmed protesters in 27-degree weather.

Tonight the President-Elect, who has selected a White Supremacist as his chief advisor, sleeps in one of his many hotels; a man who believes that since Presidents cannot engage in a Conflict of Interest in business, his own conflicts of interest will not be able to be considered as such. The Emperor Trump. A man who speaks of creating a Registry of all Muslims in the country; a man who will ban the acceptance of Syrian refugees, even though our bombs are devastating their country; a man who is talking about deporting millions of undocumented aliens, potentially forcing hundreds of thousands of American citizens—children born in this country—into an already overburdened Foster Care system; with no apparent thought to how this will work. A man who, throughout his campaign has denigrated women, the disabled, a war hero, who has promised a return to war crimes in his pursuit of aggression against terrorists. I think that even Nixon would be ashamed.

 

Tonight I also listened to President Obama awarding 21 Medals of Freedom, the nation’s highest civilian honor to scientists, advocates, athletes, entertainers—all of whom have contributed not only the Arts but to cause of freedom and unity in our country and across the world.

Some of those who may be reading this hate President Obama; and I wonder if those readers have ever listened—actually listened—to any of his speeches; or have simply digested the opinions of pundits. I can understand not liking his politics—I hate his drone policy—and yet every speech he has given has reflected the principles this country was built upon. For 8 years, he has been metaphorically spat upon, every day, by both Houses of Congress, as well as a large portion of the population. And yet he responds with Grace and dignity; never with the displays of anger that the President-Elect has used over an insult on Saturday Night Live, or booing the Vice President-Elect at a theater production.

What are we coming to as a nation?

What did the Greatest Generation fight a war for?

Abraham, Martin, John and Bobby… Yesterday was the 53rd anniversary of John F. Kennedy’s assassination. For what did they die? For the rise of Neo-Fascism in America?

The Old Testament, the Hebrew Scriptures tell the story of how the people wanted a King; they no longer wanted to be ruled by the Creator. They wanted to have a King, just like all of the other people had. The Creator’s Prophet warns them of all the hardship they would face under the rule of a King; the people didn’t care, they wanted a King. And the Creator said, ‘give them what they want.’

angel.grief_mj

 

Chronicles in Ordinary Time 111: What will we do with the time that is given to us?

November 18, 2016

night-watcherThe Night Watcher

As my legs continue to decline in their mobility, I have more challenges with my balance; particularly if I don’t have a solid surface to stand on. Inside the house I wear down boots with wool insoles; and tonight I was leaning over the couch to look for a movie to watch. Part of me said that I was going to hold off on Lord of the Rings until it had dimmed some more from my memory—but the cases were in front of other DVDs, and I proceeded in what could have been a scene from a silent movie. Boxes falling out of my hands [spasms, also], discs falling out of cases…etc.

I had made the choice to scan Fb before looking for the DVD—I’ve been visiting Fb less, because there’s so much crap going on in our political environment. Some good stuff, but a lot of other stuff. When I returned to the living room, I was looking for a mood changer before going to bed.

Given the comedy above, Fellowship of the Ring, Part One, was my choice—the choice that fell out of the box. I don’t have any Lord of the Rings images; the one above is the closest available.

The other day I found the following quotation from later in the movie:

Frodo: I wish the ring had never come to me. I wish none of this had happened.

Gandalf: So do all who live to see such times. But that is not for them to decide. All we have to decide is what to do with the time that is given to us. There are other forces at work in this world Frodo, besides the will of evil. Bilbo was meant to find the Ring. In which case, you were also meant to have it. And that is an encouraging thought.

What are we going to do with the time that is given to us?

As the new ‘Transition Team” grows, and grows more menacing to the “Other” in our society [speaking as an old white guy], it becomes clearer to me that what is needed is as much obstruction against dehumanizing people as possible. Whether that obstruction takes the form of Sanctuary Cities, or the building of a new Political Party or the encouragement of Senators and Representatives that are determined to make this country a haven for the oppressed, we need to continue.

I value Freedom of Speech, and Freedom of Assembly, and I value young people doing the only thing they can, to protest; there has been injury caused by the some of the forms of protest that have been taken. Forcing a driver on a highway to stop, when they really need to be moving, or stopping ambulances on the road does not help the Cause of Justice.

The votes from the Election are still being counted; Hillary leads Trump by nearly 1.5 million votes, and her lead is expected to continue to grow. It is no longer a ‘narrow margin’. My Magical Thinking is looking for rescue from the Electoral College. I’ve never had much faith in magic wands. I may be one of the very few people in the world who have avoided Harry Potter [I’ve seen a couple movies]; I spent so much of my life looking for a magic wand to solve my problems that the concept no longer has any appeal.

More than anything else in my life, I am a man of Faith. Civilization survived Nero and Caligula. Caligula used “Christians on a stick” as a method of yard lighting for his outdoor barbecues. I won’t elaborate. Rome fell from the weight of its shameful behavior; so heavy a weight that they stopped considering it a problem. At present, this doesn’t seem too different from naming White Supremacists to Cabinet positions in a country where the White population is no more in the majority. Welcome to South Africa, North…

The first African-American President is handing his office over to the man endorsed by the KKK. The KKK had parades after Trump’s election. Hate crimes are on the rise. The Southern Poverty Law Center documented 892 active hate groups in the United States in 2015. More than 400 Hate Crimes have occurred in the last week. People can say that this isn’t the fault of the President-Elect; but when the Future Commander-in-Chief demonstrates bullying, racism, misogyny and xenophobia every day for the last 9 months, why do people have trouble understanding that bullies and haters feel they have been validated in their behavior?

There are people who apparently been pretending to be ‘nice’ for the last 8 years; now they can go back to their regularly-scheduled behavior. When the American Church approves indecency by their votes [or lack of voting], what does that say about the Church? They may have gained the Supreme Court, but was it at the cost of their souls’ health? We will all have to stand before the Creator and account for our behavior. We may have to stand in the same lines as the German population in 1938…

we-dont-talk-about-2016

Chronicles of Ordinary Time 110 The Lamp Has Gone Out

November 9, 2016

liberty-falls
For months now, I’ve been saying that if tonight happened; the Statue should be broken down and returned to France. This is probably as close as I will ever see…

From Van Jones, CNN Commentator:

“People have talked about a miracle. I’m hearing about a nightmare,” Jones said. “It’s hard to be a parent tonight for a lot of us. You tell your kids, don’t be a bully. You tell your kids, don’t be a bigot. You tell your kids. do your homework and be prepared. Then you have this outcome and you have people putting children to bed tonight. They’re afraid of breakfast. They’re afraid of, how do I explain this to my children?”

“I have Muslim friends who texted him tonight to ask if they should leave the country, immigrants who are “terrified” of what might happen to them under President Trump.”

A friend of mine is being approached tonight by high school students who are afraid their parents will be deported. The same fear will need to be addressed by teachers in elementary schools tomorrow… The school district where my wife works has one of the most ethnically-diverse populations in the state.

I suppose that of the approximately 54% of the people who voted, the people who voted for Donald Trump, they might respond that those people don’t belong here anyway.

Their children were born on American soil. They are Americans. Potentially, the Foster Care programs across the country are going to be inundated with American orphans, who no longer have parents to look after them.

Did you think about that? Do you care?

 

I’ve known for most of my adult life, some 40 years, that my citizenship, even though I was born here, is in Another Country. Not the Scandinavian countries from where my ancestors mostly come; my citizenship is in a Country that doesn’t have borders, boundaries, taxes or armies [in spite of some songs to the contrary]. I have a King: the Creator of all life.

Consequently, I’ve never expected the world to follow the same rules that I follow, nor to have the same practices I have. For decades, I have followed the teachings of two Religious Extremists—their names are Jesus of Nazareth and Paul, formerly known as Saul of Tarsus. Dangerous Extremists who were killed for their beliefs. Millions of their followers have died for living in a way that the world finds dangerous—loving the underprivileged; loving the forgotten; loving the shunned. Loving the Stranger.

Emma Lazarus, the author of the poem above, was a Jew.

If the President-Elect keeps his campaign promises, it’s going to get really ugly for most of the population of this country—I’m counting the ones who didn’t think it important enough to vote…

One scholar I read about, someone I know nothing about, says that The Donald will be in jail within the next year; tax evasion, sexual assault, numerous other accusations. Maybe he thinks the Presidency will shield him from prosecution. If Congress cooperates, it will become true.

Wall Street, the supposed friends of the President-Elect has plummeted; foreign markets are following.

Those of you who voted for President-Elect Trump–Did you think about that? Do you care?

 

Chronicles In Ordinary Time 109_Is there room in our hearts for this?

October 30, 2016

REFORMATION DAY 2016

I’m not a big believer in coincidence.

I also cannot consider myself a Lutheran, having never followed all of the beliefs and the traditions of the Lutheran Church. I’ve never been Confirmed. However, I’ve served and worshipped among Lutherans for decades.

I was ordained as a Presbyterian Elder more than a decade ago; to my knowledge, I’ve never been un-ordained.

So I find it *interesting* that this matter has come to my heart and mind on Reformation Day.

A quotation presented by the Institute on Religion and Public Life:

“…Therefore, it seems fitting that we, Lutherans, make our own mea culpa. It seems fitting that we confess our sins associated with the Reformation and, especially, our continued unkindness toward our brothers and sisters of other theological traditions. It seems fitting that we, once again, make Jesus’ prayer our own, not only in word, but also in deed “ ut unum sint .”  (Latin: ‘That they may be one’)

Joshua Genig, pastor of The Lutheran Church of the Ascension in Atlanta, Georgia

TREATY WITH THE SIOUX—BRULÉ, OGLALA, MINICONJOU, YANKTONAI, HUNKPAPA, BLACKFEET, CUTHEAD, TWO KETTLE, SANS ARCS, AND SANTEE—AND ARAPAHO, 1868.

Apr. 29, 1868. | 15 Stats., 635. | Ratified, Feb. 16, 1869. | Proclaimed, Feb. 24, 1869.

ARTICLE 16.

The United States hereby agrees and stipulates that the country north of the North Platte River and east of the summits of the Big Horn Mountains shall be held and considered to be unceded Indian territory, and also stipulates and agrees that no white person or persons shall be permitted to settle upon or occupy any portion of the same; or without the consent of the Indians first had and obtained, to pass through the same; and it is further agreed by the United States that within ninety days after the conclusion of peace with all the bands of the Sioux Nation, the military posts now established in the territory in this article named shall be abandoned, and that the road leading to them and by them to the settlements in the Territory of Montana shall be closed.

What am I talking about…

The North Dakota Pipeline Protest

north-dakota-pipelineDAPL map overlaying Treaty Lands

shameful-day
Unarmed protesters, on their own land, being attacked by police and National Guard members in riot gear, armed with rubber bullets, pepper spray, a sound cannon and police dogs. Forcing the unarmed protestors off their own land.

Beating unarmed protestors.

On their own land.

Granted, Custer broke the 1868 treaty in 1874 because gold was discovered in the Black Hills. Gold, in America, is more valuable than treaties. Treaties are just pieces of paper [what’s in your wallet?]. One hundred and forty years, and the Courts still have not settled this dispute.

Medicine BottleThis is Medicine Bottle, originally photographed by Edward S. Curtis, a day or two before Medicine Bottle was hanged in the late 1800s. His crime? BEING A SIOUX.

On Reformation Day, can the followers of Jesus acknowledge and accept the idea that ALL LIVES MATTER?

That our promises matter.

That our honor matters.

That Justice matters.

That how we treat people matters.

May God have mercy on our souls…

 

Chronicles In Ordinary Time 108_ My hope is that it isn’t just science fiction

October 28, 2016

GRAND OPENING!
MJ Arts announces the opening of its second retail store!

https://www.teepublic.com/user/mjartscom

Marty has dug through the image vaults from his 30-year illustration history, and combined his efforts with TeePublic. Wearable art in various sizes and formats.

Including new Doctor Who fan art, images from Marty’s Wildlife Preserve and Marty’s Undersea World. Sale going on now for some items.

 

4th-doctorDoctor Who art for book jacket

The above image [plus absent components] was created to replace the cover of a Doctor Who novel my son gave me. I found the original cover to be awful. I can’t tell if the character next to the Cyberman is supposed to be the Doctor, or one of the other characters in the story.

revenge-of-the-cybermen-doctor-who-5

I watched a new CBS story tonight, Pure Genius. A Silicon Valley billionaire app developer turns his wealth to creating the most advanced hospital on the planet, capable of solving all—well, many—of the medical problems that face our age. The episode includes ‘technology that’s really out there—they just needed funding’—that really isn’t out there, after all. At least not subject to a quick Google search.

Would we have cell phones if not for Star Trek? Who would imagine that Captain Kirk uses a really old-fashioned flip phone…

Does science fiction create the future, or does it simply encourage us to think that the future is possible?

I recently stumbled across an old Outer Limits episode from 1963, The Galaxy Being. [Star Trek first aired in 1966…] In The Galaxy Being an engineer uses some broadcasting equipment for research he’s not supposed to be doing, and encounters a being from the Andromeda galaxy doing exploration that he’s not supposed to be doing. The Alien is a nitrogen-based creature made of microwave energy, rather than us carbon-based creature [if you remember your high school chemistry, “organic” means carbon-based…think about this the next time you shop for groceries]

The two explorers engage in a brief philosophical discussion:

What about wars? Do you have wars? Battles. Atom bombs. Radiation fallout?

Forbidden. Reason we are not allowed to contact you. You are danger to other galaxies.

 

What about God? Do you have a god?

Explain.

An all-powerful being. A force underlying everything.

Electromagnetic forces underlying all.

No, l mean an intelligent force… God.

Electromagnetic force intelligent. Matter, space, time: all the same.

All the same?

Different names. lnfinity. lnfinity is God. God infinity. All the same.

 

Of course, as with many science fiction movies of the sixties, a crowd gathers, and the military arrive to deal with ‘this monster’.

You people of this planet, you must not use force.
l do not see you, but l receive your brain patterns.
l have told you not to use force. Now warn you there are powers in the universe beyond anything you know. There is much you have to learn. You must explore. You must reach out. Go to your homes. Go and give thought to the mysteries of the universe.
l will leave you now…in peace.

Probably the most improbable part of the story is that the townspeople do go home to give thought to the mysteries of the Universe…

Then the closing narration:

“The planet Earth is a speck of dust, remote and alone in the void. There are powers in the universe inscrutable and profound. Fear cannot save us. Rage cannot help us. We must see the stranger in a new light – the light of understanding. And to achieve this, we must begin to understand ourselves, and each other.”

Words we need to hear now.

I was at my cousin’s house, in my early teens; possibly younger, when I saw the movie on TV that has stuck with me for something like 50 years:

screen-shot
First Contact; with Klaatu and Gort:

klaatu-gortGort is in the back; the low-tech rubber-covered ‘robot’ who acts as ‘Dirty Harry’ for the Universe. The cop who enforces justice upon the inhabitants of Space. The Earth had become too violent; Klaatu had come to warn us that if we were going to continue in our efforts to spread our violence beyond our home planet, there would be consequences…

I imagine that there is a string of warning beacons surrounding our Solar System, warning all other beings to avoid this place, because we are infected with the disease of greed and violence. Watch 15 minutes of the PBS Newshour. World-wide greed and violence.

With some moments of hope that we can become more than we are now.

My hope is that it isn’t just science fiction.

 

Chronicles In Ordinary Time 107: Character

October 11, 2016

lincoln_charcter

Before I start writing these essays, I usually ask myself why I think anyone really cares what I think about the world…

Back when our first child had been conceived, I started writing her letters. Most of what I wrote about, I figured would have little interest for her until she was a teenager. I continued the process by writing to my sons, as well, when they first appeared. Many of the later letters ‘cheated’ in that I wrote the same letter to all three kids.

To a large degree, these blogs are a continuation of that process. I’m still writing for my kids; but the audience appears to be larger now, based on comments I receive…

 

If I had the opportunity, I would vote for ‘Jed’ Bartlett or Andrew Shepherd; since both are characters written from the mind of Aaron Sorkin, I’m out of luck. In The American President, Andrew Shepherd makes the following statement:

For the last couple of months, Senator Rumson has suggested that being president of this country was, to a certain extent, about character, and although I have not been willing to engage in his attacks on me, I’ve been here three years and three days, and I can tell you without hesitation: Being President of this country is entirely about character.

I don’t want to vote for any of the four names I believe will be on my Oregon ballot for the Office of President of the United States.

I would not vote for Portland’s Mayor, or anyone on the City Council for President; even if they had run for Governor. I don’t feel that a couple of terms on the City Council would qualify someone for the Office of President. I worked for the City Council for 14 years; that doesn’t qualify me for national office.

I don’t support the Libertarian Policy goals.

Given another option, I would never vote for HRC as the Democratic candidate. We had another option; the DNC never supported that option. This is sad. I think he would have made an excellent President.

If my teen-aged granddaughter came up to me and said she had the opportunity to work as an intern for Donald Trump, I WOULD NEVER give my approval.

If it was ‘locker room banter,’ it was the locker room in high school where I might have heard it. I avoided the high school locker room.

I heard this ‘banter’ in Freshman or Sophomore college dorm rooms where the participants were mostly stoned or drunk, and were trying to impress other stoners with their imagined exploits. It was the ‘banter’ used by a medical student who wanted to become a gynecologist. I hope he never achieved his career goal. His goal was to assault women; but he never thought of it as ‘assault’; women were merely sexual toys.

Did I object to this sexually-charged language? No; I didn’t know any better. I thought the people making the comments were asses, but I thought most of the people that I was around were asses. I generally had a low opinion of people; but I had no ‘moral center’ from which I could stand. I was a snob, more than principled. ‘The Donald’ might have approved of the dorm T-shirt I designed; although I refused to follow the design literally. It was based on ‘the Donald’s’ comments, long before he most recently made them.

Trump’s comments weren’t made in a locker room or dorm room. It was the passenger seat on a media bus, probably filled with recording equipment.

He wasn’t running for President in 2005.
No; his first Presidential Campaign was in 2000.

Being President of this country is entirely about character…
I wouldn’t want that character in my house, much less the White House.

Too bad Condoleezza Rice isn’t running. She’d probably win.

 

 

 

 

 

 

Chronicles In Ordinary Time 105_McFarland

September 27, 2016

hurdles

I watched McFarland USA [2015] tonight; one of the best movies I’ve seen this year.

Amazon:
https://www.amazon.com/McFarland-USA-Kevin-Costner/dp/B00UI5CU6Y/ref=sr_1_1?s=movies-tv&ie=UTF8&qid=1474960345&sr=1-1&keywords=mcfarland+usa+dvd

IMDB:
http://www.imdb.com/title/tt2097298/?ref_=nv_sr_1

McFarland, California, in 1987, was a place where the townspeople were there because they had nowhere else to go. Pickers, mainly; not unlike the people of the San Quintin valley of Baja, Mexico. Kids waking up at 4:30a to go pick in the fields until it’s time for school; after school they run to the fields and pick until dark, so that their families can survive. They don’t get paid by the hour, they get paid by the field. They pick because their parents pick, and that’s the only life they’ve ever known; and the only life they ever expect to have. Pickers, all of their lives.

Here, in America. Land of the Free. Home of the Brave.

We forget this, those of us who have lived with the electronic luxury of America all of our lives. I am of the opinion that we will have to address this forgetfulness when we stand before our Creator.

A high-school coach named Jim White [Coach Blanco] came to McFarland because he had a temper management problem; and it was the only job he could find. After a couple months he watched these kids running through the fields and decided to create a Cross-Country running team. Seven high school kids who had been working their hearts out for years, and happened to be very fast. White convinced these kids that they had more heart than any of the privileged Cross-Country teams competing in California; and that they actually had a chance to become winners.

The kids, through a LOT of hard work, realized they could be something no one else in their town’s history had become—a champion. The kids changed the town. And the town changed the Coach and his family; they learned the true meaning of Home and Family. The father’s role to eat with his family, and to listen to the stories of their lives, rather than making other things more important.

I didn’t watch the debates tonight; there is nothing that either candidate could say that would change my opinion of them. They don’t represent McFarland, or any of the hundreds [thousands?] of McFarlands scattered across this country. The people who have been ostracized by privilege; the people who harvest the food this country eats. Many/most of them have brown skin. Many won’t ever own land; many won’t ever have the luxury of a television—it isn’t needed; many won’t read books. A book won’t help you pick crops. I spent an incredibly long/short time on a wheat ranch in Eastern Oregon when I was 16; my Dad wanted me to learn how to work. His old friend, a wheat rancher who probably followed in his family’s steps, could never understand why I carried a paperback book to read when I’d finished a chore; I don’t know that he ever read. I couldn’t get the idea that I was supposed to go from one chore to the next one. I learned how to stall a caterpillar tractor in a steeply-plowed field. Also learned to crawl into a Combine, and replace bad ‘teeth’.

The experiment wasn’t successful.

My brain is full; I really don’t know how to end this one.

condon-1930sJones History; Near Condon, Oregon  ca.1930s

 

 

 

Chronicles In Ordinary Time 105: We create the light we see

September 24, 2016

When I started telling my wife about the idea I’m  writing about, she ‘virtually’ [as opposed to reality] threw up her hands and started singing ‘lalalalalalalala’…

I realize this may not make sense to many of you.

something to think about…

eyeball_2Light enters the eyeball, gets reversed, top-to-bottom; and then is converted into electro-chemical signals which are sent through the optic nerve to the nerve cells in our brains.

We then perceive the world as if we were watching a flat-screen TV or a theater screen…

There is no light inside the brain; in spite of what our snarky schoolyard buddies told us when they looked into our ears.

We create the light we see.

We create this light in an instant; so fast that it seems sort of like a ‘reflection’ but it isn’t.

Della's BrainNeurons firing in a Functional MRI

Among the evidence for this concept are those whose vision is ‘quirky’—people with color blindness; people with Irlen’s Syndrome, whose brains cannot process black letters on white paper—but can process black letters on colored paper; people like a friend of mine who has a ‘hole’ in his brain—there is a portion of his brain where no ‘gray matter’ exists; as a result, he sees without depth perception.

We seem to be living, here in America, in a place where darkness is gaining the upper hand; yet, we create the light we see. We can be light for the world, if we choose to live this way. It’s a choice.

A routine traffic stop should not be a life-threatening situation; but it has become that way.

It’s a choice.

Portland has become highly-ranked city on a number of surveys. I’ve heard numbers above 100 for people moving to Portland every day. However, we don’t have housing for over 100 new people per day. In fact, we have a LARGE homeless population, in the thousands, some of whom have been priced out of a place to live; because the landlord raised the rent. Because they can. Housing is at such a premium that a landlord can ask nearly any number they want, and someone will accept it. Cheaper than where they came from. Buying houses has become problematic because housing prices are also skyrocketing.

Because they can.

Whether they should, apparently doesn’t enter into the debate.

Being a landlord is a ‘crap shoot’. My son is a ‘third-generation landlord’ of my parents’ first house. This summer, while working on the house, I realized I have painted that house for 50 years… Excellent tenants, good tenants, and tenants that I wish I had never known about. During my years of working at the City, and due to the generosity of my parents, we were able to live frugally on a single income. We didn’t need the rent to make ends meet; so we usually rented it out at below-market-rates. When it became time to have the last couple move out, we needed to evict them, because they couldn’t find anywhere else to live as cheaply; and he apparently felt no need to work for a living. We rented to her; she let him freeload off of her ‘back-breaking’ work as a retail manager.

 

extraordinary_2Background for a movie poster

Every now and then, as an illustrator, I’m given the opportunity to play as I work. Work is no longer ‘work’; it becomes play—until my body tells me it’s time to stop, when I’m not ready to be done for the day. Then, play becomes work.

It’s perception.

Even the pain that I feel throughout my body these days is perception. Some days, I’m so engrossed in my project that pain is moved far back in my perception—until I need to use the bathroom; and the pain comes rushing back.

 

Jesus said that His followers should be like a city on a hill, whose light could be seen from all around. The light is pretty dim, these days.

And yet, we create the light we see.

 

 

Chronicles in Ordinary Time 104: “You’re the least worst candidate I’ve got”

September 18, 2016

I heard the above line on a British Cop Show from a number of years ago… It did not come out of a Press Room covering today’s politics. Another cop in the show told an associate, “you’re ambitious, ruthless and amoral—every team needs a player like that”

How did we get here?

A guy I know is angry at a god he does not believe in [how does one become angry at a chair he doesn’t believe in? think about it], because that god doesn’t protect people from harm, does not answer prayer and allowed the Holocaust to happen. Not to mention, thousands of years of continual brutality toward fellow humans. How can one possibly think we humans deserve to be kept from harm?

mites_eyeElectron microscopy: mites on the head of a fly

I told this friend of mine that in the vast span of the Universe, we humans are like mites crawling on the head of a fly; totally insignificant; and yet Scripture says that we are beloved of God; even though we are of dust.

Arthur C. Clarke was on an interview show, discussing the notion that if god created the fixed laws of physics, then he can’t possibly be in charge of the Universe—god can’t travel faster than the speed of light; so it would take light-decades, light-centuries, to travel between galaxies. God can’t really be all-powerful, because he can’t break one of the fixed laws of physics…

Sadly, Mr. Clarke apparently hadn’t heard that the Creator of the Universe is Eternal, Infinite, Omniscient, and outside of time. An entity without a physical form, who can be in all parts of the Universe at once. The Creator has no need to travel between galaxies, because the Creator is simultaneously in all parts of the Universe. The concept of Infinity; one that is beyond our grasp, for we are but mites…

I haven’t seen anything in Scripture that says the Creator is obligated to keep us from killing ourselves. “How can [He] allow children to be trafficked into sex slaver?” I think the answer to the latter question is, how can we allow this to happen? We in America sit on our rotund backsides and do little or nothing to stop problems that we can do something about. Even if we can’t actively join the battle, we can support those who can.

We can get involved.

The Creator does not choose to halt our rapaciousness. Scripture says that the Creator has tried killing us off a few times before; and that it was an unsatisfactory solution. Free Will means the choice to do wrong; as well as the choice to do Right. The choice to be selfish; the choice to be cruel; or the choice to act out in Love.

The Creator’s answer to our inhumanity was to enter time and space in the form of a single cell implanted into the womb of a teen-aged girl living in the rural Middle East. A girl who would face scorn for being a whore.

Jesus’ earthly life ended in torture; betrayed by friends. And He returned from the dead; he returned from Hell. The story of Jesus’ life continues for two Millennia. Jesus came to heal broken souls; to heal people like me. Makes no sense. Love often makes no sense.

By the time that Emperors started using Christians-impaled-on-a-pole as light for their backyard barbecues, followers of Jesus knew that faith in a Messiah pretty well guaranteed a painful death; and yet they persisted, because they knew the world needs healing. They were willing to die in order to save humanity… A.LincolnThe world will little note, nor long remember what we say here, but it can never forget what they did here. It is for us the living, rather, to be dedicated here to the unfinished work which they who fought here have thus far so nobly advanced. It is rather for us to be here dedicated to the great task remaining before us — that from these honored dead we take increased devotion to that cause for which they gave the last full measure of devotion — that we here highly resolve that these dead shall not have died in vain — that this nation, under God, shall have a new birth of freedom — and that government of the people, by the people, for the people, shall not perish from the earth.

I think it is clear that government by the people and for the people no longer exists in this country. There are bunch of people in Washington DC who were sent to do a job, as our representatives in the Legislative branch of our government. A bunch of people, getting paid a lot of money* for their lifetimes, to do a job that they simply refuse to do. This can’t happen in the world of the American worker, because the employee will get thrown out on their ass; and it will take about 10 minutes to find a replacement. A different rule operates in Congress. I can only hope that a bunch of worthless politicians get thrown out on their asses come November; and more in another two years.

That this nation…shall have a new birth of freedom…and shall not perish from the earth

I left out “God” because I’m not convinced that our country really is ‘under God’ nor that the Creator really has concerns about the survival of our nation. I’m not sure that a country that continues to manufacture cluster bombs, even though a majority of countries have banned them, can be called a ‘nation under God’:

Despite official U.S. government denials and downplaying during the Vietnam War from 1964 to ’73, the United States dropped more bombs per person on Laos than have been dropped on any country in the world in any war.

The U.S. Defense Department estimates as much as two million tons of ordnance were dropped on Laos, much of it focused on the Ho Chi Minh Trail that paralleled the Vietnamese border. The North Vietnamese used the trail network to transport troops and supplies into South Vietnam, where American troops were fighting…

http://www.pbs.org/newshour/bb/decades-millions-unexploded-american-bombs-still-kill-maim-laos/

The report does not ask or answer the question that comes to my mind: Why in the Hell were we bombing Laos? I don’t ever recall hearing anything at the time about the “Laotian War.” Do they just make up rules as they go along?

So let’s keep God out of the discussion. We aren’t that qualified.

A new birth of freedom

I think Trump is an abomination, and that the Republican above is in lament. Trump wants to build a wall to prevent people who want freedom from coming here. He wants to reduce the immigration of people with brown skin.

I don’t really think Clinton is all that much better, partially because she considers a Large percentage of the citizens in this country to be “deplorable”. I also think that she thinks that she is above the laws that keep members of the military in prison; and that she can’t be trusted.

One of the leading Independent Presidential candidates has almost no governmental experience, experience which appears to be necessary in these times, if one is to make any headway.

The other leading Presidential candidate has ideas I simply cannot endorse.

But the election isn’t about me, nor about my preferences. The election is not about my making a statement about the quality of the people running for the highest office in the land. The election is about the country.

The candidate who receives an absolute majority of electoral votes (currently 270) for the office of president or of vice president is elected to that office. The Twelfth Amendment provides for what happens if the Electoral College fails to elect a president or vice president. If no candidate receives a majority for president, then the House of Representatives will select the president, with each state delegation (instead of each representative) having only one vote. If no candidate receives a majority for vice president, then the Senate will select the vice president, with each senator having one vote. On four occasions, most recently in 2000, the Electoral College system has resulted in the election of a candidate who did not receive the most popular votes in the election.

https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Electoral_College_(United_States)

Even if Jill Stein or Gary Johnson somehow comes up with the majority of the popular vote, the election is decided either by the Electoral College or the [Republican] House of Representatives. The Republicans are unlikely to vote for Stein or Johnson.

My ‘magical thinking’ hopes that for some reason in the next two months Hillary will choose not to run, and Bernie Sanders will take her place. I’m not holding my breath.

Of the two most-likely-to-receive-270-electoral-votes candidates, one clearly has no desire to continue Lincoln’s dream of “a new birth of freedom;” at least not for people with brown skin.

This leaves me with two choices—throw my vote away or vote for Hillary; hoping that she receives 270 electoral votes; and hope that enough politicians-who-refuse-to-cooperate-with-a-Black-President get fired. Maybe then we’ll have a functional Supreme Court, and the possibility that some legislation for the people will actually come about.

I want a third choice, but the election isn’t about my wants. Even if an Independent candidate receives 55% of the popular vote, the Election will still be decided by the Electoral College or the Republican House.

270 Electoral votes for Hillary; or Trump.

 

* compared to the earnings of their constituents
http://www.senate.gov/reference/common/faq/retirement_for_members.shtml

 

Chronicles in Ordinary Time 103: Bravery of a Different Sort

September 6, 2016

Clapton_King_3

Tonight I watched William H. Macy’s brilliant directorial debut, Rudderless.

https://www.amazon.com/Rudderless-Billy-Crudup/dp/B00OQVS1B4/ref=sr_1_1?s=movies-tv&ie=UTF8&qid=1473155091&sr=1-1&keywords=rudderless+dvd

An excellent story, a surprising perspective on violence in America. Can’t say too much more without giving the story away; but on the exterior, it’s about the forming of a garage band, and the human need to express ourselves through music. The movie is especially poignant in that it stars Anton Yelchin, who would die a year or so later, this year, in an automobile accident. He plays a 21-year old young man who feels that he’s messed up most of his life.

Music plays through most of my life; primarily interrupted by stories on the tube. Music plays in the office while I sleep; don’t know how much I hear. Music soothes my soul and music inspires me; music reminds me of the person I want to be.

When I see a movie like Rudderless, I immediately want to find an image in my files to use as an illustration for one of these memoirs. I then am reminded of the thousands of images I haven’t yet created. So I pull one together from older images.

One of the quotations [or near quotations] from the movie is, “no one writes music like that unless they want it to be heard…” I think of all of the stories I’ve heard about songwriters, stories about being musicians, and I think about the musicians I hear each Sunday, dedicated to their craft and bringing inspiration to an audience. I don’t thank you often enough, should you happen to be reading these words.

Bravery of a different sort; having the courage to stand before an audience, and perform from your heart. I believe that a certain amount of bravery is required for an artist to display their talents before the world.

There’s a rebuilt, antique, Civil War era piano sitting in our living room, one of my impulsive investments during the brief period where I was studying piano. I rarely made time to practice—practice time took away from illustration-time. I finally realized that if I wanted to perform on the piano at the level I wanted, I’d have to give up my illustration dreams—there wasn’t room for both in my life. And I haven’t had the heart to sell the piano. There are times when my soul wants to make music; playing music becomes a substitute. Gordon Lightfoot has been a featured performer in my life for the last 40 years; one of the ‘last troubadours’ as he has often been billed.

Billy Crudup is the lead performer in Rudderless, performs his own music. He apparently learned to play guitar while performing in Almost Famous, and has never stopped.

One of the co-stars of Rudderless; for the guitar geeks…

Les Paul Custom Guitar

 

 


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