social psychology

The Problem With Politics Is Gossip, Not Feeling, Which is Art and Literature


“My Teeth Overhear Their Fate at the Periodontist” 2015. Acrylic on canvas, 20 x 16″

The Twitter editor of Empty Mirror, an online weekly literary journal, tweeted this on February 5, 2018: “Cleaned a bunch of the political stuff out of my feeds and I feel so much better.”

And that was that. Contemporary literature died. The people who came to read about the dead Beat poets, or dead Henry Miller, or perhaps dead political screamer George Orwell, found a zone free of annoying, present-day political matters, such as nuclear proliferation, Syrian refugees, or the coming environmental catastrophe that even the dinosaurs wouldn’t get the chills to witness imaginatively. The editor freed his or her feed from U.S. politics that, since WWII, have ballooned, by the breath of a mighty superpower, to lord over all life on earth and atmosphere.

Hurray. At Empty Mirror we can adorn our meditative consciousness with the fineries of life brought to us by writers of the past. Or, at times, click into some present day, university graduate’s careful art to keep our precious, unearned joys leagues away from dirty politics.

Here is what I say: There is no literature or art without politics and philosophy. Everything good that came before (in modern times) has been provided by super sensitive people reacting to the political environment of their day.

Writers and painters today have a slick, state of the “art” smartphone and a two-year contract with a corrupt and very political corporation.

Enough said.

Unart comes from comfort. Ask any artist alive today, if you are able to find one on or offline.

Those who do not want their minds sullied can clean their Twitter feeds or react like Barbara Bush when asked about her son’s philosophy of having other people’s children’s legs blown off by Empty Mirror’s tax contribution to American politics:

“Why should we hear about body bags and deaths? It’s not relevant. So why should I waste my beautiful mind on something like that?”

Perhaps the editor of Empty Mirror, who no doubt is a kind and sensitive person, views art and artist how another editor of a garage press reacted to my efforts on what turned out to be the last time I tried to get an unartist to recognize a work of art.

From Just Another Stuckist in Oswego:

I have theories about this starving artist dilemma. Many spring from the field of social psychology. Here is one:

None of us are any good until many of us say that some of us are.

Each failed writer or painter needs, more than talent, a promoter with Biblical outreach. If Beyoncé (accent on the e) wore the teeth image (painting above) to don her Super Bowl outfit, I would be rich and known richly by morning. Target® would call for a wall hanging product line, and the New York Times would best seller me. If Oprah got caught reading less trite and inane crap, maybe some of you talented writers could afford rent as well as dinner, and miraculously the Media-CIA Industrial Complex would suffer sinking ratings of its perpetually popular “Let’s Dumb Down America Now!”.

All fine literature, music, and art is relegated to obscurity if not considered salable by a connected media entity. Here is a rejection from a book publisher I received a couple weeks ago, followed by a quote from Henry Miller who wrote meaningful desk chair philosophy at a time when art was the artist, and not bullhorn announcements from high-rise promoters about the “state of the art money”.

You do seem passionate and, as you wrote, “determined,” so I’m sure this won’t stop you at all from continuing your search for a publisher. I would like to suggest you consider self-publishing this manuscript. Just from reading the first sample parts you sent me I can tell you it’s going to be a very difficult sell to any indie press. Forget about even going to the majors via a literary agent. It occupies too much head space, in my opinion, and while that’s not a bad thing at all for some readers who enjoy that sort of thing, commercially this would be extremely difficult to convince anyone to spend any money on reading your words. Even if you have some clout due to your painting, it is pretty thick stuff to get into and stay into. I don’t mean this to sound mean at all. I just feel that this is the kind of book that may have a life as a self-published work. Save yourself the time and trouble of querying anyone else and publish it yourself, then I would suggest perhaps focus more on the marketing end of the book rather than getting one of us snobby publishers to approve it lol. I hope you’ll agree.

A nice, honest rejection. I agree with him. I prefer to self-publish. But to make me a marketer of my own work is like asking a corn farmer to peddle boil-in-a-bag on the street corner. Doomed to failure before the manure is spread.

My reply:

Thank you for a fast response and helpful criticism. Self publishing is the right way to go. Whitman peddled “Leaves of Grass” door-to-door, and look where that got him! No one then (or today) would publish Whitman’s work to make a living, yet countless entities do exactly that today. For me, it has become some personal badge of honor to be an unread writer in the 21st century. Like threshing wheat over a storm water grate. Very nothing, and yet some thing very good too.

Just doesn’t pay the bills.

Here is Henry Miller:

Most of the young men of talent whom I have met in this country give one the impression of being somewhat demented. Why shouldn’t they?  They are living amidst spiritual gorillas, living with food and drink maniacs, success mongers, gadget innovators, publicity hounds. God, if I were a young man today, if I were faced with a world such as we have created, I would blow my brains out. Or, perhaps like Socrates, I would walk into the market place and spill my seed on the ground. I would certainly never think to write a book or paint a picture or compose a piece of music. For whom? Who beside a handful of desperate souls can recognize a work of art? What can you do with yourself if your life is dedicated to beauty? Do you want to face the prospect of spending the rest of your life in a straight-jacket?

I suggest all writers to read Miller, as Miller wanted to be read. Read me first. He’d dead. And I could use an art-paid-for loaf of bread.

Empty Mirror should understand this age old dilemma if it wishes to represent the greats of modern literature. Allen Ginsberg was not apolitical. He was politically agitated, turning his private anger into digestible, public art. Henry Miller, Jack Kerouac, any literary celebrity of the past whom we prop up today was, while living, a rabid politico or shoot-from-the-hip philosopher.

I believe the editor of Empty Mirror is probably sick of the political gossip he/she sees and hears, rather than politics as they pertain to the present and future machinations of the human race. The former is a game played online by bored and unfulfilled human beings—a kind of collective in-group solitaire to stave off the agony of emptiness which fills up in those people who are unable to express or seek art and literature to comfort them in difficult times.

However, I hope Empty Mirror can see that it wouldn’t have a platform to stand on if it were not for politics of the past which goaded so many artists to react to a world gone wrong, in their time. Reaction to the insanity of world wars, nuclear weapons, the devil in capitalism, religion’s vice-grip, ignorance and fear of the masses, etc., were not deletable on the intellectual browsers for most of the 20th century.

It’s good to kill the gossip, but don’t ever lose the politics. So many people suffered angling you, dear Empty Mirror Twitter editor, toward an easier life. If you want to understand art and artist, never become a Barbara Bush, who just closes the door to the ugly which we all are until the time when we are not.

Enter the reactionary writer and artist of today who would become known tomorrow if editors and gallerists were less apolitical gatekeepers, and more sensitive to the needs of those who express the culture freely.

Welcome the politics, Empty Mirror Twitter editor, yet seek the artist who can turn the lack of generational courage into a work of art.

¡Viva el politics in art!



Dear Government Media—With All This Suffering In the World, Can I Please Stop Giving A Crap About Suicidal Astronauts?


2016. Acrylic on canvas, 11 x 14″

Posted from several months back… Reposting today because I am sick of government/media propaganda. Now that both leading Presidential candidates have loosely talked about nuclear weapons and their use, which translates as threatening all of life with very real (not pretend iPhone) power, and therefore admitting to premeditated mass murder, I have taken the proverbial gloves off and challenged each to a thumb wrestle. I shall easily defeat teeny-fingered Trump, yet I still need to assess Clinton’s opposable, which at last account was thirty inches into Kissinger, and threatening to tickle his duodenum…

It’s time to come down hard on the people of this nation. All of the post-pubescent ones anyway. Those who believe that any politician anywhere takes on the Jesus problems that all mid-level spiritualists  burden themselves with on an hourly basis. Politically, we, the dumb pick-up truck or hybrid car coolies of inertia, deserve exactly what we get since atrocious food supplements like Apple Jacks® first found their home on cereal shelves across America.

Donald Trump rises to presidential possibilities because people who pretend to be liberal or conservative in America are still allowed to procreate, and worse still, raise their offspring. As adults we repeat the stupidest run-on sentences sometimes. Such as, “I am all for no smoking in restaurants, but I think our government should make trade deals with China because Sam Walton cared a great deal for the less fortunate even if his bones should be dug up and ground into a dust and the dust smeared on the lips of a cross-dressing rear admiral who floats his greasy fat arse around all day and night on top of a nuclear warhead, ready to annihilate life because some dandruff-flaked old white or wanna be white colonial man ordered him to”.

Phonies say stupid things like that all the time.

All the time.

How about this grammatically correct one? “Life is suffering”. You would never know it from the way the Dalai Lama jet plane puddle jumps from one stage to the next. Like Mick Jagger dressed down with less obvious greed, but a similar desperate desire to be loved and craved, and a subsidized private cook supper every night for the rest of his life.

Grow up! Or grow down, you freakin’ phony clowns. Life is not suffering. Fortunate, healthy children don’t suffer unless their parents hate them enough to pick a favorite for president.

Joe in North Carolina drives a truck for septic removal. His dad ain’t a soft bigot like him, no; Joe senior is downright klu-kluxed—both of ’em wanna vote for President cause Trump’s a New York City Billionaire. Makes sense to me, but never to 12 year-olds because America has reached this unprecedented stage of total adult degeneracy. This morning outside Wilmington many, many houses are floating away because Trump is gonna pour America a great big Lake Agassiz while he flies in his mother’s arse jumbo jet eight miles high, laugh, laugh, laughing at all the bloating and floating finger-lip gibberers who voted for him.

Whoosh! Whoa! A near miss in the sky. The Dalai Lama was escaping too, hightailin’ it back to Lhasa where the oceans have not reached… yet.

Stop your snickering old Sanders and new Clinton supporters. Sure we have the collective power to stop the clouds from warming, or at best attach a giant vacuum hose into outer space and suck out carbon, while simultaneously feeding and educating everyone on earth and getting cheap insulin for the babies we stuff with poison-in-a-box brought to you by Business As Usual, Inc. God forbid we save ourselves from annihilation by enforcing the non-existence of nuclear weapon technology. We can’t even legislate against plastic grocery bags! It would take a few screw drivers to dismantle thermonuclear death for all of earth’s species. Screwdrivers! So, we’re going to tax billionaires to halt global warming— nature’s normal reaction to humanities’ lust for the path of least resistance, which is exactly how floating water would behave if it could stuff its mouth all night long with pizza and wings from Dominoes®. Why not? Let’s halt atmospheric warming with money. Always money! Fight global catastrophe with arbitrary coinage. What is money? It is metal and paper. It’s earth, for crying out loud! Oh, I get it! We’re gonna save earth with earth. As if earth gets no say in the matter. Brilliant lunatic human logic.

All vanities are insane. However, the narcissistic baby boomers and their spawn need to be locked up now. Me and you. Right now. Children, cuff us. The baby-boomers got us into this mess and we (present-day, child-raising adults) have kept humanity bogged down in the slime, lapping up every last grocery like voracious bacteria.

Is there a solution in this rant, oh ranting Ron? Please hurry, we all have delusional promises to keep.

Yes, but unfortunately for humans, it’s not a human one… Still, very acceptable among non-human populations. A human being wrote it out in picture poetry a generation or two ago. Here it is.

“O take heart, my brothers. Even now… with every leader & every resource & every strategy of every nation on Earth arrayed against Her—Even now, O even now, my brothers, Life is in no danger of losing the argument!—For after all …. (as will be shown) She has only to change the subject.” —Kenneth Patchen




Saturday Morning Love Theme Now!

I Love You More Than Madness More Than Dreams Upon the Sea

“I Love You More Than Madness, More Than Dreams Upon The Sea” 2013. Acrylic on panel board, 64 x 48″

This is an old post and introduction to the book below. Please read it to save the earth from eating itself out of disgust at the human “progressive” trajectory.

From Leopold Courting Rose:

Leopold Courting Rose 2013

Why Love Letters?
Who is Leopold?

Curse this political world! Last month I signed up for a free online course in social psychology hoping it would sedate my inner anxiety fool, and get me thinking about other stuff besides doom and gloom. Over the past ten years or so I have let the wrong people in. Unknowns, rabble-rousers, political cry-babies. So much in my mind not of the family and clan has focused its attention on strangers and their woeful struggles. I deemed myself the silent Sally Struthers’ spokesperson for civil liberties (of others), individualism (of others again), and freedom without war and atrocity (others again and again).
Silly me. I have always been free to speak, individualistic more so than Henry Thoreau, and anti-war with an internal, red hot passion. Seeking it for others? Why? It already exists. Don’t tick off the King in a super economy, and one will be showered with gifts and glory unbeknownst to the Gods and emperors of yesteryear. I can speak or write any blasphemy under the sun as long as I can prove no child molestation. I can walk out this door and keep walking to Utah, provided I keep myself looking a cut above meth abuser. And war? Don’t need it. Don’t have to join up. There are millions of neglected children jonesing for a chance to be loved by anyone, even a sociopath sergeant or general. I am not one of these millions of fools. So why attempt to be their social pastor? Especially if I’m not getting paid for it? Amazing freedom in the western world. But little wisdom. Even though all religions and philosophies swear the latter leads to happiness. Our freedoms are apparent, and they have made us very sick in the mind. Nero, for all the power he possessed on a diminishing empire’s credit, was just an insane freak of nature like a Rupert Murdock or Barack Obama. Not happy. Never secure in love. Yet it seems all the non-political commoners dress up to be like them, and would become them if they won the lottery. The common men who stop to admire a jet ski on display at the mall, and the women who consider purchasing the latest issue of People magazine with a dead Patrick Swayze on the cover. These folks are certainly not happy in their ignorance, which is never bliss, but rather chimera. Also, wrong acceptance of careerism and its habits of middle age has blown our happiness path to smithereens. No wonder so many are plagued with regret and night sweats of bitterness.
So why did the political world move into my brain and push out the wisdom-to-be that I swear was thriving in my younger years? Maybe this course I am taking in psychology will shed light on the social/anti-social animal I have become. Maybe it will speak about first love or second love, the born again feeling that arises when energy is directed at discovery, and bliss becomes everyday reality through the auspices of blind love for another human being. Probably not. Love is never taken seriously at the college level (although every single university affiliate has fallen to its power). Still, I would think it a doctoral track more necessary to happiness that physics or English literature. What else needs to be discovered in order for the “good life” to be realized? John Donne’s snuff habit? Another dimension of reality that we’re told we can never see (perhaps heaven)? What specialization need we focus upon now that cholera can be defeated? Have we in the western nations not enough potable water, clothing, shelter and fuel? I would argue that all we lack is proper distribution of these necessities. And that can be fixed overnight by determined revolutionaries in love. Sack a congress lobbied to corruption with rotten tomatoes and “We are the World” mantras.
I think that this college course will uncover some awful truth about modern humanity. That is this: We eagerly make efforts to go against the grain of the heaven on earth existing before our very eyes. It will show by experiment that humanity has always been subject to groupthink and group censure, from caveman times to the atomic age, and that this was necessary as far as groups go. Geese form a “V” to fly south. People arrange a militia to fight other people who covet their stuff.
But we moderns have made the blunder of taking social conditioning way too far, and have ignored the wonders of love, art, and beauty, which in older times the royal classes gravitated towards in their grateful acceptance of good fortune. Who in Jacksonian Democracy could foresee an Iphone with every volume entitled “me” in its Library of Congress-sized memory reading room? What Japanese noble of the Kamakura Period would not mutilate his own bowel after realizing he forsook his only son’s wisdom education for a shiny red Ford F350?
Unfortunately my free social psychology course will not lecture me that the above modern condition is abnormal psychology chomping on steroids. It will not instruct me on wisdom, nor on how to find it, nurture it, and use it to achieve happiness in this life. No, it is a social boo-boo to voice a strong opinion against the mountain of crap our society drops on us day after day. Normalcy is to be authenticated after 8 years of intense tunnel vision university study before society even allows an educated guess at what might be wrong with it. And then it won’t have credence without publication, which will only come if approved by an editor, himself overeducated to the point of fearing his own vocal opinion without first undergoing five years of proper research and testing.
But love? No degree necessary. And we think we’re very good at it, yes? We have experienced it, studied it, woke up eager to practice it, mainly during the courting stages, when it was as important to life’s mission as finding a career and establishing oneself an accepted player in society. So what happened? Why no mention of love promotion in the press other than hitting the 50th anniversary mark? Awards are many but private to be sure, credentials boxed up in the basement, photographs nonexistent to present-day visitors to the marital abode. Yet it was one of the three or four most significant moments in the life of every human being. It has been relegated as a social taboo to communally recollect and organize hard copies of examples of falling in love. A kind of embarrassment, almost a mild shame that prevents each and every one of us from “yawping” our love out from the rooftops.
I have a hypothesis to share with the social psychologists. By virtue of the 200,000 year old struggle for survival, modern well-fed human beings, who have no immediate threat to their existence, haven’t the slightest idea how to process the ecstasy of courting after the mate has been won. A species-wide denial of poetic joy that practically everyone has experienced pervades.
I would argue that by covering up real memories of courting happiness to the extent that they exist on par with other childhood rites of passage, like losing teeth or leaving the familial nest, we have denied ourselves and loved ones a published account of what could very well be an example of burgeoning wisdom.
So we forget about early love to make room for the tough, grown-up stuff, (ex., career, child rearing, keeping a clean house, grocery shopping, finding hobbies), and no periodic reference to the good ole days can be used to repair broken dreams. Hence dissatisfaction with our wife or husband, the seven-year-itch, and recycled ideas of how great life would be if we could just “get away”.
Separation in the mind, if not actualized, is all too common. And divorce becomes an option, since all reminders of why this girl or guy moved you in the first place, have been buried and lost to time.
I believe we all possess this poetry of love’s beginning. I think it is a course worth deep study, if only to research why its virtue has been lost to all and sundry. I have brought up these old letters and poems from our musty basement on the eve of my wife’s 40th birthday. Lately I have been feeling the overwhelming strain of practicing a repetition of days toward cliché goals. Security, conservatism, wealth, retirement—all notions I would have smirked at when I was in my twenties looking for answers to “why” and “what for?”. Then I started chasing Rose, and during the process, saw opportunities arise and abilities executed that I thought could never be. Not quite feelings of invincibility, but close. More like insight into the power of dreams to encourage positive action with another human being. That is I dreamed of a day, maybe a picnic and a movie, woke up and arranged it, and then experienced it with her. Success! Tenderness. Lovemaking. Sleep. And the promise of more. I already had a five-year-old daughter, and her well-being was much improved day-to-day as I courted Rose. The creativity, optimism, hope, excitement of new love was carried over to the nurturing of my little girl. There was no neglect, nobody pushed aside so abstracts like “job security” or “personal success” could make room.
So why did those feelings of wellness and “all is right with the world” ever fade away?
Now is when Leopold enters the concert arena.
The other night while doing dishes I made Rose laugh out loud as I explained to her my concept of Leopold. He is Bugs Bunny on the cover of this book, and can be found in action on Youtube or Vimeo. I told her that for once in my life (and hers too) I want the world to shower the praise on us that was given to that “wrascally wrabbit” when he was imitating some maestro of the time, real or imaginary. A necessary feeling to pull us out of the repetitive funk we find ourselves locked in. To spend it all on just one night! A suite booked at the Plaza, reservations at Daniel, a private car with driver, black disco dress with sparkles, tickets to the opera at Lincoln Center, where Rose and I conduct music for the worn and weary.
We had this feeling one time not so long ago. Every letter I sent to her was a promise for a night like this. And Rose was all about reciprocation, even if it was not literary. No doubt, we both believed wholeheartedly in each other and had faith in the future. I do not doubt that you, reader, have felt the same many times not too long ago…
So, what is the theory we can test? How do I institute this landmark study that will get the comfortable masses to recapture romantic love without relinquishing the urge to relieve social pressures in their every day lives? That is, how to find wisdom in love again, and save for retirement? Well, for starters, I wrote and edited this book. My private hope is that Leopold spends it all on one night to reinvigorate dreams which he believes were visionary in their wisdom. Of course none of this effort will matter if Rose is not convinced, and vies for austerity because the pay is never enough, keep working. John Lennon was about forty when “Starting Over” was a popular song on the radio. Those lyrics are poetry of what this book is trying to recapture. Also the following, written when I was feeling a little bit Leopold thirteen years ago:

Say, What’s Cooking In Oswego?

A plate of truth and a bottle of blood?
No, no numb skull, far from that!
There used to be fishermen here
but baby perch wiggle tougher
than our men do nowadays.
I think they kept chickens
back in the 1800’s
She already had an egg
and a log on the fire
before cock-a-doodle-do.
Whisk the egg with two fingers of sugar
and a dash of salt
Mix with yesterday’s milk,
pour into flour
then a pan on the fire
Eat with your hand and smell
her dirty apron and stinky toes.

There was one poet here in 1936
He went nuts
Walked up to his old Aunt Beasel
raking leaves into a pile,
and punched her square in the eye.
She kicked his ass of course
right in front of Joe and Mickey
and even their pet rabbit seemed to be laughing.
That was all of him
He took a bus to New York
Got a job washing dishes at Delmonico’s
Got rich, lived rich, died super-rich
with nothing at all.

What’s so wonderful about New York
that ain’t happening here in Oswego?
Well, now that everyone’s a sissy
(Joe was a truck driver
Mickey got a restaurant),
Now that even the cock swaggers down the street
terrifying the plump little bib drippers we’ve become
It’s nice once in a while to forget
about manhood, womanhood,
Aunt Beasel’s hairy mole next to her eye…
It’s good to forget about our legs and arms
and things like where water comes from
Now that we’re self-proclaimed half truths
and walking lies
why not enjoy life to its fullest plate of food?
And what’s cooking in Oswego
is only fitting for what Oswego cooks up.

Our restaurants mix powdered demi-glace,
deep fry their hairy ninety-five cent broilers,
Some chefs I know
should just piss on your plate
One place thinks rigatoni in Italian means
“looks and smells like Great Nana’s big toe”
At least in New York we can still pretend
that all life left is imagination
and get a king’s meal at a fair price
and window shop and make ourselves
smell real good for dinner.

“Good evening Mr. and Mrs. Throop
May I take your coats?
Chef Beasel saved a perfect egg for you tonight
You look so good, smell so sweet
Mrs. Throop,
your arms are bare and beautiful,
your neck perfeect
Right this way
Right this way
Right this way

Let this book be a reminder of what I believe makes the best humans in a comfortable world. Spend it all, and let the chips fall.

And thank Keith Richards for reading my books.


Answer To Agora Gallery’s Twitter Question: “Is Art Urgent?”


Without the Presence of a Justice Gene, Public Radio Will Have a Strong Corporate Bias 2015. Acrylic on canvas, 36 x 36″ Painting has little to do with following subject matter beyond dancing chromosomes.

From Last Communion

This also appears in my website that I have never advertised. Take a look. Lots of pictures. Many paintings available for silver dollar, or two.

Answer to Agora Gallery’s Twitter Question “Is Art Urgent?”

When viewing the work of an artist I seek the biography of the man/woman expressed in hard copies. I mark the energy of the joy or angst living in each piece. If there isn’t any, there isn’t art. Easy marker. With that said, allow me to cite a piece of yesterday that I hope will help answer this important question.
Early in the day I shared with my wife a break time video (via e-mail) of Tom Jones and Janis Joplin back in 1969 singing and dancing “Raise your hand”. I wrote to her that this is what gurgles through my veins most days.

Skip corporate commercial. Tom and Janis.

Did you see it? Got up and danced, yes? Made you almost feel ashamed to live in a land that has warped the meaning of joy and dance (which is often art) into Beyoncé, a phony by-product of Proctor and Gamble, Coca Cola, or AT&T smartphone toothpaste glued to your face.
Not ever, even in a very weak moment, say solitary confinement in a boy’s prison or island castaway, would I be interested in the choreographed faux-dance of Beyoncé. It is without real desire. I think it hasn’t loved since it was a little girl. It says “Me” like a blazing sun, but not a star. More like a thermonuclear detonation. All in all, I think Beyoncé hates art, and has sent her husband into gallery show rooms to rap about it.
Her dance is not an “outward expression of an inward harmony of the soul.” It is, to me, a kind of death of individuality and its right to expression. Poor Beyoncé. She is just a tool, as were Tom and Janis in their day to a degree. The difference lies in their humanity. That unlikely 60’s couple each got to dance like any nerd in the lunch line and feel good about it. Real good. Today the corporations steer us to do the impossible and copy the world’s champions, which sets up stone walls to our dance as expressive creatures. Then this negativity gets revealed in our every day lives: Paint a picture? Not if you can’t out dance both van Gogh in color and Wyeth in boredom. Chisel marble? Are your balls square? There has been only one Italian superstar worthy of that! The world’s champions, (a Kurt Vonnegut idea), existed in 1969 too. Yet from watching the “Raise Your Hand” video (I was 2 years old at the time thinking about becoming a painter), it is so obvious to me that the door was open for humanity (at least for those existing in a healthy economy) to virtually explode with creativity per capita.
Art’s urgent task is to reopen that door. It must go back a generation to Tom and Janis, further back to the Mohawk and Santee Sioux; I say shine light on the first clan even, to notice how Glub the Firestarter turned a rock into a Mastodon with his smoldering magic stick. Hurrah! Let’s party!
And Glub’s brothers and sisters gesticulate the wild human dance while drinking spit beer late into the night.
Beyoncé, Jeff Koons and Rita the corporate-sponsored conceptual artist who uses her feet to throw rocks at spider monkeys, are barbarian invaders in our once deeply expressive village. ABC and PBS are working overtime this week getting us to authenticate their celebrity. This will sell more Crest, more Toyota Corollas, and less and less of the truth that each and every one of us is deeply expressive if we dare to dig that deep. The entertainers can be amazing and excite us to our own expressive joys, which is art manifest. I got up and raised my hand with Tom Jones, but I didn’t want to be like him. I writhed and wrinkled and spilled my spit fermented beer on the hide carpet. I woke up and rock painted a saber-toothed tiger stalking a Super Bowl celebrity into the forest.
Art must coax art out of the box that money and power have stuffed it into. Museum is art history. Instrumental in preserving art’s stories. However, no joy comes from paced, clockwise observation at a respectable five foot distance, whether that be an afternoon at the Louvre or your local, struggling art association. And celebrity is anything but celebratory. Lady Gaga is Cindy Sherman. Mick Jagger is Jasper Johns. Millionaire super jocks with dead style choreographed. I think their art is as much fun to be around as burning plastic. It is urgent that we support the expression of our neighbors Donna, who paints us the real news, (what the fourth estate has abandoned for advertising deals), and Fred, the marble sculptor sweating out angst in the oppressive July heat. His suburban neighbors doze the live long day long in the cool of the swimming pool.
Hey, crank up the music.


Just another Beyoncé tune.



Dear Humanity, I’d Like To Know How This Thing Got To Control All of Mankind’s Arbitrary Wealth


2015. Acrylic on paper, 15 x 21″

The greatest poindexters of money science cannot explain this phenomenon. Everyone is confused. Even the President of the Kansas City Fed doesn’t know what the heck is going on. She has a string of lunch dates scheduled each business day far into the new year, and in closed circles is known to screw up the 18% tip every time.

How has history led us to a cabal of black magic money manipulators? Especially in this age, when even small children know that our coinage is pretend. A couple nights ago I traded a painting for an electronic gizmo that can make a banana into a keyboard space bar. I never once thought of the little, old magic lady in the painting allowing for me the opportunity to engage in trade. Where was she a 102 years ago? Geeze, Edison invented electric light, got rich, and touted American ingenuity without Fed Chair approval. America had factories, automobiles, airplanes, butternut squash, and children that still played with neighbor children on the street. Even lasagna was to become popular in urban settings. Where the hell were these old people bozos bossing the earth around with interest rates and secret billion dollar loans? The text in the painting comes out of her high school yearbook. It appears she didn’t even like money. Psychology club, the editor of the school newspaper… What was the “Great White Father”? Scary stuff.

The one glimpse of her future I ascertain from the yearbook accolades comes from her membership in psychology club. I have been reading up on social psychology this month.  I read about a study done on Nazi doctors who got to pick out those who would die for Hitler’s Final Solution. The author of the study found three types of doctor personalities which identified their acumen in a system that already institutionalized evil. There was the sadistic doctor who liked it a lot, a doctor who went “by the book”, following orders without a visible care, and finally the doctor who didn’t appreciate the process at all, but reluctantly agreed to appoint children to the gas stations because society told him that this was the thing to do to keep society in tact.

It is not difficult for a clown-around American like myself to understand how any single human being, once the editor of a school newspaper and member in the Minuteman club, rises to a station of life where all of earth’s trade more or less is directed by her liver-spotted hand. Not difficult at all, given its probable psychological reasons. We, all homo sapiens of earth, are the Nazi doctors’ nurses, orderlies, and candy stripers performing an evil with polished éclat. We don’t just look at the thing and declare, “This is wrong! This cannot be!”. No. We help carry out the institutional evil by forces we like to think are under our control, but never ever are.

I just went to Ms. Yellen’s credential sheet on the Federal Reserve website telling us all is right with the world, so shut up, and go back to work, Mr. and Mrs. Current Employment Statistic! Anyway, she has quite an impressive climb through the best institutions money can buy. Brown, Yale, Berkley… The Nazi doctors went to college too. They became doctors. And all of Germany helped them with the mass murder of their neighbors and friends.

Neighbors According to Zimbardo Research

2015. Acrylic on canvas, 18 x 14″

Reading The Lucifer Effect: Understanding How Good People Turn Evil by Philip Zimbardo. My wife says it’s unhealthy for me to find sources to corroborate a hypothesis I had since the first 20 year old paid airman knew he could pull a lever and simultaneously murder 35,000 civilians, and did it anyway. Perhaps she is right. The poor boy had no training in social psychology and 1984 hadn’t been written until several years after the devastation of Nagasaki. (Orwell was busy with his war work at the BBC). Anyway, his superior officer told him to do it. And that was good enough for him. Heck, he just wanted a Coke after the bombing, and alone time to write a letter to his sweetheart.

I am so intrigued by the ideas put forth in this book. I believe they will help me avoid many uncomfortable mob lynch-like situations in the future. Unfortunately, I am the only one on my street learning how to clear away from dangerous group think. And although these beasties, otherwise known as local neighbors, appear harmless now, almost friendly-looking actually, I know that at the sound of the right whistle, this colorful mob will fuse into a monstrous, incredibly indifferent, killing machine.

Oh well. Best to know some good escape routes.

For now, let this video do in three minutes what reading a fat tome would accomplish in 12 days:

I’d Rather Be High by David Bowie


My House Got Skunked. Call Me Mr. Surly.


“Key Locked In Car, Agressive Bees, and Can I Go to a Land of Grace?” 2011. Acrylic on paper, 22 X 15″

To be the first day over 60º F since Christmas, and our house gets skunked! This will push me to the garden for sure. I leave you with a piece of the archive, circa 2013, from Last Communion:

The Dalai Lama’s Twitter Account

Disclaimer: Below is my final paper for Coursera social psychology in which I write about my “Day of Compassion”, influence my peers, and apply to win a chance to meet the Dalai Lama. Mr. Lama, I am sure, is a kind and gentle human being. I do not wish to offend anyone who follows and applies his teachings. He must deal with slightly depressed, delusional characters like me all the time. Please consider the following essay more tongue-in-cheek clowning around rather than an attempt at thoughtful criticism. Thank you.

I do not feel much love for the brand Dalai Lama. Maybe because twenty years ago, I read through part of a biography about “His Holiness” while my girlfriend sat in the kitchen of our drafty apartment flirting with an old boyfriend who audaciously stopped by on his motorcycle to chat with her. I was “into” spirituality back then, devouring authors who appealed to the hair shirt side of my brain. I read Thich Nhat Hanh—he got me to walk and meditate; histories of Hinduism—they taught me how a poor working father could hold his head high before his daughter; anything by Henry Miller—I was a passionate line cook in America for God’s sake, not St. Francis of Assisi. I wanted to woo a mate, and wear my hat like Walt Whitman. I was a romantic and a shy showman, desiring to perfect my life in love with a friend who would help me raise my daughter subsisting on bean soups and warm bread.
I gave up reading the biography to eavesdrop on the kitchen conversation. She wouldn’t be “the one”, that was for certain. Nor would the Dalai Lama. Too much money, not magic, in the making of his brand. I wanted men who suffered first and then found enlightenment, not children who got hand-picked by golden-robed men to be religious kings. The Buddha left his wife and child to find enlightenment? My God, what a coward! I was a twenty-five year old American flopdoodle, yet even I knew better. Siddhartha ran away from true responsibility. Went and sat under a tree, leaving his kid back at the palace to wonder for the rest of his life why daddy left home. And that suffering wheel the Buddhists chant about while bowing along humble walks to oblivion… Obviously the boy grew up and abandoned his own children, either figuratively or literally.
Buddha rose above the wheel of life and death, and left his family to suffer karma.
What a selfish narcissist!

“They like to take all this money from sin/
build big universities to study in,
Sing Amazing Grace
all the way to the Swiss banks”

—Bob Dylan

So this day of compassion I have led… What of it? What came to be? Did it change our President’s mind about bombing helpless children in Syria? Did it prevent the Dalai Lama from stepping into another jet airplane to whisk his wisdom around the globe, while stuffing a dirty sock down the throat of our atmosphere? Did it make me stop and be mindful of the man I dream to be? No more or less than any other day since I have decided to not take the path, but become it. Yes, perhaps I am delusional to the point of actually teaching the Dalai Lama a thing or two about “right living”, the Eight-fold Path, that yarn about “Have you had your supper? Then clean out your bowl Bingo!”
I read in my 2009 edition of the Myers’ book about the “sadder-but-wiser effect” demonstrated by mildly depressed people. I quote at length to shed light of how susceptible professionals are to avarice, the powerful vice preventing our living Rimbaud’s “Christmas on earth”:

Normal people exaggerate how competent and well-liked they are. Depressed people do not. Normal people remember their past behavior with a rosy glow. Depressed people are more evenhanded in recalling their successes and failures. Normal people describe themselves primarily positively. Depressed people describe both their positive and negative qualities. Normal people take credit for successful outcomes and tend to deny responsibility for failure. Depressed people accept responsibility for both success and failure. Normal people exaggerate the control they have over what goes on around them. Depressed people are less vulnerable to the illusion of control. Normal people believe to an unrealistic degree that the future holds a bounty of good things and few bad things. Depressed people are more realistic in their perceptions of the future. In fact, on virtually every point on which normal people show enhanced self-regard, illusions of control, and unrealistic visions of the future, depressed people fail to show the same biases. “Sadder but wiser” does indeed appear to apply to depression. Taylor, S.E. (1989) Positive Illusions: Creative self-deception and the healthy mind. New York: Basic Books. (p. 516)

Looks like all the “normal” people are getting their daily soma pill, while the wise ones are prescribed anti-depressants to “dress up” their bummer reality.
My mother has a mantra, not likely to be repeated on rice begging walks throughout Lhasa. I tend to agree with it more than any empty philosophy uttered by a holy man from a Palo Alto hotel room.
It is this:

Charity begins at home.

I have deep compassion for my immediate family, my wife and children, my ingroup. Yet it is never enough. Yes, I am prejudiced to all outgroups, no matter how large or small. No, I do not feel the need to feed the poor, clothe the homeless, instruct the ignorant. I want to teach myself and those whom I can truly influence, the joy of life. That is the true wheel. Wisdom shared from parents to children. I believe that being mindful of our responsibility to the next generation, that is, to raise children with the utmost care and kindness, is the only worthwhile profession.
And then avarice rears its ugly head. The economy improves year after year. The money is there, also the mortgage, the two cars, the cable, the supermarket, the retirement, the “me, me, me” pumped up on methamphetamine. Children potty-trained then day-cared to professional babysitters. Our own professions calling us to depart in mind, body and soul for the majority of our awake time. Childhood depression, stress on the freeway, and Freddy grows up wanting to become a Zen Buddhist. The wheel of suffering turning and turning, my own professor assigning a “day of compassion”, personal Bodhi trees for all the parents out there agonizing over a Lexus car payment.

I wrote the following in a letter to my daughter for her high school graduation. I include it to shed light on the generation (let alone cultural) gap:

“In an interview Noam Chomsky once admitted that he did not expect, nor even encourage his children to share a similar world view. I don’t think that is possible considering his fame and misfortune as a world renown humanist. Perhaps by stating publicly their ignorance of his politics, he would prevent future Army Ranger raids on the cribs of his grandchildren. Either way it is wrong thinking. Here is a man alive today who wants to drastically change the public’s perception of the American Empire, yet leave his children “off the hook”.
Geez, if he can’t persuade his own flesh and blood at the dinner table, then how is he going to achieve moral revolution to the millions of minds of a sick society? Doomed to failure, don’t you think, if his own spawn cannot be convinced?
Well, I am no Noam. Sure I have opinions, but most are formed in the gut. My gut persuades me to believe that it is a more reliable reader of our political world than the eyes, ears, and encyclopedic inner wanderings of Noam Chomsky’s well documented gray matter.
Surely there is something to be said about his ignoring the kids. Is Noam any different kind of careerist than the bank vice president? I mean it takes a lot of time out of a person’s day whether he is an astute member of the board or a genius in sneakers. Loans to sign, books to read, lunch to eat, books to write, desk arrangement, office hours, thousand dollar plate fundraisers, speech invitationals, an immoral philosophy to uphold, a moral philosophy to uphold… So much in common when there is not a minute of free time to teach the children. Really, why have kids if there is no intention to pass on a philosophy?”

My question to be answered by the Dalai Lama if ever I meet him on a Stanford sidewalk is this:
What’s up with your Twitter account? 7,636,789 followers, but you follow no one? Is that the path to enlightenment? Compassionate arrogance? I would think that a spiritual leader who wants to connect with as many people as possible, to be ever mindful of their love and hope and dreams, would at least follow the many who follow him. You want us all to be in touch? Then you must be in touch. Open the flood gates and leap into the suffering tsunami of humanity. Or become the true path, the raccoon, the camel, the hummingbird, who have known all along, that there is no enlightenment outside of teaching your young. Ah, but when that is done to the best of our human abilities, like it was without the help of antibiotics fifteen thousand years ago, the same Heaven and Hell will be known again to all living things.
Until that day returns, it’s all topsy-turvy in the human world.

So, at first light on the morning following my day of compassion, I will bake some baguettes and sift through the cat litter. Exactly what I have been doing almost every day for the past fifteen years.
Maybe in the next life I’ll be picked up for future international fame from some Himalayan village off the beaten path. Perhaps not. More likely I’ll be a shy goat chewing tin cans while his holiness is placed onto the royal Lhasa litter. But that is neither here nor there. Thank you for this chance, Professor P. and staff, to clean up my mind the last several weeks. I really enjoyed your class.