Sunday, July 31, 2011

My Neighbor on Unemployment...

You might think she was on vacation.  It has been a year and her benefits have been extended another 20 weeks.  Five more months of paid holiday.  She is enjoying this time and has made great use of it.
    She has painted her entire house, got new curtains and a new dish washer.  She recently got a dog to keep her company.  I once asked her about going back to school, maybe learn a new skill, brush up on this or that.  She is just so busy that she can't find the time, she says!  Only two or three more months and she will have to start looking for work!  Well, unless her unemployment checks get extended again!
   It must be a good deal.  She makes more on unemployment than I do on Social Security!  She does have expenses that I do not have.  She has a brand new car!
   I can only think there must be a reason for this that I do not understand.
   I know there is no unemployment fund.  When I was an employer what was paid into this fund was minimal, less than $15 dollars a week.  That has to be long gone by now.  Every unemployment check is borrowed money!
   I don't think much happens in this world because it is "nice", the right think to do or even earned.
I think of our economy as one big machine that needs a lot of grease, a lot of maintenance.  Stopping this food chain at any place has a huge effect down the line.
   I suppose she buys milk and I know she buys beer with her unemployment check.  That helps support the local store, the delivery drivers, the oil industry, some more benefits for someone else, the bottle industry and lots more.  The automobile industry and bankers are happy with monthly check for her new car.
   The source of the money is not the critical thing.  It is important that it gets spent.  It is grease to this monstrous machine.
   Truthfully, I don't understand this.  I don't really understand a damned thing.
   We have lost our pride and maybe America isn't necessary anymore?  We don't make anything anymore.
Our manufacturing plants are shuttered all across the country.  The Space Shuttle is grounded and we now have to rent space from the Russians.  Cuba has a better medical system than we do.  Everything that we have worked for is being whittled away.
   Much of it is our own fault.  We did this to ourselves.  Every purchase from Walmart is a statement that we want cheap things for cheap.  We have no concept of working hard for something good.
   This is one of the reasons the art world is collapsing around us.
   We have no sense of unity at all.  We want ours and we want it now!
   I think we are rats caught in a maze.  We tear and claw at each other in our struggle to get to the top.
We subtract from the least of us because it is the easiest meal.  We destroy living wage jobs, union benefits and pensions.  We steal from Social Security and without CODA are out to destroy it.  We want to balance the budget on the backs of the poor.
   There is money out there.  There are fewer rats at the top but they have accumulated most of it.  Why there is a fear of wanting 3% of them is beyond me?
   Frankly, I think all of this gives us a bad attitude.  I think my neighbor knows she is grease in a machine.
I think she knows that any job she might get will pay less than she had.  The old job was destroyed along with the "American Dream".  She is discouraged and on vacation from it all.  Maybe we are too?

When I work, this is what I do: Here.

Saturday, July 30, 2011

Nothing Sudden...

...Or Suddenly Nothing.  One of the biggest strengths of our Government is the way they do the business
of governing.  We don't  have "coup de ta's", military huntas.  We have checks and balances, people and institutions to assure fair governance all along the way.
   Our system has never been a rule of the majority and there are systems in place to prevent a minority takeover.  Sometimes this is frustrating because it is all designed to move slowly, attempting to assure the rights and privileges of all.  Even when we get a good idea the system moves slowly.
   Now is one of those times.  Maybe we are on a good path and maybe we should be taking baby steps?
The impasse in Congress has already had some unintended consequences.  Business doesn't like it.  The Stock Market doesn't like it.  The Banks don't like it.  It is not good for the Economy.
   The "Goal" sounds good:  get out of debt.  There is a nice ring to that, but how to do it is the question?
Take any example and run through a scenario of it, see it through its consequences.
   Cut back on Medicare?  That would hurt grandpa now, me in the future, later my children and eventually everyone.  It would also put the Hospitals out of business.  For those lucky enough to have private health insurance (me!) the rates would skyrocket!  If hospitals had less income so would the doctors. And so would the pharmaceutical companies, the drug research people, the makers of medical equipment...and the janitor who cleans the hallways!
   You might think the flap of the butterfly's wing may have an effect all over the world, so would this.
   If the government shuts down don't expect your unemployment check.  If you are a Veteran, this is how we will thank you.  There will be no checks for you either.
   The Government has stolen from the Social Security Fund before and now they have discovered a painless way to destroy it.  No more CODA, no more cost of living to adjust for inflation.  This won't hurt too bad in my lifetime, doing the equivalent of cutting it back 10% or so.  It will destroy it for my kids.  That appears to be what they want to do.  If we let this happen we deserve the government we have!
   Borrowing money is not always a bad thing to do.  It is how we purchase our homes and automobiles.
What makes it especially difficult now is the Economy.  If we had good jobs this would not even be on the table for discussion.  Taxes have NEVER run the small business or large corporations out of business.
Lack of customers will do it every time.
   I would like to see the excesses of our Government curtailed or justified.  I would like to see the National Debt paid down.  I know our very worst excess, where most of the money goes, is to the Muslim World.
We take it there with our Military and spend it freely in countries we do not understand.  Countries who hate us.  We give them even more when we buy their oil.  And now to look after our Veterans who have been
hurt, the projected cost of that alone will be over a Trillion Dollars...and counting!
   If Congress was serious about saving money they would look there.
   The National Debt will never be paid off without raising Revenue.  Four Dollars a gallon for gas?  Maybe when it is $5 or $6 you will become irritated?  If you feel like sheep there is a reason.  American corporations and the wealthy have never had it so good.  You were bought for 200 pieces of silver!
The "Bush Tax Cuts" saved the average American Family less than $200 a year while saving corporations and the wealthy Millions of Dollars!  Every dollar "saved" is a dollar borrowed!
   The Bill in front of the House now wants to reduce the tax on money over $300,000 from 35% to 28%!
Yeah, that will help a lot.
   Are these people crazy?
   While they are fiddling Rome is burning.  It can get much worse.

Friday, July 29, 2011

Industrial Welding...

Is not a fun part of what I do.  I seldom do it; I have to be dragged into it and I don't enjoy it at all.
It is heavy, dirty work, tons of grinding, sparks flying everywhere.  Hot steel and laying down welds
for hours on end.  I have been doing this for three days now and the neighbors are irritated and I am
 Heavy Gates in front of my shop
   It has been all the more frustrating because these are not even my gates.  I am repairing the work of another fabricator. These are heavy farm gates and not my style at all.  The only "art" now is in just trying to do it right.  Clean up the welds, prevent water from leaking into the tubular steel and replacing the hinges with better ones.
   I am doing this all myself.  My helper is off fighting fires, out somewhere saving a forest from burning down.
   There will be a funny side to this story.  Well it is funny now, it wasn't then.  These gates weigh about 200 pounds and it is a job in itself to leverage them onto the work table.  I have set up a work area next to my little garden pool.  The weather is finally nice and the water is inviting.

 The weight of the gates!

  As I finished one side of a gate I would remove it from the table and set it next to an arbor that is just in front of the pool.

Then I heard the crash and had enough sense to just watch what was happening.  I made no effort to stop it and it was all in slow motion.  It all went tumbling down.  The weight of the gates caused the arbor to fall over.  One potted Wave Petunia and the roof of the arbor went swimming in the pool.
 Sink or Swim!
   No harm to the gates!   So, I went swimming!  It is a private backyard.  I was skinny dipping!
   All's well that ends well.  The roof is out and the gates are done!

What I really do is HERE

Thursday, July 28, 2011

We Borrow Money...

That is what we do.  To put a limit on the amount of money we as a Nation can borrow
would radically alter who we are and limit us in ways we might not like.  It has been our wealth,
or our ability to gain wealth that has made us strong and the envy of the world.  People, corporations
and institutions still want to lend us money.  It is just capped at the moment and some think we might not
want any more!
   If you could list the ten best things the United States has ever done, you might be surprised that they
were all from borrowed money!  World War II, any war actually, the "Marshall Plan" and rebuilding Europe, NASA and our explorations in space, our efforts at taking care of those that need assistance, just about everything we do is on borrowed money!  Some things are unexpected, not seen in any one's budget.
Hurricane Katrina and other natural disasters.  The terrorist attack on 9-11.  These all cost money.
   We are about to lose our triple AAA credit rating and you will see the defeat of America without firing a shot!!!  Who will respond if the world goes amok?  What will happen in a leaderless world?  We may not be perfect but because of who we are others are allowed to be.
   This is not kitchen economics here and I am ashamed at our congressmen for having no historical perspective.  What Ronald Regan did to end the Cold War, a serious time when we were taught to hide under our desks, was absolute genius.  He kept raising the stakes and drove the old Soviet Union into bankruptcy.  He raised our National Debt 18 times, kept upping the ante until they folded.  With a cap on the debt that is a card game we will never be able to play again!
   Everything, all along the way has been done with borrowed money.  Take that away from us and we will be just like Greece!
   The problem is not in borrowing the money, it is in raising the revenue to pay it back.  The money is there.
If this were kitchen table economics Grandpa has it all.  We don't burn money.  It has not been lost.  This is like a monopoly game where one player has accumulated all the real estate.  Corporations are doing very well, the best ever in the last six years.  More people are making over $200,000 a year than ever before!
These are great times for the wealthy.  And with the Bush Tax Cuts still in play these wonderful days for the rich and famous will continue.
   Our ability to borrow is what has made us strong.  Other countries too have good willed people, hard working people.  We have cash.  Or at least we did.  I would hate to see historians of the future liking our downfall to the likes of the Roman Empire or the Fall of the British Empire, the demise of any past powerful nation because we ran out of money.  We have money.  Lots of it.  More than ever before.
   There is a penalty in emphasizing science and technology in our schools.  We forget how we got here.
We lose sight of where we are going.  We no longer know who we are.  We don't know what we could be.

Wednesday, July 27, 2011

Working Harder

That is my approach to tough times, I work harder.  I haven't done much art recently, that is a luxury for me.
Some sells and some doesn't but I can't count on it.  For a retired person the most horrible thing has happened to me.  I am working...hard!  I have lots of work now, none of it is art and in better times I would reject it all.  They are just tedious, heavy, very heavy, welding jobs.
   What happens if our Government can't come to any kind of solution?  We pay them for this, right?  I wonder whether they could be fired?  for incompetence?  I wonder whether I will get my Social Security check next month?  I should.  They had a huge surplus before they stole it.  Put that money into "the General Fund" so they could spend it on something else.
   So much goes on that we don't know about and I think they like it that way.  There are issues within issues and conflicting agendas, everything is obfuscated.  We have a government just like Greece! If we were talking the philosophies of Socrates and Plato and a search for truth I would be so proud, that was the incubation of our own Democracy.  We are really talking massive Societal Failure here and a total failure in communications.  Nothing to be proud about.
   I really think every borrowed dime should be felt.  I would like to see a letter enclosed with each Social Security Check that said something to the effect, "Your Check is short xxx amount of dollars this month because of Lybia, because of the Auto Bailout, because of Katrina, the Oil Spill, or we had an expensive State Dinner last month!"  All other recipients of Federal monies would get a similar letter.  Their wages would be short too.
   A part of the problem is that we really have no clue as to what is going on or the price of anything.  We live in La La Land.  I know math.  I am pretty good at it.  I know people on unemployment who are not really hunting for work is an irritant.  I know assistance for public housing and food stamps is abused.  I also know that these are just pennies... the dollars to be saved are in the military, aid to industry, the corporate farmers,
and tax breaks to the wealthy.  Corporate income has raised 15% this year, the best showing in the last six years!  The uber-wealthy feel no effects of this depression.
   The bottom line is I do not trust our government.  I think we have elected people with no concept of anything.  I can develop an opinion based on my feelings but I don't want them to do this!  It would be like hiring school teachers based on their love of kids.  Teachers who couldn't read!
   No, I do not trust this government.  I am lucky.  As is said, "the harder I work, the luckier I get."  They can keep my August SS check, I will make it on my own.  They stole my money in the first place and are mismanaging the rest.  I don't think they have my interests in their hearts and frankly, I don't think they have a clue as to what they are doing.  No sense of consequence at all.
   I think America needs to be reinvented and I don't think I want them to be doing it.  If there is a failure I know one thing for sure.  It should come out of their check first!  I am embarrassed!

When I make art, which is not now, it can be found HERE

Sunday, July 24, 2011

One Time Too Many

   There are serious  consequences of taking life too seriously.  I have never heard the songs of Amy Winehouse but I know the screaming of her soul.  She has joined the "dead at 27 club" with the likes of Jimmy Hendrix and Janis Joplin.  "You know you got to shoot it, it makes you feel good"!
   Being famous can be a tough business  All we really know of these people is our expectations of them.
They are always on stage and some see a perverse pleasure when they trip.  Living life in the extreme is a part of our expected view.  We would be disappointed if while off stage they became regular people, maybe even lived in a regular house and worked in a garden.
   There must be a cost in being a rock star. "Take another piece of my heart"!
   Yet ending life with drugs and alcohol is a common experience.  Amy gets the headlines but a thousand people over the world died yesterday from the same escape.  Too much of a good thing, too much living.  Extreme.  The cure found in drugs and alcohol dampens the devil but clouds the vision and suppresses the spirit.  Michael Jackson just wanted to sleep.
   Her record, "Back to Black" will sell like hotcakes now.  Now we want to know who she was but I suspect she never sang that song and we will never know.  Somewhere, inside, the little girl in pain.

Thursday, July 21, 2011

Politics and Artists

Who do you want to run this country?  I have always thought that a poet would make the best astronaut,
giving us the clearest view of the stars and what is above. What we look like down here. Alone.
   The Blog World is predominately feminine, especially the art sections of this world.  More women than men.  Any man's dream!  Women are slowly raising in the ranks of the world.  The glass ceiling is cracked, broken in places and no longer existing in others.  We almost had a woman President and other countries have already done this.  Nothing "bad" happened and we learned that there is another point of view.  Another sense of what is important.
   Bankers and lawyers and corporations seem to run this country now.  They wear political hats and have agendas.  Positions of power.  I would prefer all discussions to be not in the back room, not like Mafia players around a darkened card table.  Naked and at the front of the stage would be a better thing.
   I would like to hear more women talking!  I know there is a softer side to this argument.  And a woman artist?  What could be better than that?  Someone who could make dimensional that which isn't?
   Opinions change, facts have a tendency to do that.  They clear muddy waters and allow us to see.
Instead of drawing lines and standing on one side we need someone with an eraser.  I would like to see an artist in the mix.  Maybe even a mad theater artist might be appropriate!  We could see the insanity of all of this.
   To not have an opinion is to delegate this power to someone else.  We will never find the right answer without every idea, every voice on the table.  It is called a discussion.  Then we try to find a balance, sometimes a delicate place on the scale.

I am not all politics, my art is HERE

Wednesday, July 20, 2011

Cap the National Debt

We should pay our own bills and not forever rely on borrowed money.  Okay, for now there is an immediate problem so we need a couple trillion more.  A trillion here and a trillion there, pretty soon we will be talking about real money!  But there needs to be a limit or we will keep digging and never get out of this hole.
As it stands it is as if 40% of your personal income went to the interest on your credit cards.
   The advantage of borrowed money is that we never have to think of the consequences.  There is no pain in
"doing the right thing".  We can be generous.
   On a city level this is usually voted for.  We have "Bond Elections" and can choose as a populace to go into debt to support this or that.  We vote for school improvements and Performing Art Centers and this becomes a debt against our property and raises our taxes.  Normally these bond issues are short lived for a couple of years and then we can vote again.
   On a National level we have Congress to do the voting for us, whether to borrow for this or that. The main difference is that this never raises our taxes!  There are no consequences.  It is like "free money"!  We don't even have a plan to pay it back!
   The Debt has become about $30,000 for every man, woman and child living in this country!  It is like charging $30,000 to your Visa Card with no intention of ever paying it off and not even making monthly payments!  Frankly, I would do that too if I could!
   Clearly we have made some mistakes along the way.  There is probably a misuse of funds.  Money probably could have been spent, put to a better use.
   On a personal level I would quit using my credit cards.  I would pay one off and keep it for emergency
expenses and make payments more than the minimum to the others, finding a date to be free of debt.  In addition I would discover a way to make extra income to pay down these debts even faster.  It would be better for my whole family.
   On a National level there is no difference.  We cannot carry this debt onto seven generations!
   I don't like debt and would like to pay it off fast.  There will be some pain.  It was fun to spend the money that wasn't ours.
   Sure, I would make cut backs here and there and make things more efficient but I think we are talking pennies here, like collecting bottles or finding spare change.
   Actually I would be pretty radical.  I would increase taxes for everyone, say just 1%, some token amount.
Enough that a person could feel they contributed. And, I would raise taxes 3% on money OVER $200,000
but I wouldn't stop there either.
   There is NO inheritance tax in the United States on the first MILLION DOLLARS.  None.
   I would propose a 20% inheritance tax when property is sold.  Meaning if you keep the property there would be no tax until it was sold.  Frankly, this would hurt my daughters but I am thinking the National Debt might hurt them more in the long run.  It is hurting us now.  40% of all taxes collected goes to interest on the loan.  That just has to stop.
   There might be other ways.  I have read that a National Sales Tax or "Value Added Tax" to replace our income tax would solve a lot of problems and increase revenues.  There are so many loopholes to the income tax a lot of people do not pay their fair share.
   I don't want our representatives sitting around a table like Mafia Dons in a back card room.  I would prefer more honesty, a more open forum for discussion.

I am not always political, my Art is Here!

Tuesday, July 19, 2011

More Political Crap...

   If the economy were bustling we wouldn't be having the National Debt Discussion.  We have an official unemployment rate of close to 10% and an unofficial one of closer to 20%.  Many people have jobs beneath their skill levels, working for less than they are used to.
   It would be easy to turn this post into a comedy and put the entire blame for our National Debt upon these people.  The unemployed are not paying taxes and that is the problem!
   It is all a vicious circle.  The farther down one is, the more beaten and desperate, the less you have to spend.  American business is being hurt because they do not have enough customers.
   We can not turn back the clock and return to five cent coffees and 10 cent telephone booths.  We have never really been in this position before, not this bad, not this long.  Congress seems to have its own agenda and has no sight, no feel of consequence, no real understanding of economics or how money works.
   Sometimes I wish they were made up of more average people, more similar to the Americans they are supposed to represent.  When they made a law it would also apply to them.  For instance, if 40% of Americans have good health insurance, well then, 40% of our congressmen could have good health insurance.  As they discovered a method of increasing this percentage maybe to include all Citizens, then they too could have what we have.  How about unemployment between sessions of Congress?  Not working?  don't get paid!  That is what we do.  I think a gymnasium in a workplace, like our Congress has, is an excellent idea... if every workplace had one!
   They have lost total touch with Reality and don't know the price of a loaf of bread!  They don't represent me.  They have absolutely no clue about Economics.  You do not improve a situation by making less money available and that is all there is to that!
   "Hell-o! is anyone there?"  Is anyone discussing the option of generating more money?  Making something more efficient?  Maybe keeping more of our money here at home, not sent overseas and not stock piled into off shore bank accounts?  Somehow spread out a little more equitably so it could be spent?
Every time money changes hands it is taxed.  Every time it is stock piled it remains stagnant, safe, secure, off
shore and not taxed.  When it is invested in China we build up their economy.
   It sounds so altruistic to cut back.  In the laws of economics it is absolutely the wrong thing to do.  It is really simple:  more begets more and less begets less.  Our situation can get much worse.
   The idea of borrowing and putting a debt on our children, and now grandchildren is of course repugnant.
Sometimes borrowing can be profitable.  Businesses do it all the time.  We do it for major purchases, for a house or car and in our country for medical requirements.  There is always a risk.  That gets put into the equation.  It is all mathematics.  Some things we borrow for generate wealth and other things go down the drain.
   "Hell-o! is anybody there?"  I want some answers.  Our little skirmish in Lybia caused France to run out of ammunition after three days!  I wonder what their military budget is?  I know what ours is.  We have the largest in the world, more than all other countries combined!  Okay, I am not here saying this is good or bad.  I am just wondering what we are getting for our money?  Is it creating more jobs, more wealth? or is this money down the drain?  Money that might be better spent here, or money that shouldn't be borrowed in the first place?
   I don't know.  The older I get the less I know.  I know I am being lied to by both political parties.  I know they are playing with me.  They are both appealing to my emotions and neither think I am capable of making a decision based on the facts, just the pure science of economics and a sense of fair play.
   What I do think is that Congress should be a part time job, half a year at most.  The other half they should get a real job.  An "average job" for an average wage.  They should work hard and live off their wages.  Just like we do.

Sunday, July 17, 2011

Controversial Weather

Of course we can't talk politics and I seldom discuss religion but until now "the weather" has always been a safe subject.  Something strange is happening.  It is interesting how we have lost the ability that our ancestors
had, predicting the weather and developing a sense of causation.
   It is raining now and it rained all day yesterday.  It never rains in July in Oregon.  It is camping season and if the sprinklers are not set on automatic the garden should go dry.  There is still snow in the mountains, 200% of "normal" but it is difficult to figure out what normal means any more.  We have had only two days over eighty degrees.  It is an "unseasonably" cold Spring and early Summer, much like last year.  Pretty much exactly like last year.  A new standard.  The weather is changing and it is strange.
   The garden knows it.  My corn is not yet "knee high" and two tomato plants have the color of Fall already.
Only the broccoli and cauliflower like this weather.  I wish I had planted potatoes.
   Other parts of the country are having strange weather too, a little hotter maybe, unusual dust storms, hail storms like snow.
   I sometimes wonder whether the Earth can't tell us or we can't listen.  Something is happening here.
Maybe like talking to a deaf person the Earth will shout.

You can always visit me HERE.

Saturday, July 16, 2011

My Ditch

I have decided to tell you a bit more about my ditch and in a way, offer a eulogy to the raccoon that met his death there.
   I bought this property in 1978 for $8,375 dollars.  Even then people wanted flat land, flat properties, nicely cut grass, well manicured lawns, plastic.  One house looking like the next, an assurance in sameness.
   There is a ditch that runs through this town, part of the storm drainage system dating back well over one hundred years.  Before they built the damns it contained year around water and could be fished.
   Mine was not a particularly pretty property.  The ditch ran almost exactly diagonally through it putting a very little house on one side and an open field on the other.  The field and the ditch were dry and barren, suffering years of neglect as an unattended dumping ground.  The soil was horrible and could barely grow grass.  Not a single tree was on this property, nothing alive.
   One of the first things I did was to dig a well, a miraculous process I still do not understand.  Free water from the earth.  That changed everything.  Over the years I have added tons of organic materials, leaves, grass clippings, chipped up bark, cow manures and sand in an effort to build up this soil and allow it to sustain life.
 A bench on the edge of the ditch
   Today it is a green, green, green paradise.  Millions of flowers, lots of trees, my organic vegetable plot and the ditch which is now a veritable jungle of growth.
   Both ends of this ditch are fenced with the intention of keeping my dog in and both sections contain escapements, holes big enough for the possums and raccoons to pass through with ease.

 My ditch, trees, bridge
    My ditch has become a paradise for wildlife and is home to lots of animals.  I have created safe areas where they can raise their families, secure where my dog has no entry.  I have seen raccoons drink from my garden pool and steal an occasional strawberry.  There is lots for everyone.
    I am thinking the raccoon had a good life and I am sorry that its end was violent.  I am thinking he might have been old.  He was very big, a little too slow for sure.  Nature is violent with earthquakes and tsunamis,
fires and sudden deaths.  Maybe my paradise ditch contained too many creatures?  I don't know.
   I know there will be others, lots more.  They like it here.

Friday, July 15, 2011

It must have been funny!

My wife gets home from her shift at the Hospital about 12:15am.  I am always sound asleep.  I never hear her because it is all routine.  She lets the dog out into our fenced backyard and he prowls our property hunting for intruders and sniffing.  He loves the ditch that diagonals the property and has worn a path along its bottom.
   Last night I was awakened to blood curdling screams!
   "Tuxedo" is not exactly a lap dog although at times he thinks he is.  Weighing in at a 128 pounds he is a big fellow.  He comes from a questionable background and is a proud mix of rottweiler, mastiff and pit bull. He can be the world's gentlest dog but I have seen him kill a nutria in less than two seconds.  He has crushing jaws and can bite through a bone the size of a wrist with ease.
   My yard is fenced and cross fenced, sort of a maze of ornamental iron creations, gates and various fence sections displaying the possibilities of style.  The end of the ditch at the back of my property was a fencing challenge and it is not pretty.  Water sometimes runs through this ditch almost like a flash flood causing debris to pile up against it and creating the perfect environment for wild blackberries.  It is a thicket of wire and berry vines.
   The raccoon and my dog were on the other side battling it out!  The raccoon from the tip of its nose to the end of its tail was about four feet long.  It was a screaming, yelling, frantic fight.  The blood curdling yells that awoke me were from my wife.  I knew something was very wrong.
   I have mentioned before the neuropathy in my hands and feet and this is part of this story.  The funny part.
   I lept out of bed fully alert but not awake and put my moccasins on, what I use for slippers.  I had the sense to grab my robe but the screaming was louder now and I ran down the stairs carrying the robe with me.
   The neuropathy in my hands does not allow me to feel anything.  Everything I touch feels as though I am putting my fingers in a light socket or stirring a bucket full of cut glass in my bare hands.  Somewhere I dropped the robe and didn't even know it.  My feet are never painful but are pretty numb.  All this neuropathy was from the collateral damage from the chemo-therapy that cured me of cancer!
   I sleep in my underware and arrived like that, without shoes or slippers or robe at the back of my property.
My wife is screaming at my dog on the other side of the fence battling it out with the raccoon and he is putting up a fight!  Through the beam of the flashlight I see my dog has wounds on his face but his only reaction was to look at me as if to say, "look what I have found"!
   I don't know yet how I did it, it is still dark outside and my dog is safetly in the house and the raccoon is dead, but somehow in my underware I managed to get through that tangle of wire and berry vines and by the time I did the battle was over, "Tuxedo" the proud winner.
   I couldn't get back with the dog the way I crossed that fence so we walked around the block.  My dog and me in my underware!  He has battle scars now but I don't think they are serious.  When it gets light I will check him out and we can tell each other stories, men to men, like guys do.
   I was sort of amazed that no one called the police.  I was rehearsing what I might say.
   "Good Evening Officer", I would begin with that...

Tuesday, July 12, 2011

It was white before it was red...

A part of the problem might be that I have never slept at a Holiday Inn.  I have absolutely no idea what I am doing.  I can do the welding all right.  The frame is dead flat, truly square and the strength of steel.  The canvas has the sound of a drum.
   Thanks to many of you who have helped me identify my new found pile of brushes I am learning which is what.  I carefully chose six brushes from the bucket containing 230 of them.
   Knowing and courage to act are two different things.  I had nothing in mind, no landscape or flower or object to paint.  Nothing in front of me.  Just brushes and paint and a tightly stretched canvas.
   I opted for acrylics simply because they are easier to clean up.  They dry fast and suit my impetuous nature. I can be quick about it.
   I don't have a color chart or color wheel or whatever they are called and am not sure how they are used.
I am not a student of this art.  My entire life experience looking at paintings, the time spent in museums and art galleries could be consolidated into one lazy afternoon.  I am far more interested in the history of an artist, what is going through his brain, his aches and pains, joys and sorrows, than I am in his end production.
What kinds of things cause art to be produced?
   I think for me it is just a challenge.  Like elephant shooting in Africa or climbing tall mountains, running marathons.  I want to know whether I can do it.
   I know I can't draw within the lines, never have been able to.  I don't see that way.  I know color has weight.  I know that shapes can control the direction of a painting, what is up and what is down.  I know that the eye wants focus.  We search for a beginning and an end in a painting.  We want it to be like a story.
We have a tendency to read a painting from left to right and I wonder whether the Chinese read them from right to left?  And there is always a spot, a place of hesitation where we linger.  Depth maybe.  We want to be drawn into a painting.
   I have decided that paintings grow.  Some of it is consequential.  Enough even that I wonder whether there are any accidents to  painting?  Maybe a first one, some kind of mistake that once present demands another for balance?  A Pollack "drip" demands another?  for balance? for weight?  for proof of intention?
   My canvas, my 150 foot roll is tent making material, tightly woven, waterproof, a military dark green, almost black.  Stretched like a buffalo hide on a metal rack I began by gessoing it white. One good thick coat and the weave of the canvas disappeared,  offering me a tied down captive smooth surface to play with.
It is not finished.  It will never be finished.  It has become an experiment, my canvas of ideas.  It has become the stretching and exercising one does before the Marathon.  It is practice.  Discovery.
    So like a mad chef in a dirty cafe I added essence of this and that, maybe tossing too much into a bowl
giving a new meaning to "my cup runnith over".  Yes, I spilled paint everywhere!  I am thinking this is like a cake and needs frosting?  My intention was to create a background.  I have not yet begun the painting.
   You do not have to be polite.  Nice legs!  or you could say, it sure is big!
 two and a half feet by five feet
   It does have a quality that is found in all abstract paintings.  It looks like a canvas where I cleaned my brushes out!
  Oh I will do another one and this one again.  I am not discouraged yet.  I have a lot more paint, brushes I haven't tried and a whole roll of canvas!

More stuff is HERE

Saturday, July 9, 2011

Now What do I do?

I have begun and I will start at the very beginning.  Or maybe I should begin with what I am doing now?
I realize in looking back and forth through these Blogs that eventually you will know everything and there will be nothing left to tell.  What I did or didn't do will become of no importance, only what I will do for the rest of the day and might do tomorrow.  Tomorrow is a gift I won't ruin with anticipation nor commitment, not even obligation.  I don't know what I will do tomorrow and I like it that way.
 On a Welder's Table
   For now I have begun.  I will be a painter today and wear that hat.  My canvas is stretched and framed and gessoed.  It is 30" X 60" on a one inch tubular steel frame because that is what I had.
   It sits on my welding table surrounded by steel, saws and grinders. It looks out of place.
   I am going to try out my new paint brushes.  I chose six from the pile of 230 that I found in the garage sale.
This will be fun.  Every other painting that I have done was accomplished with one brush and maybe some piece of junk found on the shop floor to push the paint around or blotch it here and there. Today will be different.  We shall see.
My earlier paintings can be found HERE

Thursday, July 7, 2011

230 Brushes!

I am not really a painter, I am a welder. A welder who plays with paint.  I have never had the proper tools to be a painting artist. I paint with house brushes, whatever I can find.  Moving paint around with bits of steel from the shop floor.  I mostly paint on steel or sheets of copper because that is what I can find in my shop.  I paint on inappropriate surfaces.
   Yesterday I went garage sailing out of boredom and felt like a bumble bee flittering from flower to flower,
one sale after the other, hunting for nothing in particular.  Just looking.
 paints and brushes from garage sale
   Mostly it was just junk.  Years of accumulation, some broken and some still in boxes, never opened. I have never really understood garage sales.  Everything, a whole life, put out on tables for the public to peruse, grapple over and barter with, a rummage sale.  Junk for sale and pieces of history, stuff that once was important to you.
  I stumbled upon a great find, serendipity, finding something you were not looking for.  Who could know what mysterious forces would drive me there?  To a garage sale with no sign.  Not even open.  Still organizing table after table, to be officially open to the public not until tomorrow!  I was two days early.
   Lucky me, you won't believe what I found.  A big box of brushes!  230 of them, some never used and all well cared for.
Exotic and plain brushes.  Imported brushes with fine handles.
Skillfully made from the hair of wild animals and modern brushes from from nylon zoos.  Some really old brushes.  The lady selling her stuff was 82 years old and some of the brushes belonged to her mother!
 Just a handful of the pile I found!
   And there must have been a hundred tubes of paint!  Not so old, soft and pliable still with well sealed caps.  And palette knives and tools of the trade I have yet to discover.
   Did I mention the canvas?  A starving artist's dream!  Three feet wide and almost 150 feet long, an entire roll of canvas weighing over 150 pounds.  I could barely get it into my truck.
 Bucket of paint brushes!
   And then I found the bucket.  It is a tool bucket and I already own two or three of them but they are for tools, pliers, screwdrivers, wrenches, chisels, that sort of thing.  Little compartments to organize.  For now it is perfect for my brushes.  They are upright and safe.
   Well, you must be curious as to what this costs?
$100. for everything.  Now the only excuse will be me.

My art site is HERE.

Monday, July 4, 2011

Flowers for You!

My Garden Entry
Have a Safe and Fun 4th of July!

Sunday, July 3, 2011

No Gangs in My Town

   There are no parks where you might get beaten up, no places you can't go.
   It is interesting how our lives are insulated and we can't really experience what another might know.
Even the constellations are upside down on the other side of the world.
   I have visited big cities, London, Paris, New York and others but I don't really have the experience of
living in a big city.  I have seen the countryside, been around cows but I have never milked one.  I don't really have any experience with a rural life.  When I see beautiful open fields of wheat I never think that it needs to be cut and baled and put in the barn.  I can see the beauty to it without getting dirty and tired, without dealing with the work of it.
   I can only see from a distance what you might see close up.
   "Empathy" is an attempt to see the world from another direction, to place me in you, to see through your eyes, an effort to experience another.  It is not the same of course.  It never leaves a scar, no bruises.
   Art is an effort to see the world in a different way. To find sense in the nonsensical.  Beauty in a junkyard.
 One of many, alone.

More of me HERE

Saturday, July 2, 2011

The Art in a Tomato

 This is from last year but I am hoping that this year will be better!
As many of you know my first love is my garden.  I have a million flowers in my garden but what I am really after is "the perfect tomato"!  There is nothing better than a home grown, sun rippened tomato, just picked off the vine.
   I grow mostly heirloom varieties and start them all from seed.  It never fails to amaze me that from one tiny seed, well nourished and taken care of, so many tomatoes can be picked!
 Be nice and talk to them!
   There are tricks to getting that perfect tomato.  They love to be transplanted and while still young I will do this several times, always into bigger pots and each time deeper and deeper.  All the little hairs along the stems will become roots and that is a key to growing great tomatoes.  The final planting into the garden I will bury half the plant into the ground.  The deeper the better.
   Tomatoes will develop a lot of side shoots, little suckers than need to be clipped off giving more strength to the main vine.  Heirlooms will get tall, over seven feet tall if they are supported and I have ornamental iron all over my garden, very strong supports indeed!
    My garden is organic, pesticide and herbacide free and I don't use chemical fertilizers which is sort of like meth for plants.  I add lime every year to get a proper balance in the ph of the soil.  Organic soils are almost always a little on the acid side.  I also add bone meal, blood meal (tomatoes are carnivors!), kelp meal, coffee grounds and egg shells and most anything else I can find at a reasonable price.  Forty years in the same place creates wonderful soil.
 About to go into the dryer!
   Don't let the soil dry out.  Only two things will cause a tomato to split, not enough calcium in the soil and allowing the soil to dry out between waterings.  That is confusing to the plant.  Without water the tomato thinks the season is over and it will stop its effort at growing and turn to rippening instead.  Then, if you add water, it will begin to grow again and that will cause the splitting.  I keep the soil evenly damp until towards th end of the season when I stop watering altogether.

Two years ago it was the perfect season!  I dry more tomatoes than I preserve in jars and I sent them as gifts all over the world.
Keep your fingers crossed, maybe this year you will get some!
More of my garden is HERE

Friday, July 1, 2011

Happy July 4th!

Happy 4th of July!  Nine out of ten American Flags are made in China!!! and
                              Nine out of ten fireworks (yes, we still make them) are made in China!!! and

                              there is no longer such a thing as an "American Hamburger".  The average one
                              pound package of hamburger contains the DNA of over 400 cows from all over
                              the world...none local.

                              I wonder what it would take, maybe as a sign of patriotism, to take just one day
                              in a year, maybe even July 4th, our birthday, and only "Buy American"?

                             Think of all the stuff you couldn't buy?  Walmart would close.  McDonald's
                             would close.  You couldn't even buy a paint brush!  You couldn't even sit at
                             home and watch television!  If you could find a real book, the old fashioned kind
                             with pages and the smell of a book, maybe you could do that, but no electronic
                             books.  We don't make those!

                            "Lil' Abner" (google that for fun!) got it right! "We have met the enemy and he is us!"

                             Happy 4th of July!  It is our birthday!