Thursday, March 27, 2014

Post Apocalyptic Time Machine

March 26, 2014

re: Chris Christie found not to be involved in Bridgegate scandal by his lawyer, who did a “thorough and complete” internal investigation yet failed to talk to the persons who ordered it, implemented it, or tried to cover it up.

Dear Hank,

I know I haven’t written much lately, but I’ve been busy. As I think you know, I’ve been twiddling with my time machine. Got it out from under the dusty tarp where it’s been for several years and began adjusting the defribulating time-warp mechanism. The gravitron was the biggest problem, but now with the advent of hybrid solar that has been overcome. I stepped inside for a test run and came back from a post-apocalyptic future (Is there any other kind?) 
I have to say I was impressed. All the shopping malls were in ruins. Green vines strangling the remnants of the last white painted cinder block walls. The women were beautiful, if somewhat earnest. They seemed to be the only ones who had access to clean water and used it to take baths. Everyone’s teeth were immaculate, except for the cretins - who were all evil and dirty. 
Amazingly, I landed on the National Mall in Washington, D.C. There wasn’t much left of the old town. It seemed to have been blown to bits in a nuclear standoff that didn’t stand-down. I strolled onto the grounds of the White House and discovered these shreds of a document, which I found vaguely amusing. It seems to be a transcript from a high level investigation. Without further adieu, I give you - The Transcript:

“President Christie did you push the button?”
“No Sir, I did not.”
“You must have given the order to push it?”
“No, I did not. In fact, I had no knowledge that it had been pushed.”
“But only you, and you alone, have the authority to push the button.”
“Yes, that is absolutely true. I am the only one who has the authority.”
“Yet you did not do it, and you don’t know who did?”
“That is correct. Listen, a lot of things go on in the White House that I don’t know about.”
“Like initiating Global Thermo Nuclear War?”
“Well, like I said earlier, there’s a lot that goes on in the White House I don’t know about.”
“The button was on your desk. In the Oval Office someone pushed it and you say you didn’t do it, and you don’t know who did?”
“That’s correct. Maybe, it was a mistake. I don’t know.”
“You don’t know? The end of civilization as we know it has happened and you think it might be a mistake?”
“Well, I certainly think it’s a mistake; if that is in fact what happened. But again, I didn’t do it. In fact I’m convening a blue panel committee to investigate exactly what happened, and when all the facts come out I think you’ll see that I’m not to blame.”
“Not to blame? There were only two people in the Oval Office at the time the launch sequence was initiated: you and your Chief of Staff. One of you had to have pushed the button. The world is destroyed and you’re not sure.”
“We’re not sure exactly what happened, but I did I fire my Chief of Staff.”
“Did you ask if they pushed the button?”
“No, what would be the point? They knew only I should push the button. I didn’t push the button so they had to have pushed the button. They shouldn’t have done that. So I fired them.”
“Without asking?”
“Look what’s the point? The world appears to be ruined; we won’t know for sure what happened until the investigation is complete. I didn’t push the button. If the button were pushed, and we don’t know if it was, they had to have done it, and they weren’t supposed to, so that’s akin to lying. I can’t have people on my staff who lie to me.”
“Your Chief of Staff and everyone you appointed to the Blue Ribbon Panel is dead.”
“That’s too bad. I’m sorry to hear that. But again, I had nothing to do with it.”
“We have a video tape showing your Chief of Staff leaning against the desk. Their palm is resting on something on the desk. It looks like it might be the big red button, is it?”
“Gosh gee, all the radioactivity sure has made the picture grainy. I’m not sure. I don’t think so. Well, maybe.”
“Seconds later there is a shot of you perched on the edge of the desk. We can’t see the button at all. Could it be that you sat on it?”
“Look, I’m not going to sit here - no pun intended - and speculate about what did or did not happen. Besides, I’ve lost a lot of weight so I doubt I sat on the button. Once the investigation is complete I’m sure all the facts will come out.”
“There’s no one left to do the investigation.”
“That’s too bad. But again, that’s not my fault. Or my problem. I’ve got a country in tatters and what’s important, now, is not to try and assign blame but to try - as best we can - to go forward, and clean up this mess. It’s a natural disaster no doubt made worse by my enemies. Have you seen the dustpan?”

At this point the transcript is torn and appears to have blood on it. It looks like a blood splatter, perhaps from a gunshot.

Oh well, gotta go. There’s a valve on “Olde Rusty” (that’s what I call my time machine) that’s acting twitchy again.

All the best.
Hope the hip replacement goes well.
It should last you until, darn it, I don’t know what the date on that memo I found was.


Monday, February 17, 2014

Monuments Men

The Monuments Men

February 17, 2014

Dear Hank,
For me, art is transformative. By that I mean it takes me to a place, a better place; a place within myself where I realize all that I, or man, might be, can be, and perhaps will be. It makes that connection on a visceral level with what Jung calls The Vast Collective Unconscious. It shows me all that could be. It creates an intellectual and emotional bond on a physical level. It creates a understanding that, as Joseph Campbell said of somethings - comes before words of what we are and what we can be.
I had a college professor, Dr. Hogan, who said,  and I quote loosely, “Freud said dreams are the royal road to the unconscious, if so, then art is at least a Federal Highway.” How right he was. While dreams are the province of our own personal realm, art is our shared collective realm, as seen by an individual within our culture as a whole - our larger world. Thus art is shared experience. I have heard it said that good art reflects the society within which it was created, and I think, that is true. Experiencing that art allows me to experience in some way what that world was like at the time of the work’s creation. 
A buddy of mine says although seeing a copy is nice, but she likes to “see the paint.” There is something about being in front of the real thing, the genuine article that is different than being in front of a slick glossy poster of it.  
I experienced that when I was in the Tower of the East Wing of The National Gallery. It was the a series of paintings the chapel in Houston that is named for him. After fifteen or twenty minutes I began to see the shades of color, the deeper sense he had connoted in each of these huge panels of seemingly like rectangles within rectangles. There is a subtle deep vibrancy to his paintings. It was like becoming aware of a deep bass resonance.
I have also stood before the paintings in The Barnes Collection, no doubt the greatest collection of Impressionist paintings in the world, and seen the face of Van Gogh’s Postman looking back at me in those lurid greens and yellows; or Monet’s Water Boat, Modigliani’s Reclining Nude, Matisse’s Joy of Life. Each one emotes a feeling, a passion, a sense of connection with something greater than myself and yet is all within me.
Last night we saw the movie, The Monuments Men. It starred George Clooney and one of the best group or actors of our time. Bill Murray as a GI seeming to pick up where he left off in Stripes. The Frenchman who starred in the modern silent film of last year (or was it the year before?) entitled The Artist; John Goodman, who seems to be in every movie that is any good in the last few years; a little bug-eyed fellow who you say to yourself, or the person you are with, Who is he?, Where have we seen him before?; and an actress whom you probably won’t know until the credits roll. (I won’t spoil your surprise.) And Matt Damon being a suave art curator. 
It’s the closing days of WWII and the task of these people is to find, preserve, and recover the art stolen by the Nazis; mostly by Goering and under direct orders of Hitler. I was familiar with the story but I had not realized the magnitude, nor the enormity, of the crime. Thousands and thousands of paintings, statues, church bells, and sculptural pieces were taken from museums, and private collections. 
(An early scene in the movie shows people sandbagging the wall holding Leonardo Da Vinci’s The Last Supper while the building that housed it was being bombed. I found this touch interesting because my mother told me she saw the painting as it was being sandbagged and that was the late 1930s. The building was bombed in 1943.)
Every painting and sculpture (except one Raphael that was destroyed by the Nazis) was familiar to me as one who had studied art in college. But the star of the movie was The Ghent Altarpiece. Painted in 1432 by the van Eyck brothers Hubert and Jan, it is - to this day - stunning in it’s brilliance.
I went to Bruges to see it. It’s a triptych, which means it is three panels. The two outer panels are hinged and half the size of the center part because they close ovr the center; thus the outer panels are painted on both sides.
Here is an image of the triptych when closed and thus showing the back of the two outer panels. 
This is the way I first saw it in the church in Bruges, Belgium.
Once an hour they open the panels and the have four regular 150 watt flood lights mounted on two each on two 2 by 4’s illuminating the interior panels. Here’s the interior:

What was striking to me was how bright the paint was. The image don’t do it justice. The reds pop in their brilliance, the golds shimmer. The painting is done in egg tempra, which as I understand it, means they used egg white as the glue to stick the paint to the surface. (Paint in a tube didn’t come into being until the late 19th century, all painting before then had to be done indoors where one could mix their own paint and keep it moist enough to be able to get it on the surface before it dried. The Impressionists were one of the first, if not the first, artists to be able to paint outside because they had paint in lead sealed tubes, which allowed them to squeeze out what they needed at the time they needed it, and not have to have mortars and pestles, and bowls with solvents and glues to mix colors when needed.)
For people who like to say art should be realistic looking, take a look at what these brothers did. Here’s Jan’s Marriage of Arnolfini :
A painting whose image has been shown to not only illustrate realistic portrayals of people and their times but also to show the use of light and shading, and also to show how accurate the painting was (notice the reverse image in the convex mirror), and the use of symbols and catholic mystic images (explained in many texts elsewhere.)
David Hockney in 2001 published a book called Secret Knowledge Rediscovering the Lost Techniques of the Old Masters where he explained how artists like the van Eycks had used optics: mirrors, lenses, and camera obscuras -  to help create their images. (Why hadn’t this been common knowledge before? Well, there was the problem in their time that the church considered such reflective techniques the work of the devil and you could get burned at the stake, and there was the whole secrets of the guild sort of thinking: if someone couldn’t figure out how you had done something then they couldn’t copy it.)
If you want to talk about valuable. Well, take a look at The Annunciation: 

It’s a small painting, just over a foot wide and a yard high. It sits in a remote gallery in the West Wing of The National Gallery in Washington, D.C. You have to really go out of your way to find it. At the time it was purchased I remember my art professor, Dr. Phoebe Stanton, saying that it cost more per square inch than any other painting in history; maybe, a hundred thousand dollars per?
But the images that flash up in the movie The Monuments Men: Rembrandt, da Vinci, Raphael, Michelangelo, Rodin, van Eyck, Rubens are all classics; part of our heritage, our Western culture. 
Some have said the movie lacks the drama and tension necessary to make a movie great or that the real story is drama enough. They have their opinions. But to see - recreated - Rodin’s Burghers of Calais sitting on pallets at the famous fairy tale looking castle of “Mad” King Ludwig’s Neuschwanstein Castle in the Bavarian Alps, to see images of painting after painting - every one a classic, is well, for me, not just interesting but inspiring in the way that standing before a great work of art compels me to remember how great we as humans can be. The movie is inspiring - to me, because it reminds me of how inspiring art can be, and why it is so important to life.

I gotta go. A fellow with a white shirt and narrow tie is at the door with an important message for me. Oh Jesus.


Monday, October 21, 2013

Hawaii AKA Master of Ceremonies

Hawaii AKA Master of Ceremonies
October 21, 2013

Dear Hank,

I recently saw a post about the American Kite Association’s Kite Convention that was held in Hawaii. It will be twenty five years ago next year.
This story involves Rick Kinnaird and how he came to be the announcer at the annual banquet that year. Here it is in Rick’s own words.

Corey Jensen, Andy King, and I decided to go swimming in the hotel pool late Saturday afternoon. When we got to the pool a sign said that it was closed. Being the wild and crazy guys that we were; we ignored the sign and went in anyway.
In the middle of our rendition of doing a synchronized swim to the tune of Don Ho’s Tiny Bubbles I noticed two large male Samoan body guard types staring at us with their hands clasped in front of their fake sharkskin business suits. I figured they weren’t interested in us finishing the rest of our routine. At about that moment one of our friends came to the edge of the pool and informed us that the pool was closed and that they had just dumped a large amount of chemicals in it. We decided, collectively between the three of us, that we should exit the pool and order cocktails. This was, no doubt, a wise idea. Our Samoan brethren evaporated and a cocktail waitress appeared.
I don’t remember the drinks we ordered, but I remember them being on a small white wrought iron table. Andy was sitting opposite me and Corey was to my right. I was aware of the heavy smell of chlorine on my skin as the waning sun warmed and dried my body. It was within an hour or two of when the annual awards banquet was set to begin, some people were heading over early to the banquet hall. This was going to be a very different kind of banquet from anything else we had experienced. We were going to be seated in a huge dining area and treated to a Polynesian Dance Review. Afterwards we had been told to remain in our seats while the other folks who were here for the dinner and show left. We would then have the room to ourselves for our awards. Perfect. From what we could tell people were dressed to the nines.
As Andy, Corey, and I began to sip our cocktails, we noticed Carol Kanopski walking toward the banquet area with her daughter and her daughter’s friend in tow. I first meet Carol when I announced one of the first, if not the first, Long Beach Kite Festival in that ocean front town in the state of Washington. Carol and Kaye Buesing were, at that time of that festival, the two organizers of it. Two nicer women you’d be hard pressed to find. Carol is a stunningly attractive woman and the night of the banquet she was dressed in a mini-skirt and tube top. Her daughter was cut from the same mold. The only difference was perhaps her skirt was more micro than mini; and her friend was equally attractive and decked out. One person was wearing a bright orange tube top and mini/micro skirt. I can’t remember who, but to say that these three women did not turn heads would be an understatement. 
Corey and I both knew Carol from that kite festival (the story of which needs to be told at another time), we hollered at the ladies and waved for them to come join us. Andy sizing up the situation quickly joined in. I think the three of us were stunned when the three ladies turned and walked over to where we were sitting and joined us. We quickly ordered cocktails and the six of us sat there chatting. As we did, I could hear people yelling at Corey from the windows and balconies of the hotel. The hotel was a curved high-rise building that looked down on the pool area. If anyone stood on their balcony or looked out their window to watch the sun. all they had to do was glance down and they would see us. Catcalls didn’t exactly rain down, but they were intermittent and enough that each time someone did so Corey would kind of laugh and suck in his slobber, much like Dave Checkley used to do. If you ever went on one of hDave’s trips to Japan you’d recall his saying, “very nice, but much too expensive. Oh, you give to me?” (then Dave would do that sucky slobber thing).
While Corey was in his glory, and I was smelling the chlorine on my body, and Andy was doing what Andy does so well; mainly, adding fuel to whatever fire is in the area; Jane came up to me and sat down.
Jane was one of the main organizers of the convention. She got stuff done. I always tried to help out at conventions in whatever capacity I had been asked. I was the announcer at the first convention in Ocean City and I assisted Mel Govig with that auction. Thereafter, I did the auction and the announcing for many years. In recent years before Hawaii, others had taken up those duties and I was happy to have passed the baton.
But here was Jane sitting at the edge of our group looking directly at me. There was maybe an hour to an hour and a half to go before we had to be in for the banquet. She said, “Rick, would you be the master of ceremonies at tonight’s banquet?”
I demurred. “Jane, thank-you so much, but I’m sure there our others...”
I don’t think she let me finish, “it’s either you or Jim Miller.”
Now, Jim is a great guy but public speaking is not his forte. He has the ability to say Hello and piss you off. I don’t know how he does that but it’s one of his abilities.
I looked at Jane and said, “Oh, that is low. Of course, I’ll do it.”
And that’s how I came to be Maser of Ceremonies at the AKA in Hawaii.


So there you have it.
Next I hope to get Rick to tell us about what it was like to actually preside over that event.

All the best to the wife and kids, hope the infection clears up,


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Thursday, August 08, 2013

Scientific Fundamentalism

Scientific Fundamentalism

Dear Hank,

I'm thinking of starting a fundamentalist movement - 
The Science Fundamentalists.
We believe in the truth!
(of course)
and the truth is revealed to us through fact!
(of course)
And those facts are revealed to us through evidence!
(of course)
And that evidence is examined and corroborated by others who reach the same conclusion via repetition of the same experiment or observation!
(of course)
And we change our conclusions, and our views, based on new evidence!
(of course)
and we do not accept false evidence!
(of course)
be it based on lies, fairy tales, superstitions, fears, books written by: scholars, priests, god or others claiming to know the truth (unless they can prove it to be true)

The saint of this new order is Sir Isaac Newton.
The John the Baptist role is taken by that of Galileo.

That is all, I need to go fishing:)


Monday, August 05, 2013

Mark Twain in our lands

Mark Twain in our lands

Dear Hank,

I wonder what Mark Twain would say if he were alive today. I’ve been studying him a bit recently and so forgive me Mr. Twain if I channel you a bit here, but I do think he’d recall a conversation he probably would have had with a Mr. X.
Mr. X doesn’t like the government much and he believes that if the government would just get out of the way and let people go about their business we’d all be a lot better off. 
His latest rant is about health care and why is the government getting involved? Why not let insurance companies compete across state lines then we could all pick from a multitude of plans and get the cheapest one. If the government would just get out of he way.
I asked Mr. X if he thought that would get everybody health care coverage in this country and he said he didn’t know. But if the government would just let the companies compete across state lines ... I interrupted him and asked if he believed in states rights and of course he said yes. So I asked him why he thought a person in New York would be better off getting their health care from a company housed in North Dakota. He said he didn’t and why would I say such a thing? 
Well, I said, as soon as you let companies cross state lines they’ll all go to the state that gives them the best deal to operate out of. In the case of credit card companies that’s either North Dakota or Delaware, and they’re witches in Delaware. I asked him if he was so naive as to believe that the health care companies would stay operating in each state where they currently were. He said he hadn’t thought about it but he didn’t like these damn government socialists telling us what to do.
I agreed whole heartedly and asked him if his social security check had come on time and he said yes and was worried as to whether they were going to give him his cost of living adjustment or not. I shook my head and said I didn’t know. I asked him how he liked his Medicare and he said it was fine once he got the paperwork straightened out but the clerks at the office were real friendly not like his old insurance company where he could only speak to a machine or someone in India. 
I asked him if he knew that Medicare got started because the insurance companies would not give health care to old people except at exorbitant prices. He seemed not to know that little fact. I asked him why he thought the insurance companies would do a better job if left alone to do their job. Wouldn’t they just cherry pick the healthy people and leave the sickies off the roles? He said he hadn’t thought about any of that and in fact didn’t believe it either. He called me a commie and said we should pull out of the U.N. that the economy was going to ruins and it was the government’s fault and that we needed to cut spending and we might have to march on Washington with our guns loaded and force a change.
I told him I thought he was a real patriot and that I noticed the army surplus store was selling tri-corner hats, but I doubted they were from the revolution - probably a knock-off from China.
He nodded sagely and said well what are you going to do?
Me? I countered. I believe all go home and clean my weapons and check my five year can supply in my bomb shelter.
He said that was a good idea because who knows how soon everything will come crashing down around our ears and we have to be prepared.
I couldn’t agree more I told him. In fact, before I checked my can supply I told him I thought I’d water my heirloom vegetable patch.
Yeah, good idea he said. Stupidity, he said, there’s no accounting for it.
No there isn’t, I replied.
We parted and he sauntered off with a certain lift to his step. I think he was headed to that army surplus store.

All the best, the tomatoes are coming in.


Saturday, July 13, 2013

Katie's Family

Rick & Shelby
   (Rick & Eileen: Katie, Alex)
           Alex and Mayra
           Katie and Jon
Rob and Deborah
   (Rob: Emily, Lance)
           Emily and Noah

Len & Eileen
   (Len: Ian, Rebecca, Emily Mitchard Turano, Browyn Murray)
          Emily and Sam Turano:
  Browyn and Bob: Carys ("kar-is")

Felix & Brenda: Shelby,Ben
           (Ben and Karen: Mitch, Tyler, Claire)

Bill & Marilynn:  Eileen, Pat, Ann, Matt
          (Pat & Lynn: Brooke, Morgan)
          (Matt & Suzanne: Alexa, Olivia,  Ava)
          (Ann & Terry: Stephanie, Julia, Kristen)

Friday, June 28, 2013

GMOs, Scientific Studies, et cetera


June 28, 2013

Dear Hank,

I should be more mature, but I’m not. I can’t let this one go. As you know, I get a lot of important emails. notices informing me of dead relatives leaving me big inheritances, hair restoration products, et cetera.
I also get notices of things of terrible consequence if I don’t act immediately, typically, by sending money. But here’s a real shocker, I got this headline today, “GMOS HAVE BEEN FOUND TO CAUSE ORGAN DISRUPTION IN SCIENTIFIC STUDIES.”
Now, I don’t claim to have authored any scientific studies but I was astounded to learn that they, scientific studies, have organs and that genetical modified plants can cause them to fail.
Now the question becomes, what should a concerned individual do? Issue a scientific study? No, the GMOs would get it. This is kind of like an alien zombie attack from within. What to do? What to do? I think I’ll turn on the TV and watch my favorite opinion/news channel to reinforce the beliefs I already have - yeah, that’s the ticket.

Gotta go, I now have twelve thousand three hundred and ninety four channels of crap to wade through to find the one I want.

All the best, say hi to the gang,

De B man