Sunday, November 25, 2018

Calentamiento Global

Here's painting number three.  It's fairly large -  for me -- 18' x 24".

I guess global warming has been on my mind.  Here's a little story to go with it.


Carl was reviewing his notes for tomorrow’s lecture.                               

This stuff is so stale and dry.  How do I make it come alive to my students?  How do I make it real, and believable?  After all, it really happened.  Flesh and blood humans -- no different -- from us believed and, worse, acted on their beliefs.  No matter how implausible it sounds, it was real.

And with these thoughts he hatched his plan.

“Hey Jackie.  Do you have a minute?”
“What for?”

“I want to run something by you.”

“Does it have to be now?”

“I’d like it to be, I’m trying to get something ready for class tomorrow.”

“Do I have to come there?”

“Yes.  I haven’t printed it out but have it up on my desktop screen.”

Jackie, slowly and begrudgingly, made her way to Carl’s office.

“OK, let me read this to you and tell me what you think. 

I believe I’m stronger than nature, the earth and the universe.  Whatever makes more money, power and praise for me is good.  The earth will yield to my wishes and commands.  I believe we can pollute our way to prosperity. 

I believe that whatever I say, do, or think is true – even if it’s the opposite of something I said, did or thought a minute ago or the opposite of something I will say, do or think a minute from now.  If I said it, did it or thought it, it’s true.

I believe I have infinite wisdom and do not have anything to learn from history, science, books or from anyone past, present or future.   I’m divinely inspired.

I believe my followers will always believe me no matter what happens.”

Jackie laughed.

“It’s not supposed to be funny.  Sound like anyone you know?”

“Not really.   What’s the point?

“Well about 100 years ago, early in the 21st century, there was a one-term president who may not have said this, but certainly lived by these rules.  And he convinced almost 63 million people to elect him."

“That sounds far-fetched.  But why are you going to share this with you students?”

“Well, as implausible as it sounds, this really happened.  And we are paying the price for it today.  We shouldn’t forget.”

Monday, Carl arrived early dressed in an early 21st century suit covering a padded belly.  His necktie was red and tied so that it hung below his crotch.  As the students arrived, they knew something was up. 

Where does anyone get clothes like that today?  In a museum?

As the class began, Carl began to read:

“I believe…”

Someone in the class let out a giggle.  As Carl read the second paragraph, someone snorted, and belly laughter erupted nearly drowning out the last line.

As the commotion died down, a brave hand was raised.

“Teacher, what are we to take from this?  Is it a joke?  Will it be on the test?

“It’s no joke.  People actually thought and acted this way early in the last century.”

“But teacher everyone knows that these beliefs are wrong.”

“Well you’re right … we do have a different set of beliefs and values.  In general, polls show that 80% of us hold the following beliefs as values:

·         I believe in the collective wisdom of my fellow citizens.

·         I believe good will prevail.

·         I believe in the creativity, advancement and progress of humankind.

But beliefs are not the same as facts.  Beliefs can only be tested with evidence, experience and time.  Ultimately, truth will prevail regardless of what we believe.” 

“But teacher, how is this relevant for present day life on Enceladus?”

“It’s just this…the story of life on Earth is not a myth.   For a couple of million years the planet was habitable and for 10,000 years it was a paradise for human habitation.    Now, we know that Earth has lost its water, lost its atmosphere and can no longer support life of any kind, much less human life.  Humanity there just woke up too late.  Our ancestors were to be the vanguard of new civilizations as the planet died.  And they were.  Unfortunately, we 800 living on Enceladus are the only ones left.  Seven billion of our kind perished as Earth became too hot and died as a habitable home.”

With that, the students of Plymouth II middle school went quiet.  There was nothing left to do but don the protective gear and quietly exit through the airlock to the next class.

Saturday, November 24, 2018

Semi-Annual Post

Looking at this, I see that I last posted in July.   So here's the first of two posts to show that I haven't completely abandoned the site.

I'm still painting, but a torn rotator cuff, torn bicep, surgery and recovery have slowed me down...not that I ever plan to do more than four or five paintings in a year.  Where would I put them, after all?

Anyway here are two of the three latest.

The first one is a still life -- "Breakfast."

The second -- "Permeability" -- is a figure (guess who) reflected in the sliding glass door of his study.  Missing is the glass of wine that made the artist think this would make an interesting painting.

Finally, the next post will show "Calentamiento Global" along with a little story.

Stay tuned.

Sunday, July 8, 2018

A 300 Year Flashback

In Great Lives, by William Jay Jacobs, one of the biographies is of John Peter Zenger (1697 – 1746) – “Printer whose trial for libel helped establish the principle of free press in America”.  The below is quoted and paraphrased from this biography.

Zenger was being tried for publishing unfavorable articles about William Cosby – a greedy, arrogant, ill-tempered, autocratic governor of the colony of New York.   You can read about just how bad he was in this short biography. 

The striking thing is not just the courage of Zenger who continued publishing despite being jailed, “not allowed pen, ink or paper” by communicating instructions to his wife and servants through the hole in the prison door, but the trial and the defense by Andrew Hamilton who was nearly 80 years old at time.

Zenger was charged with:

false News and seditions Libels” intended “wickedly and maliciously” to “scandalize and vilify His Excellency, the Governor…,” thus stirring the people to revolt from the government.

Hamilton argued that it is the government’s responsibility to prove what was published was false to reach a conviction for libel.  Here in part is Hamilton’s speech to the jury quoted from the book.

…the suppression of Evidence ought always to be taken for the strongest Evidence…If a person in government…can simply charge a person with lying and not have to prove it was a lie, any coward can cut down and destroy the innocent.  Must people be silent in the face of wicked ruler?

It sounds eerily contemporary to me.

Hamilton went on to argue that “the right of a person to complain against government is a Natural Right” – words that showed up in the Declaration of Independence about 40 years later.

The jury, despite all the obstacles of the trial, found for Zenger and thus established the freedom of the press and the liberties we enjoy today.  
After almost 300 years of enjoyment, let’s not let them go lightly.

Monday, April 16, 2018

Paintings Sold

Marcia says this is blog-worthy.  I'm not sure it is, but since I haven't done a blog entry in ten months, I thought I'd follow through with one.

Living in an apartment has one aspect that's both an advantage and a disadvantage.  It's space-limited.  The good thing is that you can't accumulate too much stuff.  The bad thing is that, if you like to paint, you run out of wall and storage space.  I don't paint a lot, but I had five paintings leaning against the wall and leaning against each other on the top of my six-foot tall bookshelf.

Since amateur paintings are not exactly a scarcity, the dilemma was how to give them new homes and make space for the future.  I hit on the idea of donating one of them to our church auction:

For Auction: Choice of (1) Original Oil Painting 

As luck would have it, my lot was the first up for bid.  I doubted that anyone would bid, and thought, absent me paying someone to take one home, I'd be bringing all five paintings back to their resting place. 

To my amazement, three of the five paintings went to new homes!

Wild Lake Spring: 16" x 20"

Three State Overlook No. 1: 24" x 20"

Three State Overlook No. 2: 20" x 16"

The bidding was for the choice of one of five paintings.  It topped out at $55 -- almost paying for the canvas.  It turns out that each bidder was bidding for different painting, so I was able to give the above three paintings new homes.

The remaining two paintings came back to their resting place on the top of my bookshelf.

Wild Lake Sunset: 12" x 12"

Glass in Sunlight: 16" x 16"

I've now sold two more paintings than Van Gogh sold in his lifetime!  But that's not the point.  The point is that someone actually liked one of my paintings enough to hang it on one of their walls.  That's encouraging.

And now for a little diversion.  I'm trying to learn to speak Spanish.  My latest venture is to write a little Spanish daily.  So here's another version of the above...escrito en malo, probablemente, español.

El sábado pasado, tenemos nuestra subasta anual de la iglesia.  Mi contribución fue una elección de una de las cinco pinturas.   Tenía miedo y preocupado que a nadie interesará y a nadie ofrecerá nada por esta ofrenda.  Además, la ofrenda de mío fue ¡el primero lote de la subasta!  Tenía muy nerviosa.  ¡Penaba que podría tener que ofrecer para pagar a la gente para a tomar una pintura!  
¡Sorprendentemente, la gente puja por el lote!  ¡Estaba asombrado que cualquiera estaba interesado y dispuesto a paga!  ¡Aún más sorprendente, fue tres pinturas fueron vendidas!
Aunque cada pintura fue comprada para $55, estoy feliz de que cualquiera querría tener una de mis pinturas colgando en su casa.
Antes esta subasta, estoy preocupado sobre la acumulación de las pinturas sobre mi estante.  Pero ahora está contendido a tener tres o cuatro pinturas ahí.  Necesito encontrar una manera de mantener mi inventario a ese nivel y vender pinturas económicamente a buenos hogares.
OK.  That's out of my system.
So, finally, I've done two more landscapes over the last few months.  They're from photos taken on our trip to Scotland last Fall.  Here they are: 
Urquhart at Lock Ness:  20" x 16"

View from Schehallion Munro: 18" x 14"

They are resting comfortably on top of the bookshelf with the two old friends brought home from the auction.

Wednesday, July 26, 2017

A Glass of Wine and Sun

Here's the latest painting.  It's bread and wine, but  there's no religious significance.

What started it is the observation of the cool pattern that sunlight makes shining through a glass of wine.  I observed that first at a restaurant with a sky lights (and later in someone else's painting hanging in another restaurant) and wanted to give a try to capturing that.

The bread and basket were added because that's what I could scour up around the house.  I had to keep the bread in the freezer for the last month or so and the wine was from a bottle that was only suited to be painted -- not drunk!

Anyway here's the finished (well, abandoned) product.

Friday, July 21, 2017

Big History

I’m a fan of history, but not just the recent history of the last 5,000 years since humans learned how to write, but also of what happened in the 95,000 to 195,000 years of Homo sapiens existence before that.  And what about the 1,000,000 to 1,600,000 year history of our Homo erectus ancestors’ migration from Africa?

I didn’t know it but there’s a name for this type of history – big history.  But big history doesn’t just trifle with the last 2,000,000 years.  "Big History,From the Big Bang to the Present,” author: Cynthia Stokes Brown (no relation), copyright 2007, takes us back to what’s known about the beginnings of the universe.  She covers the first 13 billion years in 71 pages before we even get to early agriculture beginning around 8,000 BC as a precursor to the start of early cities around 3,500 BC.

Of course, as time goes on we know more about what has happened, but it’s a real mistake to think that humans (or even any kind of life is anything but Johnny come lately.

I’ve seen these kinds of projections before but here are some excerpts from a table cited in chapter 3 compressing the creation of the universe into 13 years (Source: David Christian, “World History in Context,” Journal of Would History, December 2002, 440.). 

“If the universe had begun 13 years ago,” we would see the following milestones in history: 

·         Existence of Earth – last 5 years
·         Many celled organism – last 7 months
·         Asteroids that killed off dinosaurs – 3 days ago
·         Emergence of Homo sapiens – 53 minutes ago
·         The entire history of civilization began – 3 minutes ago
·         Modern industrial societies began – last 6 seconds
Later in the last six seconds, the book ends with a discussion of human “experiment with Earth.”  It put forth some not so happy scenarios regarding population growth and resource utilization.

Reading the book reinforces to me the miracle and fragility of human existence.  It reminds me that we largely live our lives out of context with what has come before.  We assume that all the progress of the last 6 six seconds is normal, has been here all along and is guaranteed to continue indefinitely – none of which is true.  We abuse our only planet when we have no viable alternative home and bicker with each other about politics, money, power, religion and other trivial matters instead of working together to address existential matters for our species and its survival.

Here’s hoping that we can somehow come together and get our act together before it’s too late.

An interesting factoid among many mentioned in the book is that consumption of sugar in Europe went up from 4 pounds per capita in 1700 to 18 pounds per capita in the early 1800s.  That’s quite a change in an instant of time.  But consider that in the US, we now consume more than 125 pounds of sugar per capita.  Hmm…think there’s a connection to our obesity crisis?

Monday, June 26, 2017

The Miracle We Exist

I just finished Neil DeGrasse Tyson’s new book “Astrophysics for People in a Hurry.”  With my limited knowledge of science, I can’t say I followed it all, but a couple of things jumped out at me. 

First in discussing the composition of the universe, he notes visible matter (all the planets, stars and galaxies) account for no more than 5% of the mass.  The other 95% is composed of dark energy (68%) and dark matter (27%).  In discussing dark matter – which we know nothing about – he says one possible explanation is it:

“…could be just one of an infinite assortment of universes that comprise the multiverse.  Sounds exotic and unbelievable.  But is it any more crazy than the first suggestion that that the Earth orbits the Sun?  That the Sun is one of a hundred-billion stars in the Milky Way?  Or that the Milky Way is but one of a hundred galaxies in the universe?” (Page 89).

It’s mind-bending and awe-inspiring to contemplate the known size of our universe, much less what came before it 14 billion years ago when it was “contained in a volume less than one-trillionth the size of the period that ends this sentence.”   And what could lie beyond our universe?

What would happen if humans stopped to think about our miracle of existence?  How would it shape our interactions with each other and with our planet?  I think we would be profoundly different. 

But how do we get the word out?  That’s the challenge.