Monday, October 31, 2011

Caregiver Village

One of the problems that people in my age group often face is helping both their grown children (especially in today's economic situation) and at the same time their aging parents. There is a feeling of being sandwiched between those needs. Those years came from me some time back and now our four parents have been long dead with our children established well in their own lives. I do remember how it was though.

I got an email (actually a couple from one determined lady) about this online site where help for caregivers is to be found. If you are in that situation, you might give it a look to see if it might help you.

If we lived in a different culture, one that saw the community as a whole, where we all have needs and can help each other, this kind of thing would be less of a problem. We live though in a time of strained resources where one of our political parties believes it's every man for himself. At the same time, we live in a world where some see Jesus as the only answer to any physical problems and where others only worry about what's in it for them. It's not an easy time for the weak.

So, if you are one of those in a caregiving situation, check out the site to see if its resources can help you.

Friday, October 28, 2011

Protecting the rancher life

As long as I was writing about ranching and wolves, I might as well mention another concern of mine which I probably have written about before. Where it comes to Republican proposals, there is one with which I agree-- end the estate tax. I consider it unfair, double taxation and especially unfair to small business owners and ranchers. If there must be one at all, start it at a value of over $10,000,000 to keep the small ranches and businesses still possible for the family to continue operating.

I know the reason people think there should be an estate tax-- level out wealth, "social engineering through tax codes". Stop creation of a permanent wealth class. Well, I say do that through income tax laws that are fair and have purpose to encourage investment. Personally, I do not like it for estates, not even that of say a Bill Gates. He earned his money and his family should be able to inherit it if he so desires which he has said he would not as he'd rather they didn't get so much wealth that way. We'll see if he feels that way when he gets to old age and death planning that is more immediate.

What I don't like about estate taxes particularly applies to small ranches and businesses. So say I have a couple of thousand acres of Eastern Oregon land (yes, that's a small ranch over there) where my family has always raised cattle (something I could only wish to have had).

In my scenario, I would like my son or granddaughter to be able to keep doing it. How do I manage that? It can be helped by turning it into a corporation years ahead of my death, but that necessitates my losing control, and sometimes isn't possible or done soon enough. Because a lot of the value of a ranch is the raw land, and doesn't even indicate its value for ranching, the estate taxes can be so high that the family cannot continue working that land.

So who gets it, who takes it out of family operations? Government helped them do it but it's the financial types, those with a lot of wealth, who can then buy those places and might hire that rancher's kids to work the land they once owned-- turning them into sharecroppers basically.

In my view, estate taxes are more a way to keep wealth from growing in the hands of the middle than it is to keep it from the Donald Trumps of the world. It makes it possible for people like Ted Turner to acquire more and more big ranches and who knows what the end of that will be. The really rich have their methods and enough money to protect their estates anyway. Small ranches aren't big enough to do that, and this is part of why more and more land is being consolidated in fewer hands.

Sometimes the land is put into conservancy which has its values (except for those who love the ranch lifestyle and want to live it, of course)  but the thing is where does that leave Americans, at least those who do eat lamb and beef? Basically it will leave them buying it all from feedlot productions which turn animals from beings into things. It necessitates pumping them full of antibiotics to keep them alive in unhealthy conditions and hormones to cause them to grow faster while they live a miserable existence until fat enough for Americans to be satisfied. There has to be a price in health for this callousness toward the animals even for those who don't give a damn about ranchers who used to be highly respected and too often today are not seen as of value with Americans living further and further from food production with no clue how any of it works out in reality.

I admit I love cattle. I love their beauty, how they care for each other, and enjoy seeing them have a good life.  I am drawn to seeing them wherever I go and enjoy when it looks like a nice place and breaks my heart when it's a feedlot. In the case of the producing cows, on our small ranch, they live out their lives, even if they stop having calves.

I don't like the way Americans don't understand the value of eating grassfed beef, which is as good for health as salmon. Understanding the benefit of grassfed and naturally grown beef means healthier and better for the animals from birth to death. Whoever convinced us to eat the fat stuff sold in stores has not done our health or that of the herds any good.  [ConAgra and Monsanto,,]

When I am on the road somewhere, I always notice whether the rancher is responsible for his land and animals (which means understands raising of grass comes before anything else-- without a healthy habitat, you aren't in business long).  You can tell where one ranch begins and another ends by quality of fencing and how tall the grass is. I admire those (and there are plenty of them in agriculture) who show responsibility in both.  Ranchers who treat their land well are looking to the future and as good for the country as letting the land lay idle. Livestock raising on ranches does not have to be bad for the environment even if there are certainly examples where it has been.

Top photo taken recently in Montana, second one on our way home along the Middle Fork of the John Day River in Eastern Oregon, and third one of our own cattle.

Tuesday, October 25, 2011

Wolves vs. Ranchers

As a livestock producer, a small rancher, I am always interested in anything to do with ranching and raising cattle. I also follow with interest any stories on predators moving into regions where ranches have been established. I go ballistic with those who see no value in ranching, most especially if they are vegans which means they already want to see ranching ended as cruel and inhumane but see that how a wolf kills is not.

Vegan/vegetarians come in various packages; so I know not all feel that everybody should give up meat; but for others, it's exactly how they see it as almost a religious cause. So let the wolves have it all-- including people's pets. Exactly how that fits with caring for living animals is a bit interesting but logic isn't a factor for a lot of things where it comes to human behavior.

First of all if everybody switched to not eating beef, lamb, chicken or fish, any of those animals living on farms or ranches would have to be killed, I guess. No problem to the vegetarian type but would be a little hard on the animals dying to satisfy a politically correct viewpoint about meat.

However, this blog really is about the predator versus the rancher and the animals the rancher is protecting. It was triggered by reading a defense of the cattlemen which I liked a lot as it made sense (of course, since I am one). The issue of moving wolves into the places people live, protecting predator species that can kill big prey (guess what we are without a weapon) has become personal to me where I raise livestock, love my animals, and if wolves can move into NE Oregon, they can move into my backyard.

If grizzlies can grow in numbers due to being protected, they likewise will someday be up my gravel road. Right now we only have to deal with coyotes (yes they can kill calves and do kill sheep), cougar (so far they have stayed off our fenced property but it's not like our fences could keep them out; so it's all about habit), and finally bears which, like the cougar, kill deer up our road but haven't yet our cattle. We rarely see deer any more by our house and that's mainly due to increasing cougar population which also gets the wild turkeys when possible. I mean, come on, predators have to eat and we can't blame them for that.

The thing is as city folks grow in numbers or move into rural areas in little estates, they like the idea of wolves running wild. They think it's needed environmentally and they do not give a damn about a cow being torn apart and eaten while still alive because that's the fault of the men and women who raise those cattle.

This is one of those issues that makes it hard for me to stay sweet and nice in my response; and so I won't try but as articles come up on the subject and the various ideas being presented to deal with the growing problem for cattlemen,  which is very much an environmental and political issue, I'll be posting them here under farm and cultural issues. Read it please to be informed.

Don't get me wrong on the wolves. I love seeing them when I am in wilderness areas, have spent hours sitting on a ridge to watch them across a valley on a distant hill. It is a thrill to hear them sing, a thrill I can't begin to describe, but they are predators who have to kill to live. They will kill whatever is slower and weaker than they are. They do not kill mercifully because they do not have to. They will even kill their own kind to strengthen their position in a pack or a region.

Men pushed them out of populated areas for a reason. I will fight to keep them in wilderness areas; but when they come down where it's populated, when someone says a cow isn't important, but the wolves are, I will argue my viewpoint on that also.

Yada yada yada I know the spiel how nature needs them. No, nature needs a balance of predators and prey. There are many ways to attain that. When it's done by nature itself, it's not idyllic nor is it often merciful. It's a tough issue for Americans to be thinking through because who we vote for will be deciding a lot of this and the sad part is where I value the environment, a lot of those who would slay all the wolves, do not. So how we work it out, with nobody getting all they might want, isn't easy by any means.

Saturday, October 22, 2011

Portrait Photography

For all the difficulty of taking the ideal landscape photo, even harder, in my opinion, is the really good portrait-- especially one that doesn't look like it came from a studio. At least in my experience, such portraits require the right lighting, angles, background,  expression, and often come from pure luck.

The problem is most people have a hard time with even wanting their photo taken and instantly freeze up for the camera or put on a goofy expression that is nothing like their real face. Some believe because they take poor photos that they aren't attractive which is not true. Being photogenic does not relate to how a person appears to others. You can have beautiful people who take terrible photos and people who in person seem rather blah but bloom through the camera lens.

When in Mitchell, we watched a DVD on National Geographic photographers, of which many do specialize in getting interesting photos of people of all ages and from diverse cultures. When you study their results a bit, you notice two things. One, they take a LOT of photos to get one. Two, the lighting they choose is also best for landscapes, strong light with equally strong highlighting shadows.

If you have ever seen a set up for celeb photos by the gifted portrait photographer, Annie Liebovitz, there are often lights and reflectors to get that 'natural' look. Because I really like her work for its creative aspects, I bought the book-- Annie Leibovitz A Photographer's Life 1990-2005. It was very expensive but worth it for me as it's full of mostly black and white portraits of ordinary people as well as celebrities where light and dark are used very excitingly even in real natural settings. The photos of her lover, Susan Sontag, were especially poignant as Susan was dying.

So trying to get good portrait photos, of others as well as set up conditions to get interesting self-portraits or photos of myself, is always a challenge. I can't really explain why I do it other than it's out there like climbing a mountain would be for someone else.

Once in awhile something comes along that leads to a better photo than all the rest and such a moment came in the Painted Hills. The lighting had been fantastic for landscapes with the kind of shadows I always like. The time, around 2 PM would not be good during the summer but fall is a different ballgame.

We were back from our hike; and as I opened the pickup's back door to put the camera inside, I noticed my reflection in the glass. Wow, I really liked it. Kind of a mythic look-- Native American, maybe allegorical, kind of like me and not as it showed the lines, my age, stretched my face a bit but mostly had the angles of light I always want.

So I took one shot which cut off half my face. Then I asked Farm Boss to give it a try which at least got my whole face. Interesting photo but it made me wonder if there was some way to get a direct shot that might capture that lighting.

He took a series of photos from the driver's seat to where I stood outside the passenger side with the high desert view behind me. Some had expressions I didn't like quite so well (like everybody else, I tend to get the same smile on all my photos) but the skin tones and shadows were the most realistic I think I've ever gotten.

Farm Boss thought the results might have been enhanced by reflections of the gold truck door giving me some of what Liebovitz gets with her reflectors. Some was just that autumn light as I saw some of the same color in the top photo here where we had hiked to the end of the trail, a woman, who was eating lunch out there, spontaneously asked if we'd like her to take a photo of the two of us together. I am not sure why but every so often we have someone offer that. A random kindness, I think.

I get no creative credit for the idea of that photo or the fact that it worked so well with the pose which wasn't actually chosen with Farm Boss standing above me on the rim of the trail, and even with us squinting into the sun. I like it as well or better than any joint photo we have had taken.

In the one above (that led to all the rest) when I was looking at the image later, I saw something I hadn't seen when I snapped the photo. Look at it carefully and you see what appears to almost be a ghostlike image and a moon lending it all a mythic quality.

The reality of the image is half the face of a woman, trees reflected against a sky but we had to think a bit about from where that almost Olmec mask had come and decided it was also the clouds reflected against the seat back. The moon is a sun reflection. I mean the whole photo is reflection but the lucky combination created what you'd usually have to create with paints. It doesn't often happen in a photo unless it's photoshopped which this one was not.

The rest were all taken by Farm Boss, first two reflected in glass. Second two trying to duplicate that and not quite making it. Finding the right expressions in a photo is as hard for me as anybody else even having attempted it so many more times.

A really good portrait photograph is not about making it super flattering. Photo shopping out all the lines or sags would turn it into something plastic. The best photos reflect the person as they are at that moment. Such photos are a challenge to get, but part of the joy of mastering photography is facing those challenges. This last one I liked best because it's me and in the kind of country I love very much.

Wednesday, October 19, 2011

Chasing the Light

When we took a late vacation, late because we hadn't, for assorted reasons, been able to work in time away earlier, we headed for Montana for one of my favorite kinds of trips-- go wherever the mood strikes with no reservations or firm plans.

For me, I especially wanted a break from months of writing (although I took my computer and had wireless a lot of places), some time in the high country, and photography. I left oil paints and canvases at home based purely on it being impractical to deal with drying oils on this kind of vagabonding trip.

Fishing was on Farm Boss's agenda. I wanted time alongside rivers, trails into the mountains, time in the wilderness, and hoped for some sunshine. We ended up driving a lot and basically getting exceedingly lucky on the light which is something one cannot plan but simply has to be recognize when it's seen.

It was the week of the Hunter Moon, October's full moon. So I had full moon photos in Montana as one goal. Early one morning, not long after first light, we were driving south out of Dillon, where we had taken some good nighttime photos of the rising full moon, and there was that moon. I wanted photos of it with Montana's hills. I think those are the Tendoy Mountains that the moon is sinking toward.

What I had not fully assimilated is how important autumn is to wonderful photographs which are always created by good lighting. You can have the most beautiful scenery in the world and when the lighting is so-so, you are as well off to read a good book as the photos will end up snapshots and none will be the one you recognize as that "ah-ha" moment.

Who knew, well maybe all serious photographers but I didn't, that autumn provides the ingredients for some of the most spectacular possible photos. It is a combination of the low level of the sun at my latitude as well as the potential for clouds coming along to shift the lighting. Then I think when you are at a high elevation (2000-7000 feet is good) the air has a clarity that especially benefits nature photos.

Last year when I was in Yellowstone at this time, I got wonderful photos but hadn't really put it altogether yet-- high elevation, low level light, interesting shifting clouds, autumn colors and "voila" one beautiful shot after another. Some is luck and some is seeing what is coming and waiting for it. Only a tiny bit is working with Photoshop later. I put some of my favorites into a Picasa slideshow.

A shot like the one at the beginning of this blog requires waiting and watching for the moment when the light changes and turns what was ordinary into something almost magical. In that case, I wanted that moon to be near the horizon line to enlarge its importance. I also wanted the clouds to send across light bands onto the earth below. A lucky bonus was snow on the highest hills.  Zen or 'money shot' photos are always about light.

This full moon was the Hunter's Moon and I have photos from three different locations where it showed up exceptionally well. The first was Dillon, Montana, then the next morning heading south into Idaho (above photo). That one required parking the truck alongside the road, poking my head out the window and taking shot after shot to gain a few that I felt were exceptional. I later took a morning moon shot at Baker City,  as we were going into the Interpretive Center for the Oregon Trail. The moon with the sage brush was pure serendipity.

On this trip, we had had serendipitous moments when we happened to be in Missoula when the art museum was having a special show of Ansel Adams photos. Spending time with his photos, the wonderful way he used dark and light, often enhanced in darkrooms, all is good tutoring for taking good photos. I don't have the patience to spend hours or days for a photo but I do recognize the potential for one now when I see it and with the quality of digital cameras today, anybody can take some pretty impressive shots.

One more tip for someone seriously interested in taking the best photos, well besides learning to use shutter speed and f-stop, is having a polarizing lens. I cannot count the years that Farm Boss tried to tell me that while I resisted thinking it'd just get in my way or I'd forget to use it and ruin what could have been a nice shot without it. I am not one of those naturals where it comes to all of this nor am I first up to bat with new ideas. Eventually I did learn to use it and now cannot imagine taking nature photos without one. It gives light options and as you twist it around to get the photo you want, it adds the artistic dimension that a simple snapshot generally won't offer.

Seeing the full moon over Baker City was another of the trip's lucky moments, but I decided to play with the original image in photo-shop to bring it to more what it felt like than what I actually saw, more like a painting can do. Photo-shop can take what is a real image and give it a surreal cast by for instance turning a moon blue.

Sunday, October 16, 2011

Art and the movies-- documentaries and otherwise

Any film about art is usually a bit biographical with some being more accurate than others. Sometimes art is just a tiny part of the story even if an important part. Other times it's at its heart. I have quite a few movies I then purchased for their artistic element. I have seen many more since Netflix came out with their lengthy list of art documentaries. Because it was suggested it might prove interesting to others, I went to look at the ones I own or particularly recommend.  They will be titled in bold with only a brief paragraph review as there are too many for anything else.

Georgia O'Keeffe; The Eloquent Eye; O'Keeffe
The first of these three is a drama, kind of a docudrama or something like that where it follows O'Keeffe's life fairly faithfully to everything I know about it (and I know about as much as is possible given she is at the top of my list for a woman whose art I admire as well as her ability to live a life fully). This film is lovingly presented with Joan Allen starring as O'Keeffe and Jeremy Irons as Stieglitz. Any such attempt to portray her life would be better as a mini-series as her was a very full one with her intense love of painting and for the land New Mexico.   

The Eloquent Eye and O'Keeffe are both documentaries and well done with  interviews and tapes of them both. Stieglitz fascinates me as much as her and that documentary on his work is inspiring to any wantabe photgrapher. He was truly innovative and together they were one of those creative couplings like Kahlo and Rivera that inspires even as their love stories often don't work out so super happy. I recommend all three of these for the art, the philosophy of art, and living the artistic life.

This is a project of love by Salma Hayek who made this drama happen. Many artistic people admire Frida Kahlo for not only the completely open and revealing paintings she made but for the way she dealt with a life full of pain, both physical and emotional. Great film and highly recommended for more than the painting, which would have been enough, but also how someone overcomes adversity in a way that is strong. Hopefully most of us will never know what Frida went through in terms of her horrific accident and then loving a man so much who simply could not be faithful to her no matter how much he loved her.

Camille Claudel
I liked this film best in the beginning because I sculpt and am a big fan of Auguste Rodin and have actually seen full-sized many of the sculptures he was creating during this period when he met Camille and they began their love affair. I liked it less as it gets into her mental illness that is growing. I don't see her a victim of Rodin because despite her talent, it isn't just talent that enabled her to become well-known as a sculptor in her own right. Rodin was not a 'faithful' man; but when he met her, he had a long-time lover who he would not abandon. It's one of those you walk into it and should realize what is at stake even given youth. If she was victimized (and there are many stories to say her mental illness should have never led her to be hospitalized for most of her life), it was by her own family. Something very scary for those who have mental derivations from what is considered 'normal.'

Andy Goldsworthy Rivers and Tides
This is a lyrical and fascinating documentary that looks at both photography and natural sculpture. Goldsworthy created images and then photographed them. For anybody into photography as an art form, you can learn a lot from the film every time you view it. Although it is the only documentary that I own on photography, I have seen and am crazy about anything about Ansel Adams also. These kind of films inspire and teach.

is based on the Australian painter,  Norman Lindsay, even filmed at his home in Australia. It's about a lot more than painting though, really about our mores and how we see art. It is very erotic and if you don't like full frontal nudity, sometimes in sexual or fantasy settings, skip it. If you don't mind that, I think it's a good look at the philosophy of art as well as the lifestyle and workings of many artists who have achieved fame but are paying a price for not fitting the mores of their culture. I love this film for its beauty and it has a good cast.

I have less movies about the process of creating writing but I have seen a lot more than I own.

Il Postino
is a foreign film about a postman who becomes fascinated by the poetry of Pablo Neruda. It got me so interested in Neruda's poetry that I bought a book based on the work he did while in Chile. Neruda was, to me, kind of a poet about love and beauty but also politics. The power of his work changed the life of the young postman. Really good foreign film but more on the impact of the writing than the struggle of doing it.

Miss Potter
Fictionalized story of the children's author, Beatrix Potter, who created beloved children's classics that are still must read for children today due to their beauty, whimsy and truth. It presents more of the creative process, the difficulty of achieving recognition, and a very enjoyable film all on its own-- even though I do not think it did well at the box office. Renée Zellweger stars.

is one of those films that it's hard to categorize because it's kind of a mix of subjects, even if predominantly about hill music and its ancestry. A music professor, who has been passed over for tenure at her college, goes to visit her sister in Appalachia and there discovers the mountain music that the people have carried with them from their Scottish and Irish ancestors who had settled there. She is trying to document the history of the songs while she finds something unexpected there in those people, her sister's true self, and one special man. To record those songs as they were being sung was no light task in that era. I love this lyrical little film.

I consider cooking to also be an art and creative form and there are many wonderful movies about it. I won't review these but just list them and you can find more on Netflix. I liked them well enough to want to own them.

Like Water for Chocolate; Chocolat; Tortilla Soup; Babette's Feast. They are all about how food goes beyond something we eat to an art form and emotional sustenance.

Finally several that don't fit a category as such. I also believe that our own life is the greatest art form we will ever create whether we are writers, artists or whatever. Our life is when we really express the inner us and these three films fit into that category of looking at lifestyle that way. They are very diverse.

First is a documentary-- Searching for Debra Winger which is a look at the life of actresses and the difficulty they have with melding together their creative self with their personal. These are interviews down by Rosanna Arquette and I think something to make women think.

Off the Map is fiction and really about how the landscape in which we live (in this case, New Mexico) can make a life happen and how self-discovery leads to other ways of expression.  Lovely film about an alternative lifestyle.

Heading completely off in another direction but about creativity in a lifestyle is Memoirs of a Geisha, based on the novel, which is about how geishas were taught to make their life a work of art.

Where it comes to creative documentaries, I cannot recommend enough what is available through Netflix, although that now depends on renting the DVDs, not having livestreaming as a lot of the documentaries are not available through streaming from what I have been told. I am sticking with the DVDs because I don't care if I have one all the time and care more about the documentaries there than anything else they offer. The rest can be gotten anywhere. Their documentary collection on diverse and often little known artists is the tops in my experience.

Friday, October 14, 2011


Looking through Netflix, I came across an award winning foreign film, based on real events, that looked interesting to me. I didn't do any more research on the subject than what I got from their blurb and put it on my list. Last week we watched it. If you would rather not read a revealing review of the subtitled film, Artemisia, stop reading right now with one warning from me-- I do not recommend it to anybody.

 [Artemisia Gentileschi] was an Italian Baroque painter of the early 1600s. She is someone of whom I had never heard. Why would I? How good can a woman be? This one is, today, regarded as having been a very fine artist, one of the female artists who could do the work as well as any man. She was held back from attending the best fine art schools even though her father, a successful artist of the time, wanted her to have that training. She was just a woman after all.

The French film was not satisfied with telling her story as history tells it. It went to sexing it up with things I don't see how anybody could have known about her early life. It showed her fascinated with nudity, her own and that of males, enjoying watching debauchery, and eager for her own first sexual experience when she was still a teen. My theory on why, besides the desire to sensationalize, is the misapprehension that anyone who likes to paint, draw or sculpt nudes must be perverted in some way. Since I did the first three, without a desire to view debauchery, I know they are wrong.

The film turned what had been an accusation and conviction of rape into a romance of a sort; and if I had read more about it before I ordered it, I'd never have done it as I quit watching about half way through.

I didn't quit for all the nudity. There were plenty of beautiful nude bodies in sexual and artistic settings-- full frontal of men and women. That doesn't bother me at all in a film. I loved the Australian film Sirens which is another film about art, sexuality, and with full frontal nudity-- an interesting film about values in art.

Artemisia though is the story of a very talented woman artist, introduced to art by her father at a young age. She had a natural gift which led to her father letting her paint some of his commissions. The film depicts of how unfairly women were treated in being denied opportunities (yes we have come a long way) while it itself proceeds to objectify a woman by how it portrayed her (in some areas, we haven't come so far).

When I saw it going a way that made me uncomfortable is when I went over to my computer to look for a biography and found the fervent objection feminists had to the film. This film turned what historically has been considered a total rape into the story of a love affair (remember the oversexed parts earlier-- after all how could a female artist want to paint nudes without being oversexed, right???) between a much older man and a younger woman.

Right there, I quit watching as I had no interest in watching gratuitous sex (and there'd been plenty of that already-- with torture of a woman coming up.

What came next, which I read, was that the father discovered the sexual event or events (this is true historically also) and accused his friend of rape and there was a trial. Artemisia also had to be examined to be sure she had been a virgin as that was the real issue here- deflowering; and she was tortured by thumbscrews by the nuns. This appears to have been in the film and also historic. I tell you, the things women do to women sometimes make me more angry than what men do.

The movie leaves historic record because by all evidence, including her own art after it happened-- this was a brutal rape. In the film the writers/directors/producers show Artemisia being tortured by nuns to force her to admit it was rape when she says it was love. Finally the male artist sacrificially steps forward and lies to say it was rape to save her from the torture. Get it women being tortured (thumbs up in a film), it being done by women (more thumbs up).

I consider the film to be an abuse of women also. Oh I know a woman today could go to a top art school even if they won't ever get the career afterward that a man would have with equal talent; but they took the story of a gifted artist who was denied the fame and success she should have had and used it to create some kind of weird amalgamation of art and sex.

Although I don't call myself a feminist, I do see the ways women lose out when their work isn't regarded as serious. Also it's horrifying to me to take a story of rape and sex it up, turning the rapist into the hero and the woman into asking for it. Ack! It's a different kind of abuse, more subtle but equally damaging to women as a whole. I don't blame Gloria Steinem and others for protesting this film as once again it shows today's culture (and a female director) with misusing sexuality in women to sell films. Shame!

(Self portrait as the allegory of painting  by Artemisia Gentileschi was in Wikipedia.)

Tuesday, October 11, 2011

Defining Ourselves Part II

Where I wrote about the importance of defining ourselves and using definitions we don't lose with age, I thought it'd important to think a bit on what are  characteristics not dependent on the opinion of others and that can grow and change with age (if possible).

First of all it's important we see ourselves realistically. That is probably a character quality also whether we can look at ourselves realistically or whether we tend to gloss over whatever doesn't suit our vision. We do bad things regularly but justify it by saying someone else made us-- like say our parents growing up.

See the thing is real character qualities, which is what I think we are looking for in defining ourselves would include being able to realistically assess our inner self not just outer. It's not enough to say I wantabe this or that. Do we have what it takes to do it? Adding to this, I think is that sometimes a character quality that seems a positive can also be a negative, has a shadow side.  I better use myself here to illustrate what I mean.

I am a creative person. I have always been and likely always will be and this shows up in the artistic things I do, my writing, my home decor, my own appearance. Being creative I am less prone to be limited by what others think should be done. It has given me a lot of flexibility in my life.

But there has been a downside, and it leads to some of the ways I see myself that are not positive. I have never felt my art/writing/etc. have ended up successful in terms of how they are seen by others. I cannot, in short, make money at any of it. Now it's true I have not worked real hard at making money from them; but I simply have not been successful monetarily with my work and that leads to another aspect of how I define myself.

We can see ourselves as positive, successful to a certain level but to make what we do successful financially, we need others to see it likewise. We cannot dictate to them that they must buy our books, sculptures or paintings. To be monetarily successful in creative endeavors requires not just that we see ourselves as being good. We have to have the 'other' see it also-- and we cannot control the 'other'. It's kind of one of those contradictions in terms of defining that I am not sure of the way to get around.

So we convince ourselves we are gifted, good at it, but if nobody else agrees to the extent of trading their own hard earned dollars for what we did, are we? Well maybe a future generation will see it otherwise like with Van Gogh... most likely though not...

So this business of defining ourselves gets complex with both the light and the shadow side-- ie I am a creative woman who has never gained material success from my endeavors which is the shadow side to what I do. It ends up a positive and also negative attitude which maybe undermines future endeavors...

Photo from a happy day for me-- October 9, 2011-- Kootenai Creek, Montana

Saturday, October 08, 2011

Defining ourselves

Knowing others is wisdom. Knowing yourself is enlightenment.  Lao Tzo

Human animals are maybe the only ones who get to define themselves. How we do that often explains how we see all of life. Truthfully, books or movies or whatever else we might bring into our lives including friends, it is how we define ourselves that probably most impacts our choices and all of how we live. We can define ourselves tightly or loosely. We can change the definitions as we age or fight to keep them constant. We can find definitions that can grow with us and are about more than the superficial. We can not define ourselves at all and let others do it.

Our way of defining ourselves might impact not just how we see ourselves but also how others see us.  If our definitions are objective, we will be realistic in our goals. If we have let someone else define us, we might find it difficult to even figure out our own dreams.

Naturally after just having been to a reunion of many people the same age, a reunion that took me back fifty years and more; then watching a documentary on female artists and their lives, reading blogs where I hear people defining themselves many different ways, ways I might not define them if I was putting out my own definitions, this subject of defining has been on my mind as to how I would define me.

If I define myself realistically, I will be ahead for my life. If I see myself as I want to be or how others see me, not how I am, I will make poor choices. I could make my life one long string of grievances against the 'other.' Some of us were given more natural gifts, some of us less but it's what we do with what we have been given that most impacts our living. Knowing ourselves and defining who we are in a way that works is why I especially liked the above quote by Lao Tzu which will be for the month of March on my 2012 calendar (Nirvana).

We live in a culture that is eager to define us-- fat, thin, old, young, pretty, plain, etc etc. That can be accurate or not. We start being given definitions by our parents and then our peer group. We accept or fight against those definitions all of our life. I think it takes down time with ourselves to come up with our own definitions, ones with which we can live the enlightened lives Lao Tzu was talking about.

Sometimes when I see myself, with no makeup and glasses, my hair maybe needing to be washed, I still see that little girl of 12 (top photo) who was just starting to not only define herself but become the woman she would be. I guess that's the case with us all-- we are still that child but also the adult or old person we developed into.

Beauty or handsomeness is one of those definitions for a culture. Whether we are lovely/handsome  (whether those words even have firm definitions), it's how others see us that could end up a lot of what we believe. That will vary with different cultures as what one group sees as gorgeous, even in one generation to the next, will vary.

How many though have decided they are beautiful or not based purely on the other? How many have based their worth on the others' definition of their beauty/handsomeness which as they age will naturally change and leave them with no sense of who they are short of plastic surgery which can NEVER reach what nature naturally created-- no matter how many dollars are spent. And kid yourself not, dollars are what most of that surgery is about.

What if we define ourselves by gender? We are men or we are women. We are straight or we are gay. Is that a good way to define us as human beings? We are certainly encouraged to do that in a myriad of ways, not just our sexuality but also our age. When we use those kinds of definition as well as that of beauty, it will change and be impacted by how others saw us more than even ourselves. That leads to dividing ourselves as we go to war, emotionally at the least, with the 'other'.

I honestly think that coming up with a definition of who we are that is not impacted by the 'other' is one of the perks of a long life. We're the ones lucky enough to have a lifetime to look back upon and the time now to do it if we so choose. To have a realistic view of ourselves is something I think most of us learn with the wisdom of age. It is more likely to go beyond the superficial to deeper values-- the kind that last. We can then go anywhere confident in us because it's not about someone else's view of us.

Now that doesn't mean we should not work on the culture's being realistic about its values. It doesn't mean we look the other way at discrimination based on the 'other' grabbing power. I think it's important to do that as part of not only defining ourselves but living in a culture where we can be proud of what it represents. The catch is to not let media or hype convince us we are something we are not. They as well as others are willing to do it. Nobody else should.

Sometimes I jokingly say, when I am going somewhere, that I am putting on me and that means the public me which is like this photo. That isn't really me though, not even for how I look.

Farm Boss told me, when I was talking about this concept of identity, that no photo really shows how others see us as that is full of moving action and energy. Mirrors or photos are the only way we ever really see ourselves and that's an illusion as much as anything else.

Wednesday, October 05, 2011

Who does she think she is?

[Who does she think she is?] is a documentary by the same filmmaker who did 'Born in Brothels.'  The subject here is women artists, from many medias, and how their work impacted their marriages, child rearing and creative output. I thought it was an interesting look at quite a variety of women and the price they paid for what they felt it crucial to do as creative women.

I had not realized how few women artists actually get shows in museums or are able to make a living from their art. The ratio is like 10 women (at the best) to over 100 men for having their work in museums. Is it possible that's because women aren't as good? Unlikely. In many cases, with top museums, the ratios are even less for work in their collections. Why would this be?

Men complain every time women bring these things up as though this is all about nature for men to be so far in the front; and women are being bitches to even mention it. The evils of feminism was painted as hatred of men instead of looking for fairness or even for understanding why something is as it is. Can we really blame men for the way it is or do women share in the blame by both their acceptance and possibly even encouragement of the status quo?

It is not that a woman cannot have a job. Certainly they can and most women at least in America must work-- married or not. The problem comes when a woman is in a career that doesn't stop after eight hours. Art is one of those, and it is even more complicated if the work is little rewarded financially. You receive money for something, and it has value. No money equal no value in the eyes of many people.

Some of the husbands in this film were proud of what their wives did; but others were threatened by what it demanded and it led to failed marriages. These were all women who had decided to have children. I think it is particularly difficult for women who want to be in a relationship and have children while also earning respect and a living in the arts where they have to fight harder to gain recognition than a male would have to do.

The documentary is on Netflix, and I do recommend it for the art it displays but also the stories of these women and the price they have paid in terms of broken marriages and sometimes children who don't have as much of mom as they might wish. It is about real people and not the artists on the top of the heap like a Georgia O'Keeffe but those who are struggling in the ranks.

Sunday, October 02, 2011

Our boys

The photo is of our two male cats-- BB and Blackie. BB is probably 15 or possibly even 16 years old while Blackie is about 6. Both came to us as adult strays. BB arrived in Tucson in 2000 and Blackie here at the farm in 2005 or thereabouts. Their being strays is why I cannot be sure of age. They are our boys though.

They squabble like brothers with hitting and swatting at each other and then turning around and licking one another. BB, being the oldest, has been the more subdued, but he is the Alpha without a doubt. He shows his power by his restraint to avoid being yelled at by one of us.

This particular photo was taken because it's totally amazing how BB has responded to something new that our veterinarian son-in-law and his office manager (our daughter) sent to us (was meant to be for our son and daughter-in-law with their two cats).  It is for old cats to rejuvenate them, give them more limberness and boy has it worked to a level that amazes us and has Farm Boss wondering if he could take it for himself. 

S3 Gel has glucosamine among other ingredients and it really has worked on BB. Being on top of that piano that way a month ago simply would not have happened. Everytime I see him bound around, I am in amazement. 

About two months ago (before we began this with BB) I started taking glucosamine and religiously now take it twice a day. I had tried it before but it didn't seem to do much. That might have been because I didn't do it all the time. I was interested in it because with all my typing, my fingers were hurting. Now they don't hurt and whether it is helping other joints, I don't know as other joints didn't seem to be sending out warning signs. 

For old cats though I definitely recommend checking with your vet or maybe pet supply store as I don't know where you can buy it for Synovial Support Supplement. It's worth a try and it's been a big deal for us. I don't know how much longer we will have BB, given his age, but to have him more active and happier, that's the big thing.

Blackie also has health problems which evidently are based on a congenital sinus weakness. We are trying multiple things with him to try and make sure he lives a good long life. For now I don't have one solution though; so won't get into it until maybe we come up with an answer.