Thursday, March 29, 2007

B.B. King

Janis and I went to see B.B. King the other night. He's on tour for about the gazillionth time. It's always a treat to see a living legend, and BB's one of the best. He's 81, as he told us several times, with a body that doesn't work at all like it used to. Still, he could belt out some hard-ass blues with a voice that's as rich and strong as it ever was. His guitar playing is phenomenal - it seems so effortless, but that's what comes from 70 years of practice. Combine the voice and guitar, and you have music that is incredibly rich and deep.

BB is obviously having the time of his life. What a kind and gracious man, very gentle, but still with the fire in his belly .... just not as wild a fire as it once was.

Go see him if you can. While you can.

Wednesday, March 21, 2007

Studio News

This past weekend I had a long road trip. I drove down to the Durham/Chapel Hill/Raleigh area on Friday. On Saturday, I checked out the art galleries to see if any might be interested in carrying my work. Then it was on to Fayetteville for the opening of their juried art show, which has one of my paintings. Finally, it was another long trip home on Sunday.

As it turned out, the weekend was a big success. On Saturday I went to four galleries and found one that wants to work with me. It's Bill Hester Fine Art, located on the main drag in downtown Chapel Hill, right by the university. Bill's an interesting guy, with some very definite ideas about art which he isn't the least bit shy about sharing with you. But he's also a very straightforward businessman, which counts for a lot in my book, especially after some of the gallery owners I've dealt with over the years. Anyway, I'm very excited about working with him. Bill wants to start with six of my paintings, three from the "Meditation on War" series and three from the "Old Times" series. He'll get 'em at the end of the month.

After visiting with Bill, I headed down to Fayetteville. The Museum's show is a big event in the NC art world. They had nearly 300 entries, selected 46, and my painting "Lament" was awarded Second Place in the show.
So all in all, the weekend was a success. Now it's Wednesday and I'm almost back to a normal schedule. I'm getting the six paintings ready to go to Chapel Hill, and meanwhile have two more on the easel. Too much to do, of course, but hey, I'm pretty happy!

Thursday, March 15, 2007

Spring Has Sprung

The title line comes from a poem that I saw when I was a kid:

Spring has sprung,
the grass has riz.
I wonder where
the flowers is?

Well, it certainly has sprung. The weather has been warm. Tonight I saw a couple of frogs hopping across the road. The weeds in my yard are starting to sprout. Fruit trees are starting to bloom, birds are pooping on my truck, and hundreds of jihadi bugs are suicide-bombing my windshield.

I love it!

I'm not a fan of cold weather. Haven't been since I was in the third or fourth grade. Cold weather is like death. But spring, ahh, spring is great! The earth starts stirring again. Things that looked dead are suddenly alive. It's warm enough for me to break out the shorts and sandals again. My dogs (finally) want to go outside again and maybe chase the cows through the forest. (My dogs are two 13-pound Shih Tzu's ... the site of them chasing a herd of 2000-pound cows through the woods is quite startling).

Okay, so it's gonna be a bit colder for the next couple of days. Big deal, spring is just about here, and I'm happy!

At least until I have to start mowing the lawn again ...

Friday, March 09, 2007

Alberto Gonzales Should Be Fired

There's a lot of news coming out of the Justice Department over the past few days and none of it is good. For starters, there are the eight federal attorneys who were fired last fall. The reasons are still a bit murky at this point, but it's clear that this was a political move. That is actually legal, since the attorneys serve "at the pleasure of the President". But legal isn't always right, and some of the moves were clearly payback for doing their jobs too zealously. An example is the attorney who successfully prosecuted Republican representative "Duke" Cunningham, who was convicted of bribery last year. The eight firings got the attention of Congress, and Tuesday all eight testified before a Senate committee. Then the Justice Department, which had threatened retaliation if the eight testified, made good on their threat, and publicly embarrassed each of the attorneys with personal details as the ostensible reasons for their firing.

And if that wasn't bad enough, today comes news that the FBI has grossly abused their snooping powers under the Patriot Act. They've collected far more personal information than they've previously admitted, they routinely collect information without any oversight whatsoever, and more than half of their snoops have been against American citizens. These are the very things that Gonzales assured Congress (during the Patriot Act hearings last year) weren't being done.

So now we have an Attorney General who uses his office for partisan political maneuvers, intimidates federal attorneys, abuses the authority granted by Congress, and lies about what he and his people are doing. Am I surprised? Actually, I've just been waiting for this to happen. When Bush & Co. were brow-beating Congress into giving them extraordinary powers, it was clearly just a matter of time before the public found out what was really going on. Every time an administration thinks it's above the law, they prove that they should never be. As Nixon found out, for example. Now the chickens have come home to roost.

Gonzales has blown what little credibility he had as an Attorney General. He should be fired. Immediately.

Tuesday, March 06, 2007

The Walter Reed Scandal

Today, every news channel is covering the ongoing Walter Reed scandal 24/7. This is the one in which wounded soldiers were stuffed away in decrepit housing and forced to find their own way through the bureaucratic maze. Two generals and the Army Chief of Staff have been fired, and rightfully so. They were in charge, it happened on their watch, and they bear responsibility. Congress is falling all over itself to see how many investigations it can launch.

But Congress bears some responsibility, too. The reason: Base Realingment and Closure Commission, or BRAC. Congress created BRAC to do what it wasn't capable of doing: making decisions about which bases to close. A few years ago, BRAC decided that Walter Reed should be closed and its functions merged into Bethesda Naval Hospital. That made sense except for an ugly little thing called "war", which left Walter Reed struggling along on crutches. The hospital was unable to keep up with the workload and unable to get resources from the Army and Congress. Since it was slated to close, the brass and Congress reasoned, why spend money on infrastructure upkeep? So our wounded vets were told to tough it out in dank mold-ridden buildings. Donald Rumsfeld would probably have approved.

So the Army, the Bush administration, and Congress bear responsibility for the squalid conditions.

But it's the Army that's responsible for the deplorable bureaucratic jungle they created. Having worked in bureaucracies, I know it's easy for them to spin out of control and take on lives of their own, where "procedures" trump "people". But it doesn't have to happen. A number of years ago, the military was awash in something called "total quality", or TQ for short. TQ focused on procedure to determine better ways of doing business. I thought the way the military implemented it was a pain in the keister, but it had a lot of value.

Apparently, the Army doesn't care about quality any more. Nor its people.

You don't like it? Fill out this complaint form in triplicate, email it to the Lost Cause Department, and somebody will get back to you. Maybe.

Sunday, March 04, 2007

Ann Coulter

Ann's at it again. Now she has called John Edwards a "faggot". The woman is the worst kind of leech: she makes her fame and fortune by saying the nastiest things about other people. There are lots of terms for people like her. Bloodsucker. Blonde trash. That unidentified slimy shit left on your shoe when you walk on all those worms washed up after a rainstorm. Yeah, that's her. A couple of years ago, after she called veterans like me "traitors" for opposing the war (ummm, Ann, exactly how much time did you spend in the service of your country? Oh, right: none.), I painted a picture about her entitled "Ann's Slander". It's just as appropriate today. And it'll probably be just as appropriate in ten years.