Friday, September 22, 2006

Russian Artist Visitors

We had a group of Russian artists visit our studios today. They were here from Asheville's sister city of Vladikavkaz, on a state-sponsored trip, looking into various ways Asheville's artist community is functioning. I had my political satire paintings up on the walls. Some of it was beyond them, since it addressed internal US politics (contrary to Dick Cheney, most people outside the US don't give a damn about it ... frankly, most people inside the US don't give a damn, either!)

One of my paintings caught their eye, though. Our Commander in Chief (which can be seen on my web site) is a portrait of Bush that makes him look remarkably like Alfred E. Neumann. My artist visitors zeroed in on it. One asked me "Is permissable to make joke of President?" Yes, young lady, it certainly is.

In fact, being able to make fun of our leaders is one of our country's major strengths. And her innocent question drove home, yet again, what a unique position we're in. We may have an idiot for a President, but we are free to speak our minds about him. And even in this day and age, that is not a very common thing.

Boycott Citgo

Over the past couple of days, Venezuela's president Hugo Chavez has been in New York for events at the United Nations. Chavez became a walking event in himself when he began attacking Bush as "the Devil".

While I am no fan of George Bush, I find Chavez to be a first-class jerk. His comments, now and in the past, are not acceptable from any national leader. He can disagree with our nation and our President all he wants, but should keep the discourse at a professional level. His remarks belong in a cheap Venezeuelan bar, not the U.N.

So I say, boycott Citgo. Why? Citgo is owned and operated by the Venezuelan government. It's a source of billions of dollars a year to Chavez. If you want to get his attention, take his money.

Monday, September 18, 2006

Terrorist Treatment Debate

President Bush is at it again. The Senate is debating what kind of legal structure is needed to guide terrorist interrogation. Senators McCain, Warner, and Graham are leading the effort, and Colin Powell and Senator Arlen Spector weighed in on it, too. Frankly, these Republicans are finally showing some backbone. They're insisting that interrogations be done in a manner consistent with the Geneva Conventions. About time, too. First time in years that I've actually supported a Republican effort in the Senate!

But ol' Bush is seriously pissed off. He's threatening to shut down the interrogation efforts completely if he doesn't get what he wants, and says it'll be on the Senate's heads. Umm, excuse me, George? You're threatening to shut down an ILLEGAL system? Something we should never have been doing in the first place? Something you could get convicted of, if it ever went to the War Crimes Tribunal at the Hague? Am I missing something here?

Now let's look at some street cred issues:
Senator McCain: Decorated Navy war vet, former POW, spent years being subjected to torture and illegal interrogation techniques. I'd say he's an expert on it.
Senator John Warner: WW2 Navy vet, Marine officer in the Korean War, former Secretary of the Navy.
Senator Lindsey Graham: A JAG officer in the Air Force Reserves since 1982, including active duty stints during the Gulf War and earlier this year (yes, active duty while still a Senator).
Senator Arlen Specter: Two years in the Air Force in the early 1950's.
Colin Powell: Now, really. Retired Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, as high as you can go in the military, and one of the two guys who made the Gulf War a success.

On the other hand:
President Bush: One step above a draft dodger. Got Daddy to get him a cushy reserve billet that kept him out of Viet Nam, then didn't even show up for work.
Vice-President Cheney: Confirmed draft dodger. Had "other priorities" during Vietnam.
Donald Rumsfeld: Served as a Navy pilot back in the 50's, and as Sec Def once before, so he should know better.

So who ya gonna believe?

You know where my vote is.

Thursday, September 14, 2006

Camp Democracy, 9-10 September

Last weekend I was in Washington, DC, as part of Camp Democracy. This was an outgrowth of Cindy Sheehan's Camp Casey, outside Bush's ranch in Texas. This time they were set up on the Mall between the National Gallery of Art and the Air and Space Museum. I thought it would be a good opportunity to show my paintings to thousands of The Faithful, right there within spitting distance of some of the people lampooned in the works.

Well, not quite. Yes, I showed to The Faithful, and yes, my paintings got a great reaction from nearly everybody who saw them. Problem was, there weren't very many people there. Instead of thousands, I'd put the turnout in the low hundreds over two full days. And half of them were just tourists wandering by on their way to this or that museum.

Still, I talked to a bunch of very interesting people and had a good time. Maybe something will come out of this. Maybe not. We'll see.

I took up a bunch of my posters, too, hoping to sell enough to cover my transportation costs. Turns out that selling posters is illegal on the Mall. Why? Good question. The Park Police decided back in the mid-90's to cut down on the number of vendors clogging the Mall. So they outlawed the sale of everything except literature, bumper stickers, and buttons. So I had to take down my sign. HOWEVER (there's always a "however" in DC), the sale of posters was quite legal on the street, which was outside Park Police jurisdiction, and was only about 20 yards away. So selling a poster here was illegal, but right over there was okay! Makes sense, no? No.

I'd contacted a bunch of old friends who live in the area and told them I'd be there, and to come on down and visit. Some of 'em did. Problem was, they all came at the same time! So there I was, trying to visit with all of 'em at once, and still talk to people looking at the art ... didn't work worth a hoot. So they all left, again at the same time, and left me standing there talking to some guy who claimed that the government was controlling his thoughts through the microchips imbedded in his fillings. I'm not making this up. He had colorized X-rays and reams of stuff downloaded from the internet to prove his case. Why do these people always find ME?

So, all in all, it wasn't the most productive trip I've ever taken. Would I do it again? Well, knowing what I now know, no. But I've had another "learning experience" and will have a better idea what to look for. I still think that political events such as this are good venues to show my paintings. I just want bigger ones!

Tuesday, September 12, 2006

Follow-up ...

Our friend Mary Carol passed away yesterday from cancer. We miss her tremendously already. Godspeed, Mary Carol.

Tuesday, September 05, 2006

The News ...

I learned today that a very dear friend is in the late stages of cancer.

All the world (or at least, all the TV stations) are mourning the Crocodile Hunter, who was just killed by a stingray's barb. I don't care. He's just another face on the tube. He wasn't real to me, not like MC is. She's somebody that we've talked with, laughed with, pulled pranks on, sat together over dinner, sent emails back and forth, hugged, commisserated with, got annoyed at (just occasionally), and loved. She's a dynamo. She's got more determination than any ten people put together. And she's needed it to pull through some of the situations she's been in. But now, cancer is taking her down.

As I tried to digest this bit of news, I took the dogs for their evening walk. I was depressed. The dogs weren't, of course. They're two little Shih Tzu's, the sweetest creatures on earth, and they were just thrilled to be checking out their territory. The church yard is their Running Field, and boy, did they. Pretty soon, I was running, too, so they could chase me. Big puppy smiles on little puppy faces, running full tilt through the grass.

I felt much better on the walk home. The dogs just trotted along, happy to be outside. I was happy to have shared their joy for a while.

We're all here for just a short while, and most of us have no control over when we leave. But in the meantime, we can run with the dogs through the wet grass.

Friday, September 01, 2006

DC Bound!

I found out this evening that I'll be going to Washington, DC, next weekend. I'm going to take my "Bush League" series of political satire paintings up so they can be displayed on the Mall in the Camp Democracy events that will be going on for most of this month. My paintings and I will only be there for the weekend, though.

I'm really excited about this. All painters want people to see their work, and I'm no exception. These paintings have been very well received by most viewers, even Republicans. (Although there was that one guy who got very irate at me, saying that George Bush was his HERO ... I didn't quite know how to answer that, since I'd never heard anybody willing to admit to such a ridiculous idea ... I mean, it's like saying "Alfred E. Neumann for President" and meaning it!).

Hmm. Where was I? Oh, yeah. Anyway, it'll be great to get these paintings out in front of The Faithful, especially when they're in DC, and several of the paintings refer to people who might even be within eyesight.

I get asked a lot of times whether I plan to sell the paintings at something like this. Frankly, I'd probably drop dead of a heart attack if anybody actually wanted to buy one ... although my hand would probably reach out from the grave and take his/her check. I'm really making these paintings because, well, I need to. I can't be happy with making pretty landscapes or still lifes. I have to do something that has some meat to it. Actually, it seems that making art is an extension of my Navy career: in the Navy, I could do my own small part in Big Things; in art, I seem to be doing the same thing. Only now I don't have to toe the party line. And if I want to piss off some bozo whose hero is George Bush, so be it!