politicians destroying art…vol. II in the Chronicles of the Asinine

“Art enables us to find ourselves and lose ourselves at the same time.”
Thomas Merton


(just one wall section of the murals at George Washington High School in San Francisco)

Today we continue our venture into the tales of the asinine with another example
of idiocy outweighing common sense.

It is now officially a sorrowful fact that we, as a culture, have a serious issue
with common sense…as in, we don’t possess any.

Case in point, a high school in San Francisco—oh wait, that alone probably says all you
need to know…but I digress.

This particular high school has some very historic murals that have sadly found their
way into the sites of the Political Correctness Police.

Wait.
“Are they a thing?” you ask.
“What?” I ask…”You mean the PC Police?”

Well, sadly yes…I’m afraid to report that it does seem that the
PC police are indeed very real, very powerful and very scary.

George Washington High School in San Fransico has a collection of murals that
are on display throughout the school and have been there since the 1930s when they
were painted and funded by FDR’s New Deal.

The murals depict the life cycle of George Washington.
They show images of slaves and even Native Americans—some living, some in battle
and some dead.

Images in part because this was part and parcel of this man’s life in the 1700s
during the inception of this nation….not all positives yet realities of the day.

The San Francisco School Board has voted to allow approx. $600,000 to go toward the
destruction of the murals.

All because our culture no longer likes the truth about how life used to be in the early
days during the founding of a nation.

And so we are now seeing that art, which depicts a life that was, is being deemed to be
politically incorrect–as it is viewed through the closed lenses of a 21st century
gone mad.

The culture we live in has deemed that the life of George Washington is obviously
politically incorrect…
Incorrect to those liberal progressive nuts of the 21st century who don’t like the reality
of a man’s life in the 1700s.

I was an art student at the University of Georgia in the late 70s into the start of the 80s.
Well, let’s make that an Art Ed major who took a copious amount of Art History courses,
as well as a great many studio classes, right alongside painting majors, printmaking majors,
sculpture majors, interior design majors…

And it’s never been much of a secret that art majors tend to be a more liberal lot.
Which is in part as to why my conservative younger self sometimes looked a bit out of place,
However, I managed to find a love for many of my professors and fellow classmates.

It was a different time when differences of opinions and lifestyles could still enjoy
one another’s company while still offering nuggets of growth and wisdom to one another.

I did not like modern art…Post-impressionism, Postmodernism, Op Art, Surrealism, Dadaism,
Pop Art, assemblages, installation art, etc…
but rather I loved Byzantine, Medieval, Renaissance, Baroque and Impressionism periods.

Yet I learned early on that art tells a story.
And I do not believe in the notion of art for art’s sake…
Because there is responsibility to art as well as a responsibility from the artist.

I would often tell my students that art must be aesthetic…
that which is “concerned with beauty or the appreciation of beauty.”

As a class, we would spend hours discussing the blatant destruction of the ancient
artworks of Iraq and Syria by ISIS fighters. From the smashing of statuary to the actual
blowing up of temples and centuries-old carvings.
Destroying the stories of a previous people—whose breadcrumbs were left as gifts to
future generations—left to be everlasting in order to tell a story—-
telling their story of then to us today.

Much like the murals in George Washington High School in San Francisco.

According to an article on artnetnews.com at least 400 writers and academics are
protesting the planned destruction of the murals.

The 13-panel painting was created by Russian-born artist Victor Arnautoff in 1936
through the Works Progress Administration. The cycle depicts the life of Washington,
and includes images of America’s first president as a slaver.

But the decades-long debate—which pits activists who take offense at the startling
images against those who say the works were specifically meant to be critical,
not celebratory, and should be used as a teaching tool—is lingering on.

Last week, the academic online journal Nonsite published a fierce defense of
the murals in a letter that has since been signed by nearly 400 writers, historians,
and artists, including prominent academics such as Michael Fried, Aijaz Ahmad,
Adolph Reed, and David Harvey.

“It is an important work of art, produced for all Americans under the auspices of a
federal government seeking to ensure the survival of art during the Great Depression,”
the letter reads. “Its meaning and commitments are not in dispute.
It exposes and denounces in pictorial form the US history of racism and colonialism.
The only viewers who should feel unsafe before this mural are racists.”

The letter has since been submitted to the San Francisco Unified School District,
which had not responded to Artnet News’s requests for comment.

Rocco Landesman, the former chairman of the National Endowment for the Arts,
wrote a letter to the New York Times decrying the planned destruction of the
painting cycle.
“This just in: A significant segment of the liberal community is turning anti-art,”
he wrote.

“When important artworks of our cultural heritage are not just hidden away but destroyed,
how do these desecrations differ from those of the Taliban, who blew up the Bamiyan Buddhas
in Afghanistan, or the ISIS commanders who destroyed ancient monuments near Palmyra, Syria?”
Landesman asked.

These continuing tales of the asinine are more than simply stupid happenings
by self-righteous ignorant people.
They are a blatant reminder that we are not progressing as a culture…but rather
rapidly regressing.

And the sad thing is, as much as these rabid masses fuss and cuss that which they
claim to be politically incorrect, we as a global family are suffering
due to some odd sense of entitled hatred.

When will we say enough is enough?

Your whole head is injured,
your whole heart afflicted.
From the sole of your foot to the top of your head
there is no soundness—
only wounds and welts
and open sores,
not cleansed or bandaged
or soothed with olive oil.
Your country is desolate,
your cities burned with fire;
your fields are being stripped by foreigners
right before you,
laid waste as when overthrown by strangers.

Isaiah 1:5-7

tis the season…to be giving

“No one is useless in this world who lightens the burdens of another.”
Charles Dickens

Tis the season of gifts…
buying, wrapping, giving…
Yet most of us know that not all gifts are those which can be bought nor wrapped.

By now I suppose most of the country, if not the world, is well aware of the major
power outage that afflicted the Atlanta airport this past Sunday—
an outage that caused a global and near catastrophic ripple effect.

There were hundreds of flights canceled in and out of Atlanta,
the airport touted as the world’s busiest, while other flights simply
had to be rerouted making final destinations more than complicated.
This lone power outage caused severe inconveniences for worldwide holiday and simply
regular travelers.

There were passengers stuck in planes on tarmacs as airport officials scrambled
what to do—deplane folks and shuttle them to the dark airport or what.

Thousands of folks were stuck in that dark and rather scary airport while others
braved walking miles along streets in an unfamiliar area in search of food, shelter or
a rent-a-car…of which there was nary a room to be had at any inn and no
transportation to be found.

The News did pan their camera over to a very busy Waffle House.

The individual stories were and are endless as now hundreds of pieces of luggage are
seen to be sitting in the Atlanta Airport hoping to find their way either
home or to the necessary point of destination…
all much to the chagrin and angst of their owners.

The news reporters were all on scene that night, in the dark, interviewing those
most inconvenienced passangers…with each person, each family,
having an individual tale….yet most of those interviewed seemed to be taking it all
in stride….thank goodness the snow storm had been the previous week.

Some reported that they had witnessed folks trying to “break into” vending machines
and food kiosks within the dark airport as it seems many folks were hungry….
I won’t even speculate about bathrooms.

There were the tales of exit doors being sealed due to no power.
There was a sense of being trapped or simply lost while thousands wrestled with
whether to stay put in the dark and wait, or venture boldly out,
if they could even get out, with or without luggage in tow,
in order to find some sort of plan B.

This is not to mention the thousands across the globe now finding themselves stuck
in airports or cities as their flights were being canceled or rescheduled by the droves.

Schedules and plans were now disastrous around the planet—
all because of a single power outage at a single airport, in a single city,
in a single state, on a single night…..
amazing how there is such a far reaching effect in such a single event…..

There are a lot of different directions a post could be written when something
like this happens…
notions that ‘we don’t need terrorists when we simply have ourselves….’
or perhaps a post about ‘how the tough get going when an inconvenience strikes
while the weaker among us crumble’

or maybe there are just the tales about human resiliency and resolve….

Yet despite the endless possibilities to write about,
I wanted to focus on the simple notion of giving….
wanting to keep our senses within the season of just that…giving.

I’m certain that there were a myriad of tales about the generosity of others during
this “crisis”….from the kind and gracious hotel and motel staffs,
to airport employees offering comfort to the panicked, to the average local citizen who drove toward to airport to see who they could help…..

But one tale in particular caught my eye.

Rather late on this particular Sunday night got, I received a local Atlanta news update
on my phone, alerting everyone that locally founded and headquartered Chick-fil-A was coming to the rescue by trucking in thousands of sandwiches, fries and drinks to those thousands of stranded passengers.

You might not think that such an alert was a big deal until you understand
that there is not a single Chick-fil-A store open nationwide on Sundays.

For you see, the late Truitt Cahty, the founder of Chick-fil-A who first began this
chicken sandwich business in Hapeville, Ga, right near this very airport
way back in 1946, was a very religious man.

Mr Cathy was often asked about his success and he always attributed it to God’s grace.
His go to manual of operation, he would explain, was simple his Bible.

He took God at His word.

If God said to rest and worship, keeping the Sabbath holy, then by gosh that was what
Mr. Cathy was going to do.

I myself am a firm believer that if you honor God,
God will in turn honor and bless you.
Mr. Cahty’s business success is testament to that very fact.

Chick-fil-A has taken a lot of flack in recent months, in part because of the
heavy Christian influence it holds as being a key part of its daily operations.
It has been picketed and protested because it does not condone same sex marriage.

Never mind that they will gladly and happily serve anyone, anytime despite a customer’s
beliefs or sexual orientation, it’s just that as a whole, the organization simply
does not condone the lifestyle choice…and that’s ok but….since we have become a
society that will not allow anyone to hold a view counter
to the madness of culture, places that choose to honor God and keep His word are
often maligned, sued and scorned into submission—but not Chick-fil-A—
it will honor God as it will continue to serve everyone and anyone,
albeit 6 days a week.

So when I read the update that Chick-fil-A would be providing food on this late
Sunday night—
meaning that folks would have to scramble to open restraunts, get employees on site,
fire up fryers and grills in order to quickly transport hot meals out to thousands of hungry and unhappy folks, I for one found tears of gratitude in my eyes.

Truly, it tis the time to be giving…

For the full story—click the attached link….

http://start.att.net/news/read/category/news/article/delish-chickfila_broke_tradition_and_opened_on_sunday_for-rhearst

A bookstore, a war and a reunion….

“Be swift as a gazelle and strong as a lion to do the will of God in Heaven.”
(as seen on the ex libris of a book looted by the Nazi’s, a reference to
a line form the Mishnah, the Jewish redaction of oral traditions:
Andres Rydell The Book Thieves)


(the interior of a book store in Padova, Italy (Padua) / Julie Cook / 2007)

Today’s tale began many years ago, when my aunt and I found ourselves wandering
and weaving up and down the snake-like alley streets twisting through the old historic district of Padua, Italy…
better known to the Italians as Padova.

We were actually en route from Milan to Florence and opted to stop over for 3 days
in order to explore this deeply rich historical city.
And it just so happened that during our stay, during this particular mid June,
it was the height of the city’s yearly commemoration of Saint Anthony.

Padua is home to the Basilica Pontificia di Sant’Antonio di Padova, or the Pontifical Basilica of St. Anthony of Padua—a massive and beautiful church built to honor the Portuguese born saint who settled in Italy, making Padua his adopted home.
The building of the basilica was begun  in 1232, a year following Saint Anthony’s
death, and was finally completed in 1310—with modifications taking place in both
the 14th and 15th centuries.

It was a wonderful experience being a part of such a festive atmosphere, as
thousands of Catholics worldwide flock to this small Northern Italian town for
the June 13th feast day—
The city goes all out to make a colorfully vibrant yet equally respectfully spiritual
time for the thousands of pilgrims and tourists who flock to this city just south of Venice.

There are parades where the various ancient guilds are dressed in period costume as children, nuns, priests, monks and lay people march solemnly through the
narrow ancient streets all carrying flags as residents drape banners from their windows.

Yet Padua is more than just a spiritual hub, it is also very much of an intellectual
hub as it is home to the University of Padua, one of Europe’s oldest universities,
having been founded in 1222.
It is here where Galileo Galilei spent 18 years, of what he has described as being
the happiest years of his life, while he was the head of the Mathematics Department…
teaching, studying, lecturing and writing.

Italy, so rich in history, also happens to have a wonderful history with
paper making as well as bookmaking.
And Padua has its fair share of both fascinating and beautifully rich paper
as well as book shops–shops selling books, antique lithographs and rare prints.

It is said that after Spain, Italy is where paper making actually had its start.
It was most likely introduced to southern Italy by the Arabs who had in turn first
learned the craft from the Chinese.
Arab influence, particularly in architecture, can still be seen in and around the
Veneto region.

So it was during our visit, as we were wandering about one evening following supper,
that we saw the book store I’ve included in today’s post. The store was closed for the night and as we were going to have to be at the train station bright and early the following morning, I knew I would only get to visit this store by pressing my nose
to the window.

All these many years later, I still think about that store.

It had a wealth of what I surmised to be rare antique and ancient books.
Books, despite the language barrier, beckoned for my further investigation.
I would have easily considered giving up my train ticket to Florence just to be able
to wander in, dig and explore….
but it would take years for me to actually understand the draw as to what I would
be digging and looking for….
And as Life so often has her way, time has simply afforded for my wistful musing of
what might have been.

Having finally finished reading The Book Thieves by Anders Rydell,
the image of that book store in Padua has drawn me back time and time again
as I made my way through Rydell’s book. There is a very strong pull to go back
to look, to seek and to wonder.

There are not words nor adjectives enough for me to do justice to the meticulous story
Rydell lays out as he recounts the Nazi’s scrupulous, maniacal and highly
calculated quest to en masse the books of the all of Europe and Russia with
a keen penchant for those of the Jews.
Not only did they attempt to eradicate an entire race of people, they wanted
to hold, own and control the entire literary word of man—
particularly that of religion, science and history.
As they saw themselves as the new keepers of the history of humankind.

Millions and millions of books, both precious and random were taken…as myriads
are now lost or destroyed for all of time.

The Nazis had a detailed system for categorizing the stolen books.
And many of the books that are now scattered across the globe…
be they in large University libraries or small college collections,
to the random bookshop or second hand store—
many of those books still bare the labels of the Nazi’s numerical filing system.

The long arduous journey of Rydell’s very sad, horrific and overwhelming tale ends
in England with his actually reuniting a granddaughter, Christine Ellse, with a lone
little random book that had belonged to her grandfather–
a man she had never known personally but knew he had died in Auschwitz.
There were never any photographs, no sounds, no memories of a the man
this now grown woman so longed to know.

“Although I’m a Christian I have always felt very Jewish.
I’ve never been able to talk about the Holocaust without crying.
I feel so connected to all of this,” says Ellse,
opening the book and turning the pages for a while before she goes on.

“I’m very grateful for this book, because…I know my English grandparents
on my mother’s side.
They lived and then they died.
It was normal, not having any grandparents on your father’s side.
Many people didn’t, but there was something abnormal about this.
I didn’t even have a photograph of them.
There was a hole there, an emotional vacuum, if you see what I mean.
There was always something hanging midair, something unexpressed,”
Ellse says, squeezing the book.

“You know, my father never spoke about this.
About the past, the war.
But my aunt talked about it endlessly, all the time.
She was the eldest of the siblings, so she was also the most ‘German’ of them.
She coped with it by talking;
my father coped with it by staying silent about it.
I knew already when I was small that something horrible had happened.
I knew my grandparents had died in the war.
Then I found out they’d been gassed, but when you’re a child you don’t
know what that means.
It’s just a story—you don’t understand it.
Then I learned they’d died at Auschwitz. Only after I grew up did I begin to understand and get a grip on it.
It was very difficult when I found out they’d been murdered just ten days
before the gas chambers were shut down.
It was agonizing.
I imagine myself sitting on that train, experiencing the cold and the hunger.
And then straight into the gas chambers.
I’ve never able to get over it.”

Historian Patricia Kennedy Grimstead, a woman with a mission to see that war plunder is eventually reunited with families, notes that “millions of trophy books–although no one can say how many there are—will remain as ‘prisoners of war,”
Today, in Russia, there is no willingness to return books to the countries or families
that were plundered. But we still have to know what books are still represented there
from Europe’s cultural inheritance, a monument to the libraries that were destroyed
and scattered as a consequence of the most terrible war in human history.”

And so my mind wanders now back to that bookstore in Padua—
what book, if any, was there that had once been someone’s personal book
before madness took it away…
a book I now wish I could have found, in order to have brought it back home
to its rightful family.

The Lord will afflict you with madness, blindness and confusion of mind.
At midday you will grope about like a blind person in the dark.
You will be unsuccessful in everything you do;
day after day you will be oppressed and robbed, with no one to rescue you….

All these curses will come on you.
They will pursue you and overtake you until you are destroyed,
because you did not obey the Lord your God and observe the commands
and decrees he gave you.
They will be a sign and a wonder to you and your descendants forever.
Because you did not serve the Lord your God joyfully and gladly
in the time of prosperity, therefore in hunger and thirst,
in nakedness and dire poverty,
you will serve the enemies the Lord sends against you.
He will put an iron yoke on your neck until he has destroyed you.

Deuteronomy 28:28-29, 45-48

God’s perspective verses man’s

I never give God thanks for loving me, because he cannot help it;
whether he would or no it is his nature to.

Mester Eckhart


(a stormy surf / Rosemary Beach / Julie Cook / 2017)

An aged man, whom Abraham hospitably invited to his tent,
refused to join him in prayers to the one spiritual God.
Learning that he was a fire-worshiper,
Abraham drove him from his door.
That night God appeared to Abraham in a vision and said:
“I have borne with that ignorant man for seventy years;
could you not have patiently suffered him one night?

The Talmud

Isn’t it lovely….

Isn’t “it” lovely
Isn’t “it” wonderful
Isn’t “it” precious

Adpated lyrics Stevie Wonder
Isn’t she lovely

“And what is there to life if a man cannot hear the lonely cry of a whippoorwill
or the arguments of the frogs around a pond at night?”

Chief Seattle, 1854

RSCN3182
(a southern toad, Bufo terrestris / Julie Cook / 2016)

Down through the ages both frogs and toads have long gotten a bad wrap.
In almost every culture around the globe, within every tale, legend and folklore,
frogs and toads are inevitably cast in a bad light

They have been accused of causing warts.
Witches seem to love turning people into frogs.
And even Biblically, frogs and toads don’t always fair well.
As we read in Revelation that frogs spew forth from the dragon or beast’s mouth…
(Revelation 16:13-14)

They are instinctively thought to be slimy.
They like to eat flies, a little thing which seems to gross most folks out,
but hey, something has to eat them.

And of course there are those members of their clan which are poisonous.

And whereas frogs and toads are often looked down upon and considered lowly
they should also be considered most lovely.

They are considered by the scientific world as bioindicators.
A measuring stick if you will for the environment.
As frogs and toads populate both wet and dry lands and their skins are such that they readily absorb toxins and poisons form their surrounding environments, they are the first responders to show signs of distress and or a problem.

They have been around for over 250 million years pretty much as we see them today.
They have weathered the rages of time…yet their current numbers are shrinking at alarming rates.

An educational website, Save the Frogs, states:
“Frog populations have been declining worldwide at unprecedented rates, and nearly one-third of the world’s amphibian species are threatened with extinction. Up to 200 species have completely disappeared since 1980, and this is NOT normal: amphibians naturally go extinct at a rate of only about one species every 500 years!!! Amphibian populations are faced with an array of environmental problems, including pollution, infectious diseases, habitat loss, invasive species, climate change, and over-harvesting for the pet and food trades. Unless we act quickly, amphibian species will continue to disappear, resulting in irreversible consequences to the planet’s ecosystems and to humans. Frogs eat mosquitoes; provide us with medical advances; serve as food for birds, fish and monkeys; and their tadpoles filter our drinking water. Plus frogs look and sound cool, and kids love them — so there are lots of reasons to save the frogs!”
( Savethefrog.com )

It seems some of our lowest and most often ignored fellow creatures, such as bees and frogs,
are much more important to our survival than we often care to imagine.

When thinking about seemingly insignificant beings such as lowly frogs and toads having such a tremendous impact on the vast environment, eventually impacting our own existence, I am often reminded of the story of Androcles and the lion…

Of how tiny unsuspecting things can paralyze the great and the mighty.

Androcles demonstrates tenderness and mercy to the great beast by removing the thorn from his paw—I find it amazing that a great and mighty beast, such as a lion, is brought down my a tiny thorn stuck deep within his paw…
It’s a tale that should give us pause as we should consider the afflictions to the bees and amphibians
and that if they remain afflicted, they will inevitably die, taking us eventually with them.

A little bit of care and concern today, could do all species a wealth of good.

“Listen to this, Job;
stop and consider God’s wonders.
Do you know how God controls the clouds
and makes his lightning flash?
Do you know how the clouds hang poised,
those wonders of him who has perfect knowledge?

Job 13:14-16