Archive for March, 2019

My pro basketball experience

March 31, 2019

This pic of me at the game didn’t come out so good

Last Sunday we went to Boston for a Celtics game. I’m no sports fan. In fact, the last pro sports event I attended was a Dodgers baseball game. When they were still in Brooklyn (and Ike was president).

But my wife is a basketball aficionado, and we’ve been hosting a gal from Somaliland who plays it in high school. So I went with them.

 

I really enjoyed the fan-cam and people’s reactions seeing themselves on the jumbotron. Most didn’t immediately realize they were having their fifteen nanoseconds of fame. A few never did, eyes glued to their phones. Most did exuberant dancing and arm-waving. One woman grabbed her husband’s head and kissed him on the lips. But I thought the most romantic one was the gal holding up a sign saying, “Marcus Smart will you marry me?” — until (silly me) I learned Smart is a Celtics player, not (presumably) her inamorata.

The game itself was less entertaining. Very much the same thing repeated over and over. Speaking of repetition, the jumbotron kept showing the word “DEFENSE” in giant block letters crashing down and crushing a bunch of what appeared to be pick-up sticks. And the crowd would duly pick up the chant, “DEFENSE! DEFENSE!” I waited, in vain, for a little offense; especially as the Celtics’ defense was being crushed by the San Antonio Spurs.

 

They lost 486 to 9. Or something like that.

Wrong

I am no basketball expert. Yet I could have advised one thing to improve their score: doing free throws underhand (“granny style”) rather than overhead. Studies have in fact been done, and it’s proven that the former gives a higher success rate. Yet players universally ignore this. Why? They think it looks girly, not macho. So Vince Lombardi was actually wrong — winning isn’t the only thing.

 

Anyhow, some fans were deflated by the Celtics’ drubbing. Some even left early, in disgust, or perhaps to avoid the traffic crush. But most seemed to have a good time nevertheless. Even sports nuts ultimately understand that these games are Not Really Truly Important. They’re harmless. At least we no longer gather in stadiums to watch combatants literally kill each other. And at least these Celtics fans wore green hats, not red ones, and their chants weren’t hateful.

And I achieved my own personal goal for the evening: home and snug in bed by 1:30 AM.

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Witch hunt politics

March 28, 2019

Now the backlash. Accusing the accusers. Trump calling them “evil” and “treasonous.” Retribution time. A real witch-hunt. David Brooks says Adam Schiff, John Brennan, and other Democrats should apologize for “grievous accusations against the President that are not supported by the evidence.” (He also says Trumpeters should apologize for undermining America’s institutions. Fat chance; they’re drunk with triumph, which Brooks feeds.)

His headline is “We’ve all made fools of ourselves.” Not so. Trump makes fools of us (especially of his supporters).

I’m not apologizing. He has not been “exonerated.” If Trump and company did not “collude” they certainly connived with Russia’s attack on our democracy. And lied about it. If Trump can’t quite be nailed for obstruction of justice, he certainly tried hard to wreck the investigation; smearing the investigators with lies; firing the FBI Director and Attorney General in that effort. His tearing down our intelligence and law enforcement institutions did immense harm. And he refused to stand up for America against Russia’s attack, kissing Putin’s posterior in Helsinki. None of this was a “hoax;” its stench not washed off by Mueller.

But Brooks does make a trenchant point. Stepping back for a larger perspective, he says, “Watergate introduced a poison into the American body politic” — what Bill Clinton called “the politics of personal destruction” — rather than principled discourse. Now “you don’t need to do the hard work of persuading people to join your side.” You just aim to bring them down with scandal. (Republicans also try to block them from voting.)

While “[t]he nation’s underlying divides are still ideological,” Brooks writes, “we rarely fight them honestly as philosophical differences.” Instead of seriously debating opponents we demonize them as evil. They counter with, “No, you’re evil.”

So Hillary in 2016 was not attacked for her policy positions; Republicans smeared her character. Now we have a president whose character flaws and record of corruption are so incandescent they define our political situation. And how do many Republicans respond? “Hillary, Hillary, Hillary!”

In comparison it makes Animal House’s food fight seem like the Oxford Union debating society. But this is understandable. So much easier to convince yourself you’re up against rotten people than to grapple with the difficult complexities of actual economic, social, or international policy issues.

Am I guilty myself? Actually, I’ve devoted thousands of words to analyzing and critiquing the nitty gritty of Trump administration policies. Explaining my substantive disagreements, like with trade policy, tax policy, immigration, etc. True, I have also shredded his character and behavior (and that of his Republican handmaids). Because that goes to the heart of America’s Trumpian degradation — with huge repercussions for the quality of life of people worldwide.

Even Trump supporters ought to see how awful it is that, just when America was already mired in bitter partisan divisiveness, along comes a president whose actual unarguable moral delinquencies are off the charts. Considering how bad things were already, electing such a man was just asking for it. I was no fan of Obama, but given the venom heaped upon someone of such great personal integrity, what could we expect with a president of zero personal integrity?

And Brooks says “[t]he scandal culture hasn’t ultimately helped one party over the other. It’s just spread a corrosive cynicism that has disabled government altogether.” Recriminations over the Mueller/Russia story will afflict us for a very long time. Another rallying cry for each side. Each will think the other despicable. More poison making American politics — our civic culture — even more badly broken.

How to fix this brokenness should be the key issue for 2020. Fat chance.

Bizarro America

March 27, 2019

 

Black is white and white is black

Criminals are innocent, accusers guilty

Traitors are patriots, and patriots treasonous

Lies are telling it like it is,

And facts are fake news

The swamp is being drained, not deepened

War is peace

Freedom is slavery

Ignorance is strength

America Made Great Again

What the Mueller report does not say

March 25, 2019

Exultant Republican Trump worshippers are dancing in the streets and blowing their Trumpy-trumpets, gleefully rubbing in the faces of their Democrat betes-noire the Mueller report’s supposed exoneration of their Dear Leader.

As if he’s now certified for sainthood. If you thought he was drunk with power before, hold onto your chair.

For years Trump has been burbling “No collusion!” with such manic frequency it’s akin to a Tourette’s tic. As if that’s all the Mueller probe was about. It was not. It was to get to the bottom of Russia’s subversion of our 2016 election. And Mueller has proven, with abundant facts (yes, there’s still such a thing) that Russia did that, bigly. Republicans refuse to admit this fact, but given Trump’s razor-thin margins in three crucial states, and the hugeness of Russia’s effort on his behalf, without it he would almost surely have lost. The Kremlin not only plotted, but succeeded.

And did it with the proven connivance, if not “collusion,” of the Trump campaign.

And even if Trump did not himself personally “collude” with Russia during the campaign, there is the well-established legal concept of accessory after the fact. It means trying to help a crime’s perpetrators, afterward, get away with it. You go to jail for that. And Trump certainly did that. His blatant efforts to undermine U.S. intelligence and law enforcement, in going after the Russian election subversion, make him an accessory after the fact. (Or colluder after the fact.)

Even if that case appears murky, and even if he hasn’t been nailed for obstruction of justice (Barr’s summary letter says Mueller does NOT exonerate him of that), the fact remains that his relentless, vicious, totally dishonest and self-serving attacks on such key American institutions as the intelligence services, the FBI and other law enforcement, and the Justice Department, have been sickeningly disgraceful and destructive. Of this Mueller does not exonerate him either.

And as if Russia’s role is not enough to negate the idea that Trump won the election “fair and square,” he committed other proven crimes to win it. Including a fraud upon taxpayers by diverting contributions, from his tax-exempt charitable foundation, into his campaign. And paying hush money to paramours, in aid of his campaign, in clear violation of law. Checks with his signature are “smoking guns.” Mueller does not address these crimes. Does not exonerate Trump.

Citing all these facts is not being a “sore loser” over the 2016 election. It is to show the president is a criminal. Even after the election, shouldn’t we be concerned about that? And about Russia subverting our democracy and installing a stooge as president? Who, right in the White House, handed the Russian ambassador classified material? Who acted as Putin’s pet monkey in Helsinki?

And even if you somehow imagine Trump has evaded being proven a criminal, it is proven that he’s surrounded himself with criminals. Most notably his campaign chairman Paul Manafort who’s going to prison for a long time; his national security advisor Michael Flynn, awaiting sentencing; and his longtime personal lawyer and fixer Michael Cohen. Republicans who went to town bashing Cohen as the scum of the earth did not pause to consider what that reveals about Trump.

Republicans somehow convince themselves that everything I’ve written about just reflects a vicious partisan whipping up of smoke by Democrats to wrongfully bring down a political foe. I would remind them that the last Republican president, George W. Bush, was also intensely hated by Democrats. At the time, I felt the Bush-bashing was way over the top. Yet virtually never did Democrats impugn Bush’s personal integrity or go after him with “witch hunt” investigations. The reason was that Bush was a decent human being who did not commit the sorts of crimes, or abuse his office, as Trump does. Indeed — speaking as a close student of political history — Trump’s travesties are entirely unprecedented. Off the charts.

Of this Mueller does not exonerate him. Nor of being the biggest compulsive liar in our political history; divisive, crude, cruel, race-baiting, personally vile; I could go on and on, and wearying though it gets even for me, I consider it my civic duty to continue ringing the alarm over this, the greatest American crisis of my lifetime, shredding every principle this country used to embody.

Trump’s recent attacks upon John McCain — calling him “horrible!” — a true American hero, who literally endured torture for his country — a man whose shoes Trump was not fit to lick — plumb a new low, astounding even for him.

While reporters on PBS’s Washington Week roundtable soberly pretended to parse Trump’s strategic rationale for cursing out McCain, Times-Union Editor Rex Smith’s column was not so circumspect: “The man is clearly quite mad.”

Of this Mueller does not exonerate him.

A modest proposal: microchipping children

March 22, 2019

During our recent Iceland trip we learned they keep track of sheep using implanted microchips. We were familiar with this idea, since our cats have microchips in case they go missing.

Parents nowadays keep track of children using smartphones. But this is a very imperfect method, especially if kids don’t want to be kept track of.

Child abduction creates a big problem in today’s America. Not that abductions are common; to the contrary, abductions by strangers are so rare as to be virtually nonexistent. Instead, it’s the fear that’s the problem.

Human beings, even (otherwise) very intelligent ones, have a hard time evaluating dangers in proper perspective. Many of the biggest threats we scarcely even think about while obsessing over ones that are literally rarer than being struck by lightning. We have tied ourselves in knots in terror over terrorism (just look at airports) while every day we get in our cars and drive without a thought that highway death is at least a hundred times more likely.

Child abduction by strangers is even rarer than terrorism. It’s been calculated that, statistically speaking, you’d have to leave a kid out on a street corner for 750,000 years before it would happen. Yet it’s warped our whole style of child-rearing. When I was a little tyke, I walked to school, a goodly distance, through city streets, alone. No one thought this was crazy. Today a parent can be jailed for it. Some localities have found it necessary (and desirable) to pass “free range child” laws specifically to permit it.

But the great majority of American parents are still trapped in abduction phobia. The effect upon children is terrible. Over-protective helicopter parenting stifles a child’s development toward independence, self-reliance, autonomy, and a sense of capability. Children accustomed to living in cocoons of protection against an outside world seen as hostile and threatening cannot be expected to make their way in the world in a psychologically healthy way.

“Social trust” is the glue that holds society together. It’s the default assumption that people are likely to be trustworthy (and in fact the vast majority actually are). But we’re instilling kids with an opposite default assumption — to look upon everyone with suspicion. Polls unsurprisingly show that belief in the trustworthiness of people in general is declining. This is bad for the future of our society.

It’s no surprise too that we’ve seen this unfortunate mentality metastasize onto the nation’s campuses where, instead of exposing students to a diversity of ideas to broaden their intellectual development, we have a world of speech codes, “safe spaces,” and “trigger warnings” aimed at shutting all that out. Treating kids as fragile flowers who can’t survive contact with reality.

But what if there’s a way to neutralize the mindset of fear that’s behind all this?

Microchips.

Implant all kids with microchips, just like Iceland’s sheep, and our cats. Then parents can keep track of them — really keep track, 24/7. Remember those ancient ads, “It’s 10:00 PM — do you know where your children are?” Now the question would be moot.

The great thing is that this would become part of the background operating system of life — unobtrusive, taken for granted, never even thought about. Quite different from the helicopter parenting that’s always in children’s faces. And parents would not be staring constantly at screens to track their kids either. Knowing that they could would make it unnecessary to actually do so.

And obviously, in the (extremely) rare event that the bogeyman does strike, this system for tracking children would make resolving such situations vastly easier and quicker. A “missing” child would be a virtual impossibility. And abductions by strangers would become even rarer than they are already — likewise virtually impossible to perpetrate successfully. Why even bother trying?

And so at last the bogeyman would come to be seen as just that; not something to be feared in actuality. And maybe kids could once again walk to school by themselves like I did.

Trump threatens political violence

March 20, 2019

My wife and I watched “The Dictator’s Playbook,” a PBS TV series, each episode profiling one of history’s worst dictators, and analyzing their methods for gaining and holding power. Every one prominently featured violence. Always violence, to bludgeon opponents into silence and submission.

“It can’t happen here?”

Remember Trump encouraging people at his rallies to beat up protesters? Even promising to pay their legal bills. And some violence did break out. That’s where it starts.

Last week Trump gave an Oval Office interview to Breitbart News. It’s a far-right website notorious for extremist, inflammatory, and false content. Exactly the kind of menace that’s shredding America’s civic culture. Trump’s thusly dignifying Breitbart is an utter disgrace. (He’s even done the same for Alex Jones, worse yet.) But never mind that. Even more disturbing is what Trump said:

“You know, the left plays a tougher game, it’s very funny. I actually think that the people on the right are tougher, but they don’t play it tougher. OK? I can tell you I have the support of the police, the support of the military, the support of the Bikers for Trump — I have the tough people, but they don’t play it tough — until they go to a certain point, and then it would be very bad, very bad.”

And what might that certain point  be? “Like with all the nonsense that they do in Congress . . . all this invest(igating) . . . they do things that are nasty.”

So the message is clear: if Congress continues its “nasty” investigations, at “a certain point,” Trump’s bikers and his other “tough people” will do “very bad” things. “Very bad.” (He did repeat it twice.)

Like the “tough people” Saddam Hussein, Manuel Noriega, and Idi Amin deployed to beat up, torture, murder, and cow opponents to consolidate their power. No pesky investigations for these tough guys. No legislators making them accountable for their crimes.

At about the same time the president of the United States was delivering his extraordinary, chilling warning, a white supremacist was killing 50 people at prayer in New Zealand — having disseminated a manifesto that called Trump an inspiration.

Szukalski: the glory and strangeness of the human experience

March 18, 2019

We stumbled upon this fantastical Netflix documentary: Struggle — The Life and Lost Art of Szukalski.

Glenn Bray stumbled upon a fantastical volume in a bookstore in 1968. Bray was into various artsy stuff. This book, published in 1923, contained work by a Polish artist, Stanislav Szukalski, whom Bray had never heard of — and it blew him away. He showed the book to anyone who would look.

Then in 1971, in another California bookstore he recognized a Szukalski poster. Inquiring, he was told it was a gift from the artist, still living — in fact, quite nearby!

In obscurity. His monumental artistic career forgotten. Bray became the nexus of a new friendship circle around him, filmed many hours of Szukalski holding forth, and eventually published a book trying to revive interest in him. This documentary was produced by Leonardo DiCaprio.

Stanislav Szukalski (1893-1987) was born in Poland, coming to America as a child. An artistic prodigy, primarily in sculpture, he became a leading figure in the 1920s Chicago avant garde art scene. What’s shown in the film is fantastic and fantastical. Not effete mannered works but their antithesis — bold dramatic images that grab you by the balls. (Or by the —– if you are female.)

Szukalski’s style was much influenced by ancient Mesoamerican art. But Polish identity was also central. Repeatedly traveling back and forth to Poland, he saw himself as the inspirator for a Polish national renaissance. His country had only gained independence after WWI, then becoming a nationalistic authoritarian state. Szukalski fit right in, his works infused with grandiose mythologizing. In the 1930’s, summoned by the regime to become its artistic star, he moved (seemingly) permanently back to Poland. Flooded with commissions for stupendous works, he became a revered national icon.

Even the German regime took notice and solicited Szukalski to immortalize Hitler. He agreed and pocketed the check; then delivered an image of Hitler in a ballerina costume. The Germans were not amused.

Yet a darkness seemed immanent in the film, and it duly materialized. In Poland Szukalski published a virulently anti-semitic periodical. The film-makers hadn’t known this when they’d started. Actually, Szukalski seemed to exude contempt not just for Jews but for all other artists, and indeed for all other humans apart from himself and his beloved wife Joan.

In 1939, Nazi aerial bombing obliterated much of Warsaw — including Szukalski’s studio, and with it, most of his lifetime artistic output. Two days later he literally crawled out from under the rubble. Eventually he and Joan arrived back in America; with nothing.

He was never able to put his public artistic career back on track, and spent the next half century in Southern California, subsisting mostly from odd jobs, never feeling at home.

Meantime the holocaust of WWII seemed to sear out his anti-semitism, turning him into something of a universalist humanist.

Meantime too, while his public artistic career did end, his private one did not. Szukalski spent four decades on his grand project, an effort to tie all of history together into one unified story, through art. He called it “Zermatism,” based on his idea that ground zero for the spread of human civilization was . . . Easter Island. (Actually one of the most isolated places on Earth.) He also believed we’re the product of primordial rapes by apelike yetis, accounting for all our ugly qualities.

This is pure crackpottery. Similar grand syntheses have long been a common enterprise for loopy autodidacts. That sad species was personified by Middlemarch’s Casaubon, who spent his life researching his projected masterwork, “a key to all mythologies.” When he died before completing it, his widow attempted to organize his notes and drafts, and found it all rubbish.

In Szukalski’s case, he produced homemade volumes filling a bookcase, with 25,000 pages and 14,000 meticulous and beautiful self-drawn illustrations. All identifying parallels among artistic images from disparate cultures. (Of course such parallels, even striking ones, are inevitable just from chance, if you compare many thousands of images.)

Yet his actual achievement remains. While much of his Polish output was destroyed, much was photographed, and other works survive elsewhere. A stupendous artistic legacy. Truly, Szukalski went from the sublime to the ridiculous.

Comments reflecting racism and partisan blindness

March 15, 2019

Two years ago, my blog post titled “Why so many blacks in ads?” discussed this as a cultural phenomenon. It became my most visited post ever, with over 27,000 views, and far the most comments, over 250 and counting. Practically all are overtly racist; many in the crudest terms.

I was frankly shocked. I suspect Trump has opened a door for this. You can see those comments here: https://rationaloptimist.wordpress.com/2017/05/08/why-so-many-blacks-in-ads/

More recently I posted an analysis about the 2020 Democratic presidential field. Some comments (on my blog’s Times-Union page) are similarly revealing, about the tribalistic partisan blindness which also sorely afflicts today’s America.

One prolific commenter (“Albert”) predictably dredged up old crap about Obama and, especially, Hillary (not a 2020 candidate). A constant theme for these people is how Democrat “sore losers” supposedly can’t get over 2016; yet it’s they themselves who can’t stop obsessing about Hillary. Albert starts with Benghazi (!) and proceeds to a lengthy hyperbolic rant scorching Hillary’s “character, or lack thereof.”

In reply I asked his take on Trump’s character. He responded with 366 weasel words, all excuses to avoid any negative judgment of Trump and to wave away his misdeeds. What a stunning disconnect in Albert’s brain functioning between Trump and Hillary.

Then someone mentioned Charlottesville, and Albert spun another 356 words saying the problem was not with Trump’s “very fine people” statement, but his critics (“mind reading idiots competing to out-stupid and exaggerate”). And when another commenter simply listed other Trump travesties, Albert went to town witheringly mocking at length his “righteous moral authority to judge everyone else’s behavior.”

I’ve copied those four Albert comments here: www.fsrcoin.com/7.html. A window into how people can twist their brains, blind themselves to reality, and demonize anyone saying the Emperor has no clothes. What’s especially disturbing is that Albert is obviously not unintelligent; indeed, quite a glib (if overly verbose) word slinger. When it comes to confirmation bias, smarter people are actually better at confabulating rationales to convince themselves of what they want to believe, and to dismiss any conflicting information. Albert’s case is sufficiently extreme that it’s literal insanity. If he were a one-off, I’d ignore him. But this frightening pathology is a raging epidemic in Trumpland. It’s wrecking our civic culture.

I was a Republican for 53 years; considered myself very conservative; highly critical of Hillary on my blog. As 2016 began, I hoped for her defeat, and even contributed to one Republican candidate. Trump changed everything, and the party of my lifelong allegiance destroyed its legitimacy. His totally depraved character, amply documented by a mountain of facts in the public record, makes Hillary a saint in comparison.

John Maynard Keynes reportedly said, “When the facts change, I change my mind. What do you do, sir?” In googling to verify the quote, I found this labeled “a rather minimal standard of intellectual honesty.”

Ilhan Omar, Israel, anti-semitism, politics, and BDS

March 12, 2019

Newly elected Minnesota Democratic Congresswoman Ilhan Omar caused a furor when saying some politicians support Israel because of money from the Jewish lobby. That was simply incorrect (it’s politics, not money), and Omar was decently forthright in acknowledging her error. Then she re-inserted her foot by talking about “dual loyalties” (Israeli versus American).

Omar, a former Somali refugee, is one of only two Muslims in Congress. That should invest her with a special responsibility to demonstrate good citizenship in refutation of Islamophobia. I wish she hadn’t spoken so carelessly. But it’s phenomenally hypocritical for Republicans in their glass house to throw stones at Democrats, while their own Congressman Steve King defends “white supremacy” — and Trump spoke of “very fine people on both sides” when torch-bearing Nazis marched in Charlottesville chanting “Jews will not replace us.”*  Et cetera.

Omar may not have realized what a hoary old anti-semitic trope “dual loyalty” is. The Nazis used it, painting Jews as less good Germans. (My Jewish grandfather took a bullet for Germany in WWI, but that didn’t help him later.) Many U.S. Jews are indeed “supporters of Israel.” Some even give money to Israel. That doesn’t make them less loyal Americans. Indeed, the U.S. government itself is a supporter of Israel; first to recognize Israel’s statehood in 1948, and since then giving it many billions in aid.

But now Israel has become a flash-point in left-right political polarization. While American “support for Israel” used to be concentrated among U.S. Jews who were mostly Democrats, in recent decades the Republican religious right has latched onto Israel as central to some sort of end-times return-of-Jesus fantasy. And on the other side, the left has fetishized the plight of Palestinians, with Israel thus cast as an arch-villain, engendering the “BDS” movement — to subject Israel to boycott, sanctions, and divestment.

My own ancestry is Jewish, but I’ve been very critical of Israel. Here’s an example: https://rationaloptimist.wordpress.com/2013/12/06/israel-triumph-and-tragedy-past-and-future/. And four years ago I penned an imagined Israeli election speech (https://rationaloptimist.wordpress.com/2015/03/14/i-have-a-dream-israeli-election-speech/) with a very different approach for the Palestinian issue. I must say, re-reading it now, it seems really eloquent. And really sad because its vision is farther than ever from possibility.

But the Israeli/Palestinian situation is not a good guy/bad guy story. It takes two to tango here, and Palestinians are victims not only of Israel but of Palestinians; their own leaders serving them as badly, and myopically, as Israel has done.

Anti-semitism is the idea that Jews have certain undesirable racial characteristics. One can certainly criticize Israel’s policy toward Palestinians without being anti-semitic. But it’s a fine line. Britain’s Labour Party, for example, has taken a hard left turn, with the obligatory Israel-bashing, metastasizing into what is blatant anti-semitism. Meantime these lefties, posturing as champions of downtrodden people, are suckers for regimes (like Venezuela’s) that trod people down, if they wrap themselves in anti-American, anti-imperialist, or anti-capitalist rhetoric.

There’s actually something downright crazy about singling out Israel as uniquely odious — when it is, after all, a basically democratic nation with rule of law, freedom of speech and press and religion, etc. (and a U.S. friend). That election speech I wrote could in fact have been given in Israel; Jamal Kashoggi was chopped in pieces. Does Israel’s ill-treatment of Palestinians remotely compare with the pervasive human rights abuses of Saudi Arabia, or Venezuela, Cuba, Nicaragua, North Korea, Bangladesh, Pakistan, Egypt, Congo, Syria, Yemen, Sudan, South Sudan, Bahrain, Zimbabwe, Burundi, Eritrea, Equatorial Guinea, Tanzania, Turkey, Myanmar, or Iran, not to mention Russia and China? Where are the BDS movements for all these countries?

*I invite commenters to disgrace themselves by trying to excuse or defend this.

My surrealist art

March 10, 2019

Albany’s Opalka Gallery (part of Sage College) hosts occasional “Pecha Kucha” nights. A wonderful event, with a bunch of presenters each talking about a series of 20 slides, each screened for 20 seconds. I previously did one about my love affair with numismatics. More recently, my surrealist art. It’s a challenge to time the patter to the progression of slides. Also, taking pictures of pictures turns out to be hard; balancing brightness and color was problematical. But here are my slides, coupled with my verbiage about each:

When I was 13, my mom saw this painting she liked in a friend’s house. I said if you buy me paints, I’ll copy it for you. So this became my first real painting. That was in 1961, and now it’s hanging in my house. For a while I did such normal-type pictures.

Then, in my early twenties, I became captivated by surrealism. So I started doing paintings like this, from my own imagination. Its title is “Christmas Toys.” Surrealist pictures, you know, are supposed to have enigmatic titles.

My favorite artist was the Belgian Rene Magritte. And as an homage, I did make this one copy of a painting of his, titled “Collective Invention.” It has also been called “The Practical Man’s Mermaid.” You see, the usual mermaid has . . . well, never mind.

 

I had a thing for doing paintings with an architectural flavor. You might see something familiar about this scene. But I titled it, “The Temple at Naddegomra.”  Which was the name of a city in a fantasy novel I was writing.

This next one is called “Cold Street.” I exhibited some paintings at the first modern Pinksterfest in 1972, and sold one or two. There was a gal who set up next to me, also with paintings. Hers I didn’t much like. But nevertheless, we wound up leaving the show together, which was nice.

 

Now this is not a painting, it’s a sculpture. Again you see my architectural proclivity. By the way, this was not photographed in dramatic lighting; I painted it that way, in black and white. Really so fantastically clever, no?

 

And then I thought the sculpture was so absolutely wonderful that I also made a painting of it. Call it synergy between two art forms. Or maybe incestuous or something. But it’s not stealing if you steal from yourself.

 

Here is another sculpture. These were made with wood scraps, basically because I didn’t want to throw them away. This one is called “The City of God.” Somehow that was the title it whispered to me. Even though I’m actually an atheist.

 

 

 

 

And here is the painting. I did actually have a show once, in a local art gallery. But eventually I realized what was really going on with that: the gallery owner just wanted to get into my pants. So much for my art.

 

 

 

 

 

But I was really only doing this for my own amusement anyway, I had no serious artistic pretensions or ambitions. I wasn’t a starving artist, I was working as a lawyer. Here is one more sculpture, this one was done with wood and plaster.

 

And, surprise, here is the painting. This is the last of these pairings, I promise. On this one, as you can see, I added a little something. This picture hangs in my office, but not where it’s staring at me all day. The title is “Portrait of the Artist as a Piece of Wood.”

 

I did sometimes utilize photos. I came across this striking photo of a rock, or maybe it’s an iceberg. And it was just crying out to have that red globe added. I think this picture really shows a strong Magritte influence. The title is “Thing in the Sky.”

 

 

 

 

 

This was also from a photograph, a very famous one, by Edward Weston, of a green pepper. The evocation of a human nude was so obvious, I decided to play on that by painting it in fleshy tones. Take particular note of the bottom right part of the image.

 

 

 

 

So then I later came across this other photo in which I saw a close affinity with Weston’s pepper. So I painted this as a companion piece, and of course for complementarity, this one I did in green tones.

To evoke green peppers, get it?

 

 

 

Now, the next one I titled “Night Watch,” although it has nothing in common with the famous Rembrandt picture with that title. But I thought the title was fitting anyway. To appreciate this picture properly, you should bend your head down to the left.

 

But never mind, here, I’ve done it for you. The wonders of technology. By the way, all this stuff was done almost half a century ago. I basically stopped doing art because I was devoting more time to my writing instead. Not that that was a huge success either.

 

 

 

 

Anyhow, I also had a fascination with optical illusion art. Here you see it combined with my architectural fetish. Look carefully at this picture, what is depicted is a nonsense construction, that could not be built.

 

This next one is titled “Bas Relief in Four Planes.” Actually it depends how you look at it, you can see two planes, or three, or four, with features either in relief or sunken. Generally Democrats can see three or four planes, Republicans only two.

 

And on this next one, I took it to the next level by adding double symmetry: the picture is identical both upside down and in mirror image. That was actually very tricky to work out. The title is “Bathroom Tile Design.”

 

And, finally, something a bit different. A woman crucified to her own erogenous zones. Some profound symbolism there, of course, though I’m not sure exactly what it means. Maybe I had issues. But an artist doesn’t have to explain his paintings, the meaning is left up to the viewer.