Friday, April 30, 2010

Under the blue mango

Once in awhile I add a new blog to my blog rolls (if you will notice I have two lists). The newest additions most frequently go into the top list. Very rarely do I mention them, but this time, I feel I should say something about Joe Bageant.

I was given a head's up to it from a friend. Although I had heard of the book this author had written, I had never read it-- 'Deer Hunting for Jesus' which is about the class wars in the United States. I guess I should get a copy but for now I am reading his blog.

He's rough. He's outspoken. He says exactly what he thinks, and political correctedness be damned. He's no fan of the United States' political system. He appears to think that anybody who reaches the presidency has already sold out to corporations.

After I read his most recent post, I started picking and choosing from the list of previous blogs. His outlook is interesting, his stories carry you along, and give you something to chew on. Warning though-- he pulls no punches. Absolutely none.

Bageant sees our country as heading down a slope with no way to stop the slide. He thinks Conservatives know it and are just getting all they can before our economy totally collapses. It might seem that is a view without hope but then again, maybe it's just realism and there is something we can personally do about it-- as in accept a lighter footstep on the earth, help those we come across when we can, and recognize that the life we lead today might not be sustainable.

It's really not about guilt or fear. It's about facing situations squarely, not letting ourselves be carried away with what we cannot change-- but changing what we can.

I still don't know how much I will agree with him. He might not end up permanently on my lists, but he definitely has a viewpoint. Of course, like all bloggers, it's all just his opinion.

Whether you read anything else by Joe Bageant, you might try: Under the Blue Mango. It is about life in Belize and his attempt to make a difference.

Thursday, April 29, 2010

and what about Facebook?

And what about Facebook? I wish I knew. For a long time, I had put off joining it because at one time I had gone into MySpace. After getting requests from strangers to add me, I thought what the heck am I doing here, and deleted my profile. It kept me from joining Facebook also until--

My daughter-in-law talked about being in there and how it's cool. It seemed it had more purpose; so I joined, dragging Farm Boss along with me. Where I have experimented with chat rooms in the past and assorted other communication oriented groups, he hasn't had interest in any of it. Not to say he is that active on Facebook but he has reconnected with some high school friends. Maybe he'll do more with his account when he has more time.

For me it's mostly about posting photos of the family and occasionally, very occasionally writing something on my wall or commenting on what someone else has posted.

What I worry about with Facebook is their desire to connect the whole Internet, to be a big player on many levels. As a member there, someone who doesn't want everything personal being broadcast, I regularly check privacy settings, as well as read any warnings about it, to be sure permissions haven't been changed.

One idea was they'd link us there to other sites we visit online. We could opt out but we would have to opt out. I didn't like that even though I don't visit anywhere I'd be embarrassed to have others know. I don't like thinking they can track me and likely do even without the permission to post. Frankly, I wouldn't even want to read where my friends and family visit.

I also am not crazy about the groups they can form which can end up being hate groups like that one-- . [Facebook group praying for Obama's death]. I can see where it has value as a way for politicians to grow their base, put out their ideas, but are groups like that one accomplishing anything for anybody? Of course, I don't have to participate in them either but still... I guess there is still one praising the guy who flew his plane into the IRS building as a tax protest which killed innocent people. Can Facebook be a place to promote terrorism?

Other than read things that turn up on my Wall and sometimes click 'hide' to prevent seeing them again when they are game related, I have liked Facebook for connecting me to others in a different way. Because I limited my list to people I trust, I feel it's a safe place to share photos of my grandchildren of whom I am naturally very proud. Because I have my settings to only showing my photos to 'friends'-- not 'friends of friends', I feel I can do that without worrying about a pervert pulling them offline for nefarious purposes and that's only paranoia if it couldn't and doesn't happen. If Facebook ever stops protecting privacy there, I'll stop posting that kind of picture.

Facebook is fun for me to see what friends and family are doing, the latest book they read, something funny that happened, and any other tidbit they might want to share. I have seen it as a more intimate adjunct to the blog, like the next level because there I use my real name and anyone I have added does likewise.

Anyway if you are on Facebook, using your real name there, are a regular here, I would be happy to have you add me to your list (I use the email that is here at the blog). Please identify yourself, as to who you are either in your own blog or here, because I turn down people I don't know. Warning though, I won't be helpful on any game playing as I am working on a farm here, not there.

Wednesday, April 28, 2010

Cutie on the Farm

Some readers might wonder why I don't use more photos of our livestock. There are blogs that are totally about their farm animals, and I really love reading them; but I use photos of ours sparingly and there's a reason.

It seems every time I photograph a really cute animal to share, something happens to it. I know it's not really every time. That's an exaggeration. Still it does happen and makes me sad which I usually don't share with readers because it's bad enough I am sad, and it's not like you'd know if I didn't tell you. I work on not singling out any of them to name or be aware of-- and not always successfully.

But we have this real little cutie of a lamb that I definitely do want to share and hope for the best that she makes it past the bad luck of being a star here. She is a pinto sheep which means her spots aren't just on her face. She was born to a ewe with speckled face but no spots like these. We had pintos some years back and sold them all; so I have to think that the genetic trait lingered hidden until this little beauty.

I think pintos might be the sheep in the Old Testament story of Jacob (they can be called Jacob sheep) when he was able to build his flock in a way that befuddled his father-in-law as each year the patterns would favor him having those lambs to add to his own flock.

It didn't take long of photographing her until she was onto me. She wasn't really afraid. More it was she didn't like her picture being taken-- and I took a lot. She will keep that tail as it really doesn't make them less clean... although shearers don't like them much and may be why they are so often cut off.

She has the benefit of being a single lamb to a good mother which is why the sweet pudgy little baby body. We will put a bell on her and hope that secures her living to be a ewe herself someday.
The rest of the sheep got onto me too and demanded I either open the gate to the bigger pastures or give them the alfalfa handout that Farm Boss usually gives. Since the bigger pasture is where the coyotes make their kills, I delay them going out there until afternoon. (These are triplets. Doesn't their mom look tired?)

I learned as soon as I tried to get into the stock trailer (where the alfalfa is sheltered) that I didn't know how to open the big doors. I thought sure I did and kept trying to figure out their combination of shifting this to that while hearing a cacophony of baaas ringing in my ears. It's not musical, let me tell you.

Finally I got in a side door and was able to toss out enough flakes to satisfy them until they are allowed out into the main pastures-- wish I could figure out a way to let the ewes go but keep their babies back.

One other thing was discovered Monday morning-- what's been happening to my ferns. I have a garden that is fenced off from sheep. It's where all the delectable things they would love to eat grow and bloom. I knew this year that my sword ferns weren't doing well which had mystified me until I watched a small black lamb slip between the gate and the post and begin contentedly nibbling. After I voiced my disapproval and she vacated, I barricaded it with a strawberry pot until something more permanent can be done by the boss of this place.

Monday, April 26, 2010

Politics, Taxes and Mount Rushmore

Politics straight ahead
this time, it's righties who might want to come back another day since I probably offended 3/4 of my readers with the last one, might as well get the rest

To the right wing, Reagan not only was the greatest president we ever had but he's not really gone as his philosophies are still with us. The largest of these and probably the most damaging, although there are two which fall in line, is that government is the bad guy. Reagan had a famous quote about how evil government is and how whenever it says it is here to help us, we should be suspicious. He set about doing what he could to ruin government as a power for any kind of social programs. His philosophy on government was definitely part of Bush's agenda during his 8 years in power.

Reagan only liked big military and anything else was supposedly not needed. So forget regulating banks, checking on quality of food, building freeways, taking care of the sick, elderly or poor. A Reaganite will typically see all of that as something the private sector should do. You know, the good guys who take care of us all so well through their corporate and financial maneuvering.

To say Reagan is no longer president and therefore is insignificant today is to ignore what has gone wrong with the Republican party-- even the part that actually does have good intentions. The right wing sees him as so wonderful that they'd like to carve his face into Mt. Rushmore. (The photo was by the way among the negatives that I recently scanned from old family pictures. This one obviously when my family visited there and Mt. Rushmore was still being created.)

The corollary to government is the bad guy is his saying that if we cut taxes, we will have more revenue. I am pretty sure Bush believed that one at least he said he did. It turns out that if you look at the fine print it says if you cut taxes on the richest people and increase them on everybody else, your debt will still go up and the richest will get richer which is where we are today.

There was some talk about trickle down as a way to solve the problem of the poor. You cut taxes on the richest and it trickles down to everybody else. Turns out that didn't work so well. What the richest did was to buy multiple homes which made housing values go up and when possible, they put their money in offshore banks to avoid even the taxes they were paying. They pushed paper around to create more wealth for themselves and nothing trickled down to the point where with our current income tax situation 47% of Americans don't pay federal income taxes.

Now they don't pay them for assorted reasons. Some are elderly, disabled, or very poor. Some make a good living but have large large families. A long time ago it was decided that everybody who had a child should get a tax exemption. That adds up for some families.

However you look at the reasons, half this country is not only not paying but isn't making enough by government reasoning to have to pay (although, if they work, they do pay SS and Medicare taxes). Agree with that reasoning or not, it means a lot of people are not doing all that well-- a lot more than back when Reagan began the tax cut thinking that was engraved in stone for Republicans and makes even Democrats fearful of raising taxes.

Now we have a bunch of people marching around the country complaining about their taxes... except unless they made over $250,000, they didn't pay more taxes last year. They paid less. So maybe their marching really isn't about taxes but we won't go into that for the purposes of this topic.

What I heard a week or two ago that blew me away and then I began to think yes, it's so. We should roll back the Reagan tax cuts. Not just the Bush tax cuts but the Reagan ones too.

You won't hear any Democrat say that either although some writers, like Michael Moore, have expressed it as a way to begin to build bridges again, to get our infrastructure repaired, to pay down our debt. There is though a better reason for rolling them back.

When taxes are higher on the richest people, they can leave the country; but most don't want to do that. What they will do instead is look for ways to cut their taxes and that would be where the benefit of raising them comes in.

They will invest in new technologies and manufacturing. If their fancy home won't earn an exemption, and it should not, then they might put it into an inventor with a new idea for improving energy. If they can't get a tax break for investing in pushing paper around, they will invest in what made our country strong to begin. If they can't keep it, they will either have it taken by the government or they will begin to rebuild our country.

You know, the four men whose faces are carved into Mt. Rushmore did believe in this country and the government. They invested heavily in their belief.

George Washington physically fought a war to make it a reality and became our first president refusing to be named a king.

Thomas Jefferson wrote our Declaration of Independence and helped create the Constitution that still governs us today. He invested into this country the idea of freedom from oppressive religions.

Abraham Lincoln invested his whole being in keeping this country together and recognizing that nobody here should be a slave. When he gave the Gettysburg Address, he really was putting into words our foundation and the creed that many of us would claim our government was here to secure for all citizens.

Theodore Roosevelt really was our first environmentalist president as he helped create a park system that left us beauty for future generations to enjoy. He spoke on many subjects Almanac of Roosevelt Speeches (try the one called Corollary to the Monroe Doctrine for a lot more responsible attitude toward foreign affairs than we see today from a lot of the right).

Ronald Reagan doesn't deserve to be in such company on Mt. Rushmore because what he grew was an attitude that has led to some wanting to destroy what the other four worked so hard to build. He called himself a patriot and used (or allowed to be used) underhanded methods to achieve foreign affair aims which we are still suffering under today. One example was the Iran Contra Affair. I think the day will come where the negative things that happened under Reagan will be obvious to all but it won't be today with the right wing. They still want another Reagan.

Lincoln ended his Gettysburg speech with these words: "--that we here highly resolve that these dead shall not have died in vain; that this nation shall have a new birth of freedom; and that this government of the people, by the people, for the people, shall not perish from the earth."

It's what we should still demand from our government but people don't. They only want things for themselves. Today they don't even want to pay their share of keeping this country going, to keep strong what so many died to secure. 30% didn't fill out the census form. Some were encouraged to not do so by people like Representative Michelle Bachmann. The census is decreed by our Constitution, you know that thing they claim they value so much, with the rule that it be done every 10 years to be sure the people were being represented.

And with all of that some of those people proudly call themselves tea partiers as though they have any concept at all of what patriotism means. If we can't sacrifice now by agreeing to raise those taxes to get our country back in control if its own destiny, we don't deserve those in our past who fought for it with their own blood.

Saturday, April 24, 2010

Politics again

and this time it might be lefties who want to come back another day as I'd hate to lose all my readers over my political views and as a moderate I know that is possible as I tend to agree with conservatives on some things and liberals on most.
The thing is I don't even enjoy writing about politics. This particular issue is one that makes me sad more than angry. Writing about it is a lose lose for me as it offends some readers and doesn't begin to convince the others; but I feel an obligation to address things I think are important-- popular viewpoint or not.

Every so often an issue arises that puts me squarely on the opposite side of an issue from my liberal friends. United States border control is one of these. Arizona has stepped firmly into the immigration mess and aroused the anger of liberals and yes, surprising as it might be to liberals, some conservatives all the way across the world. [Civil Rights Advocates Attack Arizona's Immigration Law]The assumption is that this new law demanding people carry proof of citizenship is about racial prejudice, and Arizona will have to pay the price by boycotts and the anger of the country for what it has done.

The thing is the issue of immigration has not been addressed by the country. Most of those who want an open border with no controls haven't stopped to think what that will mean. It sounds noble and charitable even to open your door to everyone. I am not sure it's very practical.

Others have less noble reasons. They want open borders for reasons I have mentioned before-- it's more profitable not to address it. The result of the United States policy is something that has been escalating in a very frightening way. Mexico's problems are not the problems of Wisconsin, but they are the problems of all the border states. Arizona is on the front line of this issue. It's not abstract down there and frankly it impacts legal citizens no matter what their origins.

When you see things like-- Phoenix kidnapping capital of the country? or Seven Ciudad Juarez policemen killed in ambush, I suspect it doesn't worry people who don't live along the border. Heck those kidnappings only happen to those involved in the drug traffic. The fact that in Mexico kidnappings also can involve successful citizens isn't worrisome. Hasn't happened here yet. It might not even worry those who live in what they consider safe regions of Arizona. It should.

I don't really know that the new law that will take effect in August will pass Constitutional muster. It might not be a fair or good approach. They estimate there are almost half a million Mexican people in Arizona illegally. Many more than that in California. Farm Boss and I were guessing possibly a hundred thousand or so in Oregon (not all illegals come from south of the border) although many of those in agricultural work come and go. Statistically experts are guessing there may be as many as twelve million in the country as a whole.

Illegal immigrants got here because the border has not been protected. They, and those who buy illegal drugs, are part of what has been growing along the border as coyotes bring across human and illegal drug cargo. The end result has been escalating violence.

If we do make a path to legal citizenship, this alone won't change the illegal traffic at all. It will do what it did during Reagan's era-- legalize a lot of people who are already here. Their jobs and position in society will be replaced by new illegal citizens.

Sadly, there is a reason it's profitable to keep a considerable population here illegally -- it's called cheaper service and agricultural jobs. A lot of people profit from the illegals and they aren't all coyotes. Some just want a maid at a low wage or they want workers in their yard or they like cheap food.

I agree with what Obama said about this. What Arizona has done might have been wrong, might be unenforceable, definitely will hurt Arizona, but it happened because the federal government has failed to act.

Obama suggested a several prong approach which would mean stricter border control, a functional legal worker program, and a path to citizenship for those already here. Not all who work in the United States want to be citizens. A legal path to coming here for work would end the profit in at least that part of the coyote business. BUT if we don't stop the border traffic, the violence down there will spread.

When we let half a million people in say Arizona have citizenship, enable them to qualify for all the social programs that citizens can file for, we will find a big change in everything for awhile. Perhaps it will mean less access to doctors, more expensive groceries, but maybe it has to happen because other generations failed to act. If we don't control the border though, this problem will grow and legalizing people already here won't solve it.

Nobody on the left will probably like what I am going to say next, but I also think we have to end the policy of giving citizenship automatically to any person born in this country. It only serves to break apart families. I don't think you'd be automatically a citizen of any other country just for being born there. If at least one parent is a citizen, then your birth would make you one; but when it is as it is now, it lets a child be pulled apart from parents or people come across just to have their child born here. We can't undo what has been done with the current law, but we could change it for the future.

And I think we probably have to face national ID cards. Many countries in Europe, like France, already have such regulations and do request ID to be carried and shown when an official asks to see them. I resisted this idea, have felt it was going to be a government infringement on our freedom but without that then we are necessarily targeting only certain people for having to provide proof of citizenship.

There is evidently also something called veri something or other which could validate for anybody hiring someone whether they have a legal right to work here. It can be done if people want it done. With green cards permitting legally working here, people coming up won't have to use the coyotes. They also won't have to hide and be afraid of reporting it when they have been criminally victimized as the situation is now.

In Arizona there are many Hispanics who have lived there longer than any European settler. Everybody came from somewhere sometime. In my family some of them came in the 1800s and others in the 1600s but they all came over from somewhere. Immigration has been our history, but the thing is when it's illegal what is it doing to our country? When it involves a criminal class to bring in the people, what does that do to us? That is what Arizona has faced to so much condemnation.

When I go back to Arizona this time, I plan to take proof of my citizenship with me in my passport. Whenever I drive down toward the border, actually when I cross into Arizona, I can and have been asked for such ID. Anytime I have ever gone to Canada, I have had to carry birth certificates for the whole family (even before the law changed for getting back into the US requiring a passport). I don't feel it infringes on my freedoms to have it or to be asked to show it. I will have to get used to the idea that neither does a national ID card. I have not liked it one bit, but I like the alternative less.

Friday, April 23, 2010

To Photoshop or not to Photoshop Faces

In the world of the computer and digital photograph, ordinary people are faced with choices they never had in the past. Once upon a time only photographers had access to the ultimate face changing tools. Today with all the places we are asked to put up profile photos, all the people who don't really know us, our options have grown.

Even before I received more photos of my grandparents, I had a few old ones, the kind they paid a photographer to take as anniversary photos. At first I hadn't realized what had been done to the one below and then I had to ask-- is that even Grandpa? Well it wasn't the grandpa I had seen in earlier and later photos. The photography studio had given him a new nose.
The question would be why? Didn't people who paid for a photograph want it to look like themselves? Did some photographer decide they should look like an idealized 'them'? If you are going to straighten a nose, why not add hair? Well maybe they did although the next photo was obviously taken years later. I included it so you can see the shape his nose should have been.

This link below talks about the problems professional photographers face with their own photos of celebrities where even young people are photo shopped until they look like dolls.

Vanity Fair's January 2010 issue had an excellent example of the outrageousness of this. Meryl Streep was being featured with the question of how she has managed, at 60, to still be playing romantic leads in hit movies.

Clearly the photographer or magazine decided the only way she could was a photo face lift. That cover photo (and the supposedly current ones inside) aren't what Streep looks like in her films or anywhere else. Whether the photographer made the choice or the magazine, it undercut their entire article which was supposed to be how women of a certain age, who have not had major reconstructive work, can still play romantic leads.

In her films, at any award shows, Streep looks her age. She also looks beautiful. She has proudly indicated she has not had a face lift. I don't know if she has had eye work, little tweaks, or some Botox; but to me she looks like a woman 60 years old. That Vanity Fair cover, supposedly recently taken, did not look like a woman even 40 years old. Why write an article of a woman being proud she can still play a love interest at 60 and then make her look 30 in the photos? Never mind the question of why women need to continue to look 30 and for some even that is regarded as too old.

Average, ordinary people have the face lift option where it comes to their own digital photos. It is possible to use tools that take out every wrinkle, every line and (except for having friends who'd know) it'd be darned tempting except back to the original question-- what was the point of taking or sharing a photo to begin?

Photographs of today are a lot more revealing than those little 3x5s I grew up seeing. These are big and sometimes on a big screen with lots of light. We see every flaw far too clearly. Sometimes the digitizing even creates those flaws by its unique method of putting together an image.

Today even amateur photographers can 'adjust' photos if they so choose. There is no reason to apologize for using photoshop either as, in my opinion, it is part of what creates a photo that goes beyond the 'catalog' (as in recording an event or person) type. How we crop, light, tweak colors, and sharpen can turn an average photo into something special. It also can change what we saw so greatly that the subject is unrecognizable.

What I try to do, where it comes to photos of myself, is look in the mirror and decide what I see. If the camera put in a dark shadow that isn't there, I have been known to soften (but not eliminate) the shadow. Sometimes the photo is the product of a combination of reality and what lighting does.

From one of our beach trips, I had such a picture that I liked except... it clearly showed my eyes looking my age. The sunlight was indeed harsh but when I checked in the mirror, yes, my eyes do have some sagging. Heck, I am going to be 67 this fall, why not some lines?

Suppose though I wanted to change it-- take out those lines, lift some sags. After all my digital painting, I can do it (and I don't even have a fancy photo program. I use Corel Photo-Paint7).

Below you see the results of a few minutes using clone and smoothing tools. I could have even straightened my own nose had I wanted to do so. Our faces change with age; and although I didn't have the sagging at 30, I also didn't really look like that photo then or now. So, what would be the point of changing it? Would I fool anybody here, who knew no way did that look nearly 67, if I 'adjusted' it? Certainly not friends who have met me in person.

This whole issue is the one magazines are beginning to face up to. Plastic isn't better. A photo should look like us... lighting carefully selected or not... or what is the point?

Wednesday, April 21, 2010


My life, as it is for most of us, seems a mix of trying to meet the needs of others, which for me can mean animals under my care, family, friends, the bigger picture of community and balancing that with meeting my own needs. Heck sometimes just trying to figure out my own needs.

As I get deeper into old age, I think more about the years that might be left and what am I going to do with them. I also think about whether what I am doing today is creating a tomorrow I will want.

I visualize myself as a very old woman with long white hair who chops her own firewood. Never mind that I am afraid of sharp objects and don't chop it now. Mostly, other than easy kindling creation, I just stack, carry and build fires with it, does that count?

It's more the mental imagery of staying strong virtually until the end and not the kind of strong that comes from working out at a gym but one that comes from real physical labor, keeping a garden, tending a few animals, involved with my own sustenance. The imagining of a place where everything is done for me is not on my old age list. I might be forced to accept that someday. I am realistic. If it comes, it won't be because I want it.

Some years ago, I wrote a poem when I really got to thinking about how today builds tomorrow. I then went looking for a photograph to illustrate it. This week I took that photograph and used it as a digital painting and backdrop for the concept.

Whatever we do today prepares the ground for tomorrow. For our whole life span, we can be looking for fertile ground, breaking soil, plowing, sowing, watering, harvesting, or we can allow weeds to crowd out our growth and production. We can plant and then forget to harvest. It really is a cycle of life and is no less true when we have fewer days ahead than when we are young with what seemed the world in front of us.

Click on the first digital painting to read the poem. The digital painting below is what I would like to be in the future. I want old woman energy to flow through me in the most positive way. If I was a man, that'd be old man energy.

Old woman energy has memories, experience, a lifetime behind it. Yes, it has less days ahead but whatever might be, that's what old woman energy is still nurturing. Old woman energy is still mother to her future.

Monday, April 19, 2010

Creative Juices

On the subject of creativity, which we might or might not have been on, I really liked something I read from Daily Om April 1, 2010, about embracing our inner muse. It fit with a conversation I had with a friend about how such ideas come into being for me.

For me, to connect with creativity, the first tip is simple-- start. Even without an idea in mind, just start. Daily Om said basically that part of that start is embracing our inner muse which is with us all the time and it's when we embrace what it is giving that we will create. The results will flow.

The ancient Greeks believed creativity came from the goddesses, and some still think they need to connect with a particular goddess to get that creative spark. I tried that, but the only goddess that ever comes to mind for me is Isis. If you know the stories of Isis, it's not hard to see why that one might not appeal to me to claim... Although maybe I have done it without thinking of it. The thing is if the goddesses are our muses, they connect with us, not us with them. We simply recognize what is happening and let ourselves work with it.

Daily Om
on April 1 suggested that instead of thinking of muses as necessarily supernatural, we instead consider them as all the things that come into our lives which could be people, photographs, movies, books, nature. For me, movies are excellent inspirations not only for their imagery but the stories. They open me up with different kinds of possibilities depending on what I chose.Some people claim they just are not creative. But maybe it's more they have feared opening up their creative valves. I don't believe creativity is a gift given to only a few. I think it is part of humankind. Some might be more 'gifted' in their expression but often that is based on how often they open themselves to it. Respecting and encouraging our unique expression is part of the creative life.

If it seems difficult to find your muse, recognize that it might be it is more than one thing. Some might be with us forever but others come and go. Inspiration comes for a certain thing and time but then a different inspiration waits in the wings. What if we try to cling to the first and ignore the second? I think that is a problem many artists face.

Following a muse to wherever it goes, being open to the next one, that is also part of a vital life. When the right stream is coming through, we will find our courage growing and our willingness to stretch ourselves. Try something. So what if it fails!

There are, of course dry times in any artist's life. But maybe those are the times to experiment with a new medium. It is suggested during such times we surround ourselves with people who support our creativity, keep the tools for creativity handy, dive into ideas and inspirational materials, find frequent times in nature, and take time to let all experiences soak in. Let it go where it will, and don't let the inner critic stop that flow.
It is possible that what we create will not be appreciated or embraced by the rest of the world. Is that a reason to stop doing it or to step back into something easier? I don't think so. I think creativity is the juice of life and whether the world rewards or even punishes it, it should not be stifled.

The photos are from Sunday at Beazell and Finley when the Pacific Northwest finally hit 70 something and spring was totally in the air. YES!!!!! I would be willing to claim either of these gorgeous birds as my muse!

Friday, April 16, 2010

Nurturing Nature

One of the things I did when it was raining so much outside, while I had been dealing with some winter (which was lasting a tad too long) depression, while trying to figure out what I want in my life, was to create slide shows with music.

Art has often been a thing that helps me heal, but oil painting wasn't doing that so much as I kept thinking I had to have a product when I was finished. With digital, that's not so much an issue. I can do things for the fun or to express something inside for which I cannot find words. Digital art, for me, can be like keeping a journal would be for someone else.

Music has proven to be part of this process recently even though I am not a person to always have music going. In my home, I like silence most of the time to let my own thinking flow but also so I will hear if anything is going wrong outside. Sometimes though music really speaks to my soul and I go through a period where I play it a lot.

A few years back, I had seen a friend's photographs put into slide shows with music and I really liked that idea. It wasn't until I got involved with [Picasa] that I realized I had a tool that would let me do the same thing. First it was for my photographs and I shared some of that here. Then I realized it would work with my digital paintings. The next idea was-- what about creating art just for a piece of music?

That's what this is, a mix of my own ideas and some that I created especially to go along with a song. The song is from the children's movie, Pocahontas (which I have incidentally never seen) but I have the song on a Disney CD. The lyrics are [here]. I have loved its message and melody since I first heard it as it's about seeing the beauty around us, responsibility to nature, and understanding that we are all connected. The Nurturing Land is about two things-- how nature nurtures us and we nurture it.

The art in this video is all mine, a combination of digital and oil paintings with the emphasis on digital. With two exception (the imaginary wolf howling at the moon and the painting of dancing around the medicine wheel) they are all places I have been, inspired from photographs I (or Farm Boss) have taken.

I have been fortunate in my life to have been allowed to richly experience a part of the world that I love so much. It's still here in places, open and wild, because earlier generations fought to keep it that way. I hope future generations will be able to say the same thing.

Wednesday, April 14, 2010

Whalen Island

On the week-end, Farm Boss and I drove to the beach for a one day outing. We didn't plan what we'd do but just headed down after the morning chores. We left the farm a little after 10, got to Newport, found a place for a light lunch to eat while watching the waves, and then began to drive north along the coast.

While I had expected stormy weather, it turned out to be a wonderful day in the low 60s with lots of sunshine. After stopping at Neskowin to walk on the sand getting some photos of Proposal Rock and some wonderful wave action, wading a bit in the ocean, we drove a bit farther north.

When we came to the Little Nestucca River, I became curious about how much farther it would take to get to a place that was part of my childhood-- Pacific City.

When I was a little girl, I was in Woods (a tiny community a mile up the Nestucca River from Pacific City) quite often. Granddad had built a small home there. My grandparents actually lived one year in basically what was a wood-floored, cabin type tent with a big wood cookstove for heat while he built their small two bedroom cottage looking toward the river. A path led to the dock where he kept a little boat.

To walk to the beach, we could take a trail over the hill and through some dunes. Saturday I found some of that still looks the same and some has changed completely-- not surprising considering how many years it's been.

There were other beaches driving distance where you crossed forested ground to what seemed like pristine beaches, never touched by humans (well so it seemed) and where after storms, you could find, besides lots of shells, the big glass balls that the Japanese fishermen used to secure their nets and which had ridden the currents to land on our beaches. One still sets in my living room.

Part of being down there was a place called Sand Lake owned by one family. The daughter lived out there while her parents lived near my grandparents. Sand Lake was a special place. Talk about energy vortexes and it could well be one of them although its natural beauty could also explain the energy there. Years later Farm Boss and I camped there with our children when for awhile it was a campground still run by that family.Saturday when we crossed the bridge to the island, we didn't know that the family who had owned the land all those years had worked together with government entities to secure it forever as a combination of sanctuary for humans and wildlife. It is one of only two natural, non-agricultural estuaries still left along the Oregon Coast.

After we had parked and looked around, Farm Boss and I didn't know where the trail would go, or even how long it would be, but we started walking. It wound through the forest with views off and on through the trees of the estuary to our right. Finally it arrived at the sand where beyond we could see the ocean. It wasn't a long walk as the island is only about one mile long. I am not sure how we would have gotten to the ocean waves other than maybe swimming the creek although with a higher tide, it might have been nearer to us. I will be going back often to check it out in various tides and seasons.
We learned more about its history after we got home and did some internet research. It could have all ended up the homes of the rich. It's such a beautiful piece of land that it would be easy to have seen that happening. Instead, it, like many other natural wonders along Oregon's coastline, is there for all time as an example of government working together with individuals to secure space for future generations to experience what I got to experience as a child.
Today, with a nice parking area, no fees, picnic tables, pit toilets, Whalen Island (I never knew it by that name) presents a lovely place to reconnect with nature. It was inspiring to me how that one family, through its generations, managed to hold the land together in such a way that my Saturday exploration would be possible. It is visible evidence of what government can and does do for us all.

(Other than ocean waves and Proposal Rock, all photos are from Whalen Island)

Monday, April 12, 2010

Negatives into Positives

When I was given a box of old photos of my family, there was also an envelope filled with hundreds of original negatives. At first I didn't think too much about that as I wasn't sure what I could do with them. When I got the idea of scanning them and creating positive images, it opened up a whole new world as well as took up hours of my days for awhile as I figured out which ones would be important to scan.

Through these photos I saw my ancestors, many of whom I didn't know their names but they were together for big gatherings, picnics, celebrations, and they were having fun. The old, the young, they were all valued and it shows. Sometimes I can figure out names based on other labeled photos, but many I will never know. It didn't matter really as I became immersed in their world. The clothing, relationships to each other, the background, the things they valued, those were what mattered more than names. I wish I knew more of their stories, but some aren't hard to guess from their positions in the photos.

How different the world was back then. Think about it as it's not all that many years. Probably 100 at the most and generally more like 70 or 80. It was a world so very different and yet in basics, weren't needs still a lot the same?

The photo at the top was not one of the negatives. I got it as a print and it was labeled. It was my father's grandfather sitting on his porch with what is my great great grandmother, the mother of their ten children, some of whom lived to be old and some who died prematurely. These people came from those who had come to America in the 1600s, who had worked to establish lives for themselves and spread across the continent. I have known only a few things about them based on some of my own genealogy research a few years ago.

Based on that research, the man in the picture was born in Indiana in the mid 1800s. He left there for Nebraska and then South Dakota and he basically had children born in both states, most in Nebraska as the family traveled to where he could find work. The picture above is likely close to the end of his life. He (and most of my family from that era) was buried in Hill City, South Dakota.

In a 1900 census, my great grandfather labeled himself a hard rock miner. He probably had very little formal education and learned what he did in the world of hard work. I know he was one of the first in the Black Hills working for the mines as my grandfather was (according to family legend) in 1880 the first white child born there when it was illegal to be there.

If that strong looking old man had gotten too old to work, he'd have had to hope his family would take care of him and his wife as he would have had no company pension and there was no Social Security. Medicare? You jest. Unemployment? You went hungry. Illnesses, well there wasn't a lot they could do anyway for illnesses-- doctors affordable or not. Great Grandfather died at 65 in Deadwood S.D. He likely worked until the end. What choice did most like him have?

This blog is not about him but about all of those like him, the working people; and it's about the purported evils of government in all those emails that seem to circulate regularly. You know the ones that see a bad guy out there intending to take away this country's good life. The emails ignore the good government has done for working people. Those angry words ignore all the ways it has changed our lives from what my family would have expected back then.

Without government helping, would you have a free internet today? What about television? Suppose the radio wavelengths had no regulation, how well would that work? And banks. Well they just failed sometimes and you lost all your savings. Schools? Most just got through eighth grade if they made it that far. People had to go to work much younger than today. Owning their own homes? Some did but those homes didn't have inside plumbing and often weren't much more than wood structures. Building standards? Who would have guaranteed them? Electric wiring? What for?

Vacations? Well if someone got any days off, they were likely without pay. I remember my family vacations. You drove as fast as you could from place to place, and you didn't go far because you couldn't afford to. Freeways to get farther faster? Not back then. Eisenhower really instigated the national freeway system. For all the evils that are being screamed about Social Security, now people don't have to fear disability or old age. It's not like either give much money but just enough to subsist when people cannot work.

I am incredibly proud of the people from whom I came. Every picture I scan of them reminds me over again what a tough and hardy people they were. They knew how to play and their photos show how much. They knew how to work hard and most did it their whole lives. They all came from Europe whether early or later but they came with the hope that they could make a better living for themselves in this country.

Most of us today have had that good life as we went through a very good time for the middle class; but there is a group in this country who is determined to end that and they are getting help from an unlikely source, the very ones who do need government.

You know, multibillionaires didn't lose out during this recession/depression. When the government pulled back from regulating financial practices, a lot of people made a lot of money by just pushing money around. The richest did not lose theirs. What dip they had went right back up and beyond.

Basically we need more government, not less and we need it to be more effective and aimed at helping people with better lives. Government, which is the sharing of a small part of our resources for a better America, needs to be held accountable. I am not saying I don't have concern for the current deficit, but I blame that on those who want everything for nothing. They see a program they like, say a state of the art military or building highways and whatever it is, they expect it to be paid for by manna from heaven.

It's worth repeating. Government is meant to be all of us working together to share some of our wealth to make life better for us all. It should be run by elected representatives who express our views, people who care about laws, fairness, wisdom, and yes, how the weakest are treated. It should not be bought and paid for by the corporate interests.

Michael Moore, who is so hated by the right wing, did an excellent documentary on what has been happening to us. Capitalism: A Love Story will not be watched by the right wing, nor by the ones who claim to love this country but are currently inciting a revolution. People like that don't want to see anything he puts out. They still believe the-- we can have it all if we just get back in power-- mantra. They are not aware how much they are being used and not to their profit.

In the documentary, Moore had only one place that I thought he was wrong (not blaming Clinton for a lot of what went wrong with financial regulations) but in the end, it was more about what is happening now and what can we do about it. He said it well-- he can't fix it. Obama can't fix it either. If more people don't start caring, it won't be fixed. Too many people in government are being paid off by those who do care enough. Moore though in general made it very clear that what we are facing right now is a mutual sell-out by both parties in power.

We can turn this around but it won't happen by putting down government as the bad guy. It will happen when we force government to be what it should be for the good of the people and not just the rich. We could turn it around by paying attention to what the Constitution really says.
"We the People of the United States, in Order to form a more perfect Union, establish Justice, insure domestic Tranquility, provide for the common defence, promote the general Welfare, and secure the Blessings of Liberty to ourselves and our Posterity, do ordain and establish this Constitution for the United States of America."

Saturday, April 10, 2010

Roping a Whirlwind

If anybody thought that passing the health care bill was the end of bitter discourse, they were wrong. It seems to be just one more piece of wood on a fire that is building toward more and more violence. This is not new but it has more fuel now with the fear being stoked against President Obama and Speaker Nancy Pelosi. Socialists! Hate this country! and worse insults being thrown.

We saw the recent arrests of a Michigan so-called Christian militia, whose members plotted to kill a sheriff, planning to bomb his funeral with the hope it would lead to civil war in this country [Armies of Hate].

[Oath Keepers] is another of these groups but one that is encouraging subversive action. Their members are part of our military or police force but have promised to not obey the laws of the land but to stand against the government for which they are currently being paid and have promised to serve. Lies only matter when exactly?

Where is this kind of revolutionary thinking taking us? Everybody knows about Timothy McVey, is that what is wanted by the extremists? If you don't win at the polling place, you start breaking things? Do people like those in that militia have any idea what a revolution would be like, what it would mean to have neighbor shooting neighbor, what it'd be like to force the government to declare martial law? That could be what they want but what do they gain by it?

For many years on talk radio, I have heard these groups out in the back country of the West. They are almost uniformly white. They fear change and differences. They treat those who disagree with them as the enemy. They have distrusted our government to some degree for a long time, but Obama's election and now the agenda under which he was elected is even more threatening to them. I am not sure most of them even understand what that is.

Hate groups want a world that never existed. They want a world where their values are the only ones that matter. It is becoming a mania but the question has to be for how big a part of the country? They are dangerous, but they think it's people like me who are dangerous. They are the ones who burned witches in the past because of hysteria aroused in them by others who profit from what they do. Anarchy might seem pointless until you find who is behind much of it, you find out -- then it's not so much.

The recent poll of the Republican party shows that a majority of them believe President Obama is a socialist. Over half of them believe he's a Muslim and about one-quarter of them think he's the Antichrist. These are the ones who will be choosing a presidential candidate soon to run in 2012. Within them are violent subsets but all of them will be deciding what kind of person should run this country.

Extreme righties, what we call wingnuts, don't get their information where you and I do. They get it from their own sources, the ones who say what makes them comfortable. They trust emails. They trust right wing blogs. They don't trust the media other than Fox and it will be interesting to see how much Fox would be trusted if it should say they are too violent or anything they don't like. They call it roping a whirlwind when you start something but you really have no control over it.

The extreme right does not trust the educated nor anybody who walks to a different drummer. They say they fear socialism but they operate in a totalitarian mode which they would subject the country to if they got into power.

The Republican party seems to be currently embracing them and people like Sarah Palin in an attempt to regain their own power. They have left behind their conservative principles for this new philosophy that is anything but truly conservative. I think they hope to use the tea partiers but they might get a surprise.

Before he was fired, David Frum said that the Republican party thought they were using Fox News but has discovered they are instead being used by it. Republican leaders have lost control, they can barely bring themselves to condemn violence, and unless the rank and file Republicans regain that control, it's going to get worse.

The health care issue is a good example of the craziness. If you read what is in it, you find it's mostly regulating and helping people get the kind of coverage most hoped they already had. What is being proposed by Republicans besides keeping the status quo?

One example of their ideas would be letting insurance companies sell across state lines. This would take the power of insurance companies possibly even out of the United States and as with the credit card companies, let them base themselves in the Marianna Islands where they can ignore any state regulations. The Republican party thinks this is a solution, taking away from states the right to regulate their own businesses? Currently, states like Oregon often have regulations limiting where a company can sell based on counties but the party that wants less federal control would instead hand this over to the corporations?

The anger and threats being stirred up by those who actually distrust democracy is going to get worse if responsible people don't stand against it. Are there any like that in the Republican party or do those who call themselves Republicans really only care about winning and it doesn't matter how they do it?

Friday, April 09, 2010


If you are not getting very many comments and have your system set to moderate, you might want to check your filters. Occasionally, and it doesn't happen often, I try to comment in someone's blog and it comes back to me as blocked. I am assuming that because my email here is hotmail that it's the problem but the other possibility is that your email is full and it throws back everything. Comment moderation requires notifying us that something is there; so it's where I think this happens most often. It only matters if you like getting comments :)

Thursday, April 08, 2010

A Troublesome Border

To some Americans, the issue of our border with Mexico is about jobs. Others see it about freedom as in everybody should be able to go anywhere they want to live. For some it's about cheaper labor to do work in agriculture, gardening, or construction. They nod their heads we should do something about it while they profit from the existing situation. They don't even have to hire the illegals themselves. They just hire a contractor who uses them. Many know it's what is happening (it's not like it's hard to tell who has not been here long) but they like the lower prices. Some worry we are being invaded.

The Hispanic community fights for legalization of all those who have already come across the border to live while we face the reality that if that happens, even more will be coming. Does a border have a purpose at all? Does any fence? Does any door? Does any rule? Not if laws are considered to have no meaning unless we agree with them.

Then there is recreational drug use which accounts for some of the border traffic. The profit in smuggling could be cut back by legalizing marijuana but how likely is that from the religious right or even the politically correct left? Legalize it and smugglers have one less way to profit from our excesses.

The border is more than about illegal aliens doing our grunt work or providing us with cheap drugs. It's about an unprotected border where the smugglers even prey upon the workers they bring and potentially anyone else they come across. It is about an increasingly violent situation that has been growing to the point that anybody who spends time down there knows it's not a safe place. While the workers are mostly ordinary people just looking for jobs, the ones who bring them across are anything but ordinary.

I have been down on the border off and on starting back in 1965. I used to like to go to Nogales, Sonora for fun day of shopping and just enjoying the atmosphere. That changed for me about ten years ago when I made a trip there and saw the scary toughs hanging around (on the American side) and the increasing aggressiveness of many of the Mexican men with over the line comments and no attempt at subtlety. There have always been the men who would let a woman know they appreciate her but this was different. It had an underlying aggressiveness. I haven't been back since. Now our American embassy warns of the potential violence there. It's a real shame as it has hurt the Mexican shopkeepers who weren't part of the problem but are suffering from its consequences.

Illegal workers could be stopped by regulations put in place to punish those who hire them up here. Then give green cards and legal admission to those who are genuinely needed. Drug smuggling could at least be lessened by following California's lead and putting legalization of pot on our ballots followed by voting yes to make it licensed, taxed and available without smuggling. Too simple?

Legalizing marijuana and cracking down on the hiring of undocumented workers won't totally solve our border problem. It's a start but we have to find meaningful ways to shut the border down. Given the terrain and many miles, that won't be easy. We can try harder. If we don't, what they smuggle up, may end up something even much worse. I can guarantee you that coyotes (the name for the smugglers) won't care. (Incidentally, the illegal trade goes both ways as we have sent guns south to help their drug wars grow even worse).

Ranch families on the border have been living with a potential nightmare, which for one of them tragically exploded (see links above), but I think the nightmare will expand if we don't start caring more and making a secure border into a national issue, not just a state or local problem. The solution is not unregulated militias. If you have ever been around any of them, you know that they can be as scary as the smugglers. The solution is our country taking the problem of illegal entry seriously.

Tuesday, April 06, 2010

Religion and Violence

One of the problems with religion (of any sort) is they don't always deliver what they promise. It would be nice to believe religions generally make for better living, that they involve godly urges, and improve the cultures they impact. Except history shows that that for every Gandhi or Mother Teresa, there are examples of something else religion can arouse.

Muslim extremists aren't the only ones using violent means to achieve their ends. In the United States, we have, in the extreme Christian right, the militias. A recent story was about one with the idea of killing people to bring on the Apocalypse. We all know the gods can't take care of business without some human help.

Religions encourage their adherents to believe they are right-- sometimes with a simple sense of moral superiority but sometimes at the point of a sword.

How widespread do you expect this kind of thing to become?

(This week-end we watched 'Goya's Ghosts' which is about the Spanish painter Francisco Goya and the Spanish Inquisition. It is about how religion, when it has too much power, can become abusive. It's not a pleasant film but it is a powerful one.)

Sunday, April 04, 2010

The question of reincarnation

Easter is about resurrection. If one is a Christian, it's about the body rising from the grave and being reformed to perfection as it goes up to heaven. Resurrection is not a small part of many religions. If there wasn't a body, how would a Muslim be rewarded by 70 virgins? Even before Christ there were stories of bodily resurrections.

Reincarnation, although a definite no-no to most Christian dogma, is not really ruled out by the Bible. There are several places where scriptures could leave open the question. It doesn't fit the resurrection concept though as resurrection is a reward and most would say reincarnation is a kind of eternal punishment until you get it right. As in you keep coming back until you figure it out in something called enlightenment.

When I was a child, I thought I had a memory of being a man in a hotel room with other men when I keeled over and died. The men were all dressed in suits or shirt sleeves and exactly how the person in the memory died, I didn't know. Heart attack? Shot? Later I decided that memory came from watching a movie with my parents. We went to a lot of them and it might well be where it came from.

I didn't give the idea of reincarnation much thought until I was much much older. In those intervening years, what I had decided was, based mostly on religion, it wasn't true. Then I met some people who had past life memories, who believed in reincarnation, who considered it a fact, not a theory. Something else happened which led me to want to know more. I read a lot of books which led to a summer of my own regressions using recorded meditations designed to take one back into a past life. I finished out that summer with going to a hypnotherapist to try and see what that would give me.

After those stories (seven of them) and some experiences in my life, I still am not sure what I think about reincarnation. My stories did fit together and they fit my life issues today which might mean my mind was using those stories allegorically to teach me some things I needed for today.

Anyway without any definite feeling about what is true, I am always interested in experiences from others. Two of my grandchildren talked of their past life when they were quite small but later forgot the memories. No, they were not coaxed by their parents who hadn't expected them to talk about that kind of thing. For me reincarnation is one of those questions marks but something I still explore once in awhile.

Is something like that a fraud? If it's not, is it tapping into energy memories out there? Is it familial and carried in our DNA? Or did we really live before and will again? If we do, what difference should it make (if any) to this lifetime?
The digital painting relates to a possible past life of my own in Iberia (Spain today) likely during the time it would have been inhabited by Moors, Christians, and Jews. I got the story about it from one of those summer regressions; then some indeterminate time later, I was taking a belly dancing class and had a very weird, deja vu experience where as I danced past, I saw the image of a bearded man, sitting on the floor like I later painted him with that big smile on his face as he watched me dance. It didn't repeat and didn't last. I cannot explain it and won't even try.

Saturday, April 03, 2010

Part of the Problem

Appropriately, along with the last question and Easter week, comes the explosion of controversy against the Catholic Church's Pope made worse this week by one spokesman claiming the accusations against the Pope compare to the Holocaust, something that made most thinking people, Catholic or not, gag.

The abuse of children begs any possible justification for why the church steadfastly tried to hide the crimes and protect the priests. It was said for awhile it was just the US, nobody else is as decadent as the US, but then it turns out (not surprisingly) that it was around the world.

Sometimes you would say the cover-up was worse than the crime; but in this case, both are equally revolting with no way to justify either. I do not think though it is just about religion but more about an aspect of religion as in the inability to admit to being less than godly. This particular crime is also not about sexual orientation but about criminal abuse.

Years ago, many many years ago, Father Greeley said that the church was overlooking this kind of abuse because it could not get enough good people given the celibate rule. Some say that the church cannot afford to pay their priests if they are not celibate. Well paying off the victims of abuse hasn't been cheap.

Besides actively helping with the criminal prosecution of abusive priests, the church could stop the demand for celibacy which can only be an economic one as it makes no sense in any other way. It's not that celibacy leads to pedophilia, but it would allow good people to enter the church who do not want to live cloistered lives.

Despite the Pope supposedly being omnipotent where it comes to the church's religious teachings, the truth is dogma changes have happened before and for materialistic reasons. Popes have had scandals, have done terrible things, and if the church became more realistic about celibacy and things like birth control, it might find it became more of service to the world than when it tries to remain apart.

The Vatican, with its wealth beyond measure, is funded by the faithful's donations. Withholding those donations, giving them to other worthy causes, could impact what they do next. If people keep giving to an organization that has covered up these kinds of crimes, that seems to still be more interested in public relations than what happened, then they are encouraging policies, including cover-ups to stay the same, aren't they?