Is it Art?

When I first decided to write and publish fiction, I thought that I’d spend some time writing poetry. The idea was that writing poetry would be good practice for producing concise and powerful prose. I’ve since stopped writing poetry, though I still indulge the habit from time to time, in trying my hand at songwriting. It’s what I do to relax. But during the year or so of my poetic career, I contemplated the question in the title of this post. Today I read an article that raised the question to new prominence in my mind. You can read the piece here.

For me the question is about intent and artistic responsibility. For me, what I do is Art and it carries the responsibility to engage humanity, my fellows, my brothers, sisters, fathers, mothers, children, all — in a shared conversation that affirms the love we bear for each other and directs our attention to the struggles we must engage.

Here then, is a poem I wrote a couple of years ago when the Doomsday Clock was set at three minutes to midnight. It’s moved a bit closer since Trump claimed the White House.

Three Minutes

Waiting for this thick night’s yielding
to a thinning dawn. Listening
to the passing beat
of dreamtime’s slow hours.
It’s coming. Creaking
bones stirring
ending, beginning.
In the pale sweep of History
memories linger.
Past midnight, nothing
escapes the hot flash.
There, unknown dead,
grim shadows on once walls
carbonized remains
black images in the light.
The light, the light that burns the soul
to ashes, to dust, to vapors
till mortal conscience
screams in pain. Horror!
resonating through folds of time
screaming its demands
the washing of hands.
Do not speak of Hiroshima.
Do not mention Nagasaki.
But it is still three
minutes to midnight.

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Self-Serving Public Servants – Trump, DeVos and the Rise of the Plutocrats

gadflyonthewallblog

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This election cycle we have witnessed a subtle change to our political landscape – and it’s probably not the one you’re thinking about.

It’s not that Republicans have gained control of a large chunk of our government. It’s not that racists, anti-feminists and xenophobes have been emboldened by their Presidential pick winning the highest office in the land. It’s not even that the Democrats have been exposed as weak, blind and cheaply bought.

Well, it’s not just those things.

There’s something deeper and even more unprecedented going on here.

It used to be that the wealthy bribed politicians to do their bidding. Now the wealthy are becoming the politicians.

I don’t mean just millionaires. They’ve always been willing to fill an elected office. I mean the mega-rich. I mean billionaires. The Crassuses, The Midases, the Astors, The Rockefellers.

Sure, many lawmakers on both sides of the aisle…

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Timing is Everything

And depending on how you look at it, mine is amazing or awful. In a recent post here I shared that I had decided that my next book was going to be an elephant story, provisionally titled Magua the Elephant. Since I knew very little about elephants I embarked on my usual round of research on the subject. What I learned shocked me.

First, a tremendous amount of work has been done and much has been learned about elephants, about their habits, their environmental significance, and their culture.

Yep, their culture.

Turns out these are amazing creatures, intelligent and sensitive, long-lived and very social. I know that to some extent, these facts are not unknown to many but I never realized just how intelligent, sensitive and amazing.

Now, elephants are close to extinction. I could make a case here about their ecological importance but I’m not going to do that. You see, elephants are a problem for the farmers who have been trying to grow food on land that the elephants once roamed freely. We humans are outgrowing the planet and the elephants are getting in the way. We need to find a rational solution to the problem.

But the anger of a few farmers is not what’s driving the elephant to extinction. In Africa large game preserves have been set up to provide protected spaces for elephants, and where conflict occurs with farmers, electrified fences have been somewhat successful. More needs to be done, and there are some very smart people working on the problem.

The thing is, Ivory, at $1500.00 USD per pound.

Previous to this, there was a ban on the importation of ivory, and elephants were on the USA’s most endangered species list. Here’s a link to the Scopes fact check on the story, given that it’s so incredible.

Why, and why now?

The fools in the White House offer some nonsense about Zimbabwe. I think that the timing, coming immediately on Trump’s return from China, is significant. Until Trump’s out of the blue reversal, China had been the major holdout on a worldwide ban on ivory importation. Trump goes to China, is wined, dined and offered some private deals. Now China has a major ally in its vicious trade in ivory harvested from slaughtered elephants.

Wonder what the quid pro quo is in this huge deal?

And it’s very huge. This trade finances the various wars that are tearing the African continent apart. Not a very smart move by an American President, to facilitate the flow of cash to our enemies. Poached ivory is a major source of cash for terrorists.

Unless ….????

I am calling on all of you out there, in your own interests and in the interest of intelligent humanity, to demand the restoration of the ban on the importation of ivory to the United States.

The entrepreneurs who buy from these terrorist poachers know that it’s impossible to tell the difference between legal and illegal ivory so as long as there’s a legal trade, the poached ivory will find its way onto the market, and elephants will be massacred.

Please spread the word.

If you’d like to learn more about this nasty business, Netflix has a documentary up that you could watch.

Neil.

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Domestic Bliss

“Empirical research shows that no domestic arrangement, not even one in which the mother works full time and the father is unemployed, results in child-care parity between heterosexual spouses. The story we tell ourselves, the one about great leaps toward the achievement of gender equality between parents, is a glass-half-full kind of interpretation. But the reality is a half-empty glass: While modern men and women espouse egalitarian ideals and report that their decisions are mutual, outcomes tend to favor fathers’ needs and goals much more than mothers’.

The result of this covert power imbalance is not a net zero. A growing body of research in family and clinical studies demonstrates that spousal equality promotes marital success and that inequality undermines it. And the disparity creates not only undue emotional, physical and financial strain on mothers, but also perpetuates attitudes about what is and should be acceptable — or even desirable — between a woman and a man, with children as their eager audience.”

That’s a direct quote from an article that was published recently in the Washington Post. (Here’s a link to the entire thing if you’d like to read it yourself. ) It was the dramatic headline that got my attention – ‘Where do Kids Learn to Undervalue Women? From their Parents’. Some of the people reading this blog know my partner, Sharon, and can testify that she’s an independent thinker and a fearless woman. I admire her, a lot.

She and I agree, have always agreed, that abusers of all stripes are bred in the family and in the society and we have striven to raise our children in a non-toxic atmosphere. For me, it’s been an uphill struggle against the attitudes and prejudices with which I was endowed, not by my Creator, but by my parents and by the society in which I live.

While it may be fair to argue that the society is just the family writ large, it’s much more than that. It’s a bit like the difference between the private ignorance and fear that engenders racism in its supporters, and the institutional framework of law and regulation that preserves it. The fundamental similarity in the way misogynism and racism operate in the human mind is not a coincidence.

I think that the rupture over the Fifteenth Amendment, evidenced by Frederick Douglass’ political rejection of the Women’s Movement, was a great mistake. (And this in spite of his deep understanding of the innate connections between the struggles of disfranchised white women and similarly afflicted ex-slaves.) It’s unfinished business.

So here we are again, as our generation’s version of the Civil War rages around us.

Yes, I went there. It’s true, isn’t it? The old fault lines have ruptured again, under the pressure of a failing economy.

Recently I watched a BBC documentary film on the growth of a white supremacy movement in the USA .  I came away with an image that planted itself in my brain as a figure of  what we face in this country.

BlackPowerWhitePower

That’s a screen grab from the film, KKK  The Fight for White Supremacy; it’s available now on Netflix.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

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November Approaches

And with it comes NaNoWriMo. I’ve been hearing about this for some time as several people from my old writers’ group, Buffalo Writers Meetup, have attempted it and talked about it at meetings.  This year I’m jumping in.

I must be getting old. I can’t remember which came first — my interest in elephants, or the idea for a story about an elephant. Whichever the case, I’ve decided that my NaNoWriMo is Magua the Elephant. I wrote a blog on the subject here.

I should also mention the book about elephants by Ellis Nelson; it too, was one of the prompts that got me interested in the subject.

So I’m looking at a commitment to 2K words a day. I’ll try to keep up with the blog. It’s been …. so far. Yeah, fun. Really.

Okay, exciting – I’ve got the feeling in the gut about this; the one where you’re frightened and excited in equal parts.

Let’s do this.

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What I learned from the Don in the White House

Well the would-be Don anyway. He’s not smart enough to be the Don, he’ll always be the one taking orders, being ‘advised’ on what to do. All he does is keep an eye on the money, or as he likes to say, ‘make deals, huge deals’.

When I started this blog, I was clear about my motives. It was mostly about the money. People who know me will recognize that that was a reaction to the way I’ve lived; I have always been an outsider, caring most about things that most people consider unimportant and not caring at all about what those same people most esteem. I had come to a point when I was beginning to think that it was time to put some cash together so that I could better help my children and do some things that I’d always wanted to do. Then the people chose an ignorant misogynist to be the President of the United States of America.

This is not a joke.

Comedians make fun of him and people laugh but this Presidency is reversing the progressive course we have been fighting so long and so hard to steer. He is dismantling every institution that reflected our humanity and our decency. If you are religious, he is destroying all traces of charity and brotherly love, installing a crew of monsters and encouraging the uninhibited pillaging of the country’s wealth and the unregulated exploitation of it people. And as long as he can use the mass media to propagate lies and stoke the fears of the most vulnerable, he will continue to prevail.

I’m not laughing.

I’m back at my writing desk, and this time, it’s not about the money. To hell with entertaining people. Who cares if they don’t buy my book? I’m going to write something that I can be proud of, and that my children can be proud to read and talk about. I’ll do the best work I can, and let it go where it will.

La lucha continua.

 

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Mango Crumble Tarts, a Caribbean twist on the American Apple Crumble pie. Serve it with sorrel tea.

I’ve had this and it’s really good.

Caribbean Foods in American Kitchens

Apples or mangoes.  Why not both? 

Apple Crumble Pie
Apple Crumble Pie served with homemade caramel sauce

I love apple making this apple crumble pie with a hearty whole wheat pastry crust.  Recently  though, with a  mango in my refrigerator, and dessert on my mind,  I experimented.

What I got was this mango crumble heart, so named because your heart crumbles to see it disappear off the plate so quickly. It got rave reviews.

Mango Crumble Heart Serve this mango crumble heart/tart with sorrel or hibiscus tea. You will think you’re back home

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Current Research: The Elephant’s Secret Sense by Caitlin O’Connell

The story of humans in the world is a sad tale of greed, ignorance and horrific abuse of the stewardship of the planet we have claimed as our birthright. Sometimes deliberately, sometimes inadvertently, but always with devastating agency, we have driven a number of species to extinction. The elephant, cursed with the ‘white gold’ of ivory, has been wantonly hunted and killed, as much for sport as for the valuable ivory in their tusks. Additionally, the modern drive of globalization of industrial development and the increases in human populations have encroached on the elephant’s natural habitats, driving the animals into deserts and reservations.

Caitilin O’Connell’s book leaves nothing out as she describes the personal odyssey that led to her discovery of the way these intelligent and sensitive creatures communicate with each other and maintain their societies. O’Connell is a human, who happens to be a scientist, and whose research allows her to meet and interact with the natural world of the African savannah. In the process she gleans, and shares with us, a profound insight into that world.

I enjoyed this book, not as a science report of an important discovery about elephant communication, which it so clearly is, but as an entertaining story of one woman’s African adventures.

Oh to be young again.

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Friday 45: BETHLEM STEELE – Hold On To Your Mind

Source: Friday 45: BETHLEM STEELE – Hold On To Your Mind

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@theRealHealthcare

The most significant initiative coming out of the Obama administration was led by the First Lady; I’m talking about her effort to change the eating habits of Americans. There was even some legislation passed in support.

The effort culminated in 2010 with the passage of the Healthy, Hunger-Free Kids Act, which allowed the U.S. Agriculture Department to set new nutritional standards for all food sold in schools for the first time in more than 30 years. The new requirements called for increased servings of fruits, vegetables and whole grains in meals, as well as decreases in the amount of sodium and sugar and a ban on transfats.’ (Modern Healthcare – http://www.modernhealthcare.com/article/20160823/NEWS/160829986 )

Pity her husband didn’t follow her lead.

I’ve never spoken to Lady Obama (okay, the title is imaginative but she deserves it, or something like it) so I don’t know whether she recognized her initiative as the necessary first step toward fixing what’s wrong with our so-called Health Care System.

That begins with food; good food must be made affordable.

The second item on my list is the environment. Clean Air and Water are essential to good health, not to forget the nasty things (like RoundUp which is sold in stores everywhere and used by people to treat the weeds in their lawns. It’s made by Monsanto so it gets a pass on public safety scrutiny. See here – http://news.nationalgeographic.com/2015/04/150422-glyphosate-roundup-herbicide-weeds/) that are pervasive and persistent.

Then comes Preventive Medicine (Dr. Andrew Weil was an advocate of this approach in the early days of the Obama Healthcare debate – they ejected him from the room pretty quickly).

Only then can we talk intelligently about access to expensive, life-prolonging medical technology. I’m talking here about things like organ transplants, bio-engineered body parts, and plastic surgery.

A healthy citizenry, well-fed and informed about best practices for maintaining health, will have little need of these wonderful hi-tech medical gadgets. In catastrophic accidents perhaps, but these will be few in the context of a fully functioning Health Care System.

I would like to see the Progressives get into the debate on the future of Healthcare in a more meaningful way but Sanders seems stuck in the Obama rut of Health Insurance Reform.

We need a Health Care Revolution.

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