Friday, October 20, 2017

"All Is Right With the World"

I'm smiling!

Yeah, I am. (No Facebook "selfie" though. My smile is too real for that.)

But *why* am I smiling?

Robert Browning sort'a captured it in his poem "Pippa's Song"...

"The year's at the spring,
And day's at the morn;
Morning's at seven;
The hill-side's dew-pearled;
The lark's on the wing;
The snail's on the thorn;
God's in his Heaven -
All's right with the world!"

Well, in truth all is not right. Of course not. (Browning, of course, knew that too) But so much is!

Here are just a few of those things. The things that are making me smile.

This may be the most beautiful Autumn I have ever experienced. Two "peaks" of color. (The 2nd going on now!)  Clear and cool mornings, followed by sunny 'warm kisses' afternoons.

Jan is home with me.

What's the biggie in that? Simple: She is my best friend. My dear one. My love. My truthful companion. The light of my life. -And for the almost fifty years she and I have been "together" most of our days were spent largely apart. Working and/or whatever.

Now we are home together. Not linked by any rough-hewn knot. Not 'Siamese twins' to use an old, outdated, phrase. No, not at all. But together. On our own terms. In our own beloved home. And that all day long.

The world is getting "right" too. The world outside.

Have you noticed that?

No, you'd not think so by what the media is every day telling us. But it is.

Okay, not *their* world. No. Because their world is broken beyond fixes. They have lost control. (They and those they serve) and that's what they're so god-awful pissed about.

But yet it is.

Even the flashes of ugliness -- the anger (largely created and canned for public consumption) -- shows this.

Look at the numbers. The "stats." Things are starting to go right. Not for "them." But for us. The regular people.

Look at the faces of almost anyone who is seeing and thinking for themselves, and not repeating the mantra from above. They, too, like me, are smiling.

The "threats" -- those big, ugly, threats that are supposed to make us cower -- they are largely phony.

And what's more, more and more people are seeing that. And in the people's eyes the little laugh lines reveal that even when and where its still unpolitic to say it. Look and see!

Isn't all that WONDERFUL?

So yes. I'm smiling. A big, BIG, smile.

I hope you are too.

(And if not, please think about all the above.)

* * * * *

Saturday, September 2, 2017

It's All in the Jeans

That our nation has become more divided in the last dozen or so years has been obvious to most of us. Painfully so.  What is the reason? Where is the dividing line? What can we do to pull it together?

The last weeks have been revealing. Answers to all those questions are becoming clear.

Bottom line, the fault line is culture.  American culture.

The 'coasties,' as some of us have come to call the NY/LA/Boston/DC crowd, simply do not like America.  At least not the America that the non-'coasties' know and love.

This is not a matter of "brains" or education (although some proudly claim it is while crying out "hurray for our side.")  No, there are "brains" and education on both sides of the divide.  It is a matter of in what people trust. What holds a person's faith.

"You can judge a tree by the fruit it bears." -So said a very wise man a couple of thousand years ago. And those words are proving to be a great guide today. They point us in the right direction.  At people's works.  Not what they say, but what they do.

The calamity caused by Hurricane Harvey has not only enabled us, but forced us, to see with our own eyes. Who is doing what? And to compare what our eyes see with words that have be for too long smugly spoken. Words about "values". Words about culture. Words about where goodness and truth actually lie.

Not just theoretical or philosophical goodness. -Words about such that look good in print or sound good when spoken over the airwaves or even in a college classroom lecture.

No. Real actions. Real works.

With our eyes open we are seeing just who actually does, and who merely talks. What people actually accomplish in comparison to what people claim.

Some actions are seen to be life affirming -- life saving even.  People being saved, not from figuratively drowning in words but from literally drowning in deep water.

And if we are willing to think about it seeing such tells us what we need to do. Whom we need to support.

America is the land of blues jeans. -Clothing originally designed to be worn not as a fashion statement, but as a tough outer layer that holds up while its wearer does tough work. Made of heavy fabric that has been riveted at its stress points.

Just look at the jeans people choose to wear.  That's all it'll take. Who wore out the knee? How heavy is its denim and how did it become faded?

Take sides based on that and you will be on safe grounds. As will our nation.

Yes, it's all in the jeans.

Saturday, August 12, 2017

That America We Knew and Loved? It's Still Here

It's kind of sad how many people find themselves asking "where did the America I knew and loved go to?"    And the reason so many are asking that is because what is put before our eyes every day: A nation without any but the most superficial values. -An America supposedly full of selfishness and small thinking. Of cheap laughter and an even cheaper culture. Of broken families and broken lives. And especially (it seems to me) a lack of real leadership. There is no one (we are repeatedly told) that we can trust.

But here is what I have realized -- I, and I know, many, many others -- some who realized this far more quickly than I did -- that the America we loved still exists.  Not just here and there -- mere smatterings -- holdouts -- but virtually everywhere.

People with values. People with depth. People that are quietly going about their lives in a way that reveals that the 'old' America is far from dead.  It is living. It is breathing. It is being passed along.

The reason we may not quickly or easily see this is because we have been taught to not look with our own eyes, but through the eyes of others.  The coastal media. The big mouths on TV and, yes, on the Internet.

And such people -- this is worth noting! -- rarely even pretend to be looking at the nation about us. Instead they spend their days quoting one-another.

If you listen to "news" or read opinion pages take note of this: How much time and space is being used by the same few people quoting and arguing with each other. As if their voices, and only their voices, mattered.

That is why some who actually think and speak for themselves talk and write about there being an "echo chamber."  It's almost like there is just one voice speaking. On and on and on. Endlessly. "He said he said that he said..."

Then take note how different the country they see is from the one that you and I see with our own eyes. Not just occasionally, but each and every day.

If you'll allow the semi-jest... how many little boys do you see that want to wear a dress?  ANY?

How many people that you know want to do any of the things that those voices repeatedly tell us that everyone is wanting to do?

I'll bet in many cases the answer is NONE.

On the other hand, how many people do you see with your own eyes that have real, "traditional" values about the goodness of hard work? That value accomplishment? That care for their families? That care about other people? -Yes, all other people, without the supposed distrusts and divisions and narrow-minded hate that those loud voices tell us are common amongst us?

America lives. It lives in us.

America has a future.  Because of us -- and the many, many millions more just like us in the ways that really matter.

We're not gone.  We're here.

They can't see us because they do not want to see us. Nor do they want us to see ourselves. -For who we are. For what we believe in.

And frankly that is exactly what has those loud few so frightened. US. You and me. And that is what makes them so desirous of making us turn inward so that we will not see one-another. And realize our power.

America is still here.
They can only kill it if we let them.

(And again frankly, I think that it is for them too late.)

Enough of us know.
Enough of us see.
Enough of us care about all this and are speaking out.

Welcome back America!  Yes, even if in fact you never really went away.

Posted to American Thinker
Aug 12, 2017

Wednesday, August 9, 2017

Staying Put

For many years it was a growing 'tradition' for older people whose family had grown and moved away to, upon retirement, do the same themselves. To give up what had been their home for many years -- the place, often, where they had raised their families -- and to move elsewhere -- often to a "retirement community."  Frankly I was surprised to read that that trend seemed to be reversing. -That many older people are now choosing, instead, to stay put.

Bloomberg News posted an article whose title captured the change, and its effect on society: "Baby Boomers Who Refuse to Sell Are Dominating the Housing Market." From the point of view of younger people this change was hardly a positive one.  Housing for young families in some areas is getting increasingly short. Indeed the article focused on one younger man who has of late been spending his free time canvasing entire neighborhoods in search of somebody -- anybody! -- who is willing to sell. That so he can have a home to call his own. A foundation on which to build his future life.

Responses to his appeal have been vigorous and, in every case so far, negative.

Said one older house owner "“I wouldn’t sell even if you gave me $2 million — this is my retirement. If you gave me a bag of money, I wouldn’t sell.”

The reason, given by another such older home owner, was stark and clear. Said he: “This neighborhood still has the soul of the past. Everybody I know — people older than me — wouldn’t move from here for nothing unless they couldn’t afford it no more.”

I don't know that I'd personally say "no" to two million dollars, if offered that for my home and property, but the reasoning those two individuals expressed -- and those of several others mentioned in the article -- rang true to me.  I, as apparently have they, thought it through. I've evaluated a wide range of options. And decided to stay put.

Indeed my wife Jan and I did this together. With much care and focused purpose.  And, be it for similar reasons as others of our generation, or, perhaps, just our own, we have decided to stay.

The "whys" of this are many.  Here, from our personal perspective, are a few of them:

We are where we wish to be.

In the end that is the most salient reason.  Jan and my life together has not largely been an "oh, whatever..." affair.  We've from the start had goals and aspirations -- goals and aspirations we have lived for. Focused upon. Striven for. Sacrificed to reach.  Thus our living where we live did not come about by mere happenstance.  It is a location -- a home -- a community -- of our choosing. One based on what we are as people. -Upon our own shared, but also individual, needs.

Quietude, privacy and peace are to us essential elements of a happy and contented life. Being able to be ourselves, with little need to answer to others -- and to remain unaffected by other's equally genuine and equally personal choices and preferences.

In a sense this is not too different from the comment of one of the elderly home owners quoted above when they spoke of their neighborhood still having the "soul of the past." In their case there seemed to be an ethnic community aspect.  But underneath the specifics of what they personally valued their desire was not unlike our own: To live in a place where they/we feel comfortable.  Where one's own likes and dislikes -- and personal level of comfort -- remained paramount.

For Jan and I that "community" is in a certain sense a community of two.  But it is still a community -- one with deeply held values. -Values that in many respects differ from the greater world around us.

Another reason for staying put -- how mundane! -- is simple dollars and sense.

Yes, "sense."  Evaluated, not by commonly accepted "truths" such as "living is less expensive elsewhere," but a personal evaluation of where we'd be financially and otherwise if we should up and move.

We have for many years invested everything, or pretty close to everything, in our home and property.  That with the goal of making it exactly what we wished it to be.  And the fact is that much of that investment is non-transferable.

The large, gorgeous, porch. Rebuilt from the ground up at great cost. The home's Great Room with its large fireplace -- and room aplenty for Jan's baby grand piano, a billiard table and a bar. My personal sanctum -- a library loft with comfortable leather seating surrounded by my books and personal mementos. The home theater -- carefully designed, styled, and created with hours and hours of work -- and providing us the real theater experience in sound and picture, but without the sticky floors and endless whispering that makes the commercial movie house often less than a complete joy no matter how good "the picture."

And beauty.  Acres of it. Diverse and ever changing beauty. -There to be enjoyed outside, or through any of the house's many windows -- including the virtual glass wall that allows us to look out onto a small meadow full of life when first opening our eyes on each new day.

Then there's the larger "neighborhood."  A true "art town."  Not "arty" in the superficial, trendy, Hollywood sense, but a place of real, stable and mature creativity.  One built up many years ago on the three pillars of the MacDowell Colony, the Mariarden and the Laughton Camp/Out-Door Players -- the later of which property and main house is now what we call "home."

Could any of above be found anew?  And if so, at what cost? In money, yes, but even more in time, attention and expended energy?

Take the supposed (and in some ways real) "lower cost of living" in other areas -- and then add into the equation the cost of moving. -Of paying a real estate agent's seller's fees. Of again setting up a home, if not from scratch, then as close to that as neccasary to make the fittings "right" for the place. A new place. Likely a very different sort of place.

Add to that that such "lower cost of living" most often comes with a different price:  A less desirable location. One without such things as "the arts." One without a long standing (and still existent) culture of its own. A barren field without strong, tall, trees -- if not literally, than figuratively.

So for all these reason we are staying put.  As are, it seems, many others of our generation.

"Selfish"?  Perhaps.  But in the end isn't all life so?  Grasping for the sun. With the deep roots needed to grab up all the water needed to live and to thrive.

So, yes, we are staying put. For as long as possible. Be it as now, on our own, or later, if needed, perhaps with a little loving help.


Sunday, July 2, 2017

Just as They Misjudged Reagan They Misjudge Trump

"There is nothing new under the Sun"

That quote from the Bible book of Ecclesiastes, is credited to King Solomon.

Not quite so pithy -- but in proof -- I offer this brief historical reminder. That all the current anti-Trump talk has been heard before.

When, in March 1983, Reagan described the Soviet Union as "an evil empire," the liberal media and the professorial class's reaction was little short of hysterical. Writes William Rusher in July's Claremont Review of Books...

Henry Steele Commager, then a professor of history at Amherst, condemned Reagan's speech as "the worst presidential speech in American history, and I've read them all." Hendrik Hertzberg, later editor of The New Republic, protested that "words like that frighten the American public and antagonize the Soviets. What good is that?" Time's Strobe Talbott, later President Clinton's deputy secretary of state, made the same objection: "When a chief of state talks that way, he roils Soviet insecurities." George W. Ball, undersecretary of state in the Kennedy and Johnson Administrations, sounded a somber warning: "Mr. President, you have set us on a dark and ominous course. For God's sake, let us refix our compass before it is too late." 

They were wrong then. History -- including the testimony of the soon to be (alas, temporarily) liberated denizen's of Soviet system -- testified to that endlessly.

Read Solzhenitsyn's Gulag Archipeligo if you doubt it.

Reagan was "a fool,"  "an ignoramus," "a danger."  He was "senile." He was "mad." He needed to be removed from office.

But in fact he was none of those things. What he was, without doubt, was the most effective leader this nation had had since the end of WWII.

He was right. They -- the media and the 'always know betters' -- were wrong.

Yes, it was that clear.  History tells us so.

And the people were right too, because they -- the common man -- understood.  And thus Reagan aimed his thoughts to them. Spoke in a language they understood. Just as does President Trump today.


Friday, June 23, 2017

One More"Voice"

Most of my posts here are thought posts. Word posts. Comments on what I am seeing and thinking about. On conclusions reached -- or the path I am on (we are always growing, yes?) towards the same.

One previous post, though, entitled "My Other Voice" eschewed words almost entirely, and instead contained some of my imaging work, both from past years and the present.

This post, too, is not focused on words, or thoughts.  Well, at least not put forth as such. But upon as yet another "voice" of mine. The voice of music.

I gave up public performance as a musician many years ago. But my playing has continued. And in the last couple of years I have started again sharing some of that via a medium not even dreamed of during my youthful years: That of the self-posted, YouTube, video.

Here, then, are a few examples of such. Some entirely instrumental. Others of music with a vocal/lyric component as well.

* * * * *

First a couple of instrumental pieces. Ones that hearken back to my earliest days as a musician. During the days of "Surf" and what we guitarists of that period later came to call "pre-surf" music...

This first video is of a song that definitely qualifies as the prior.  Maybe the very first song I ever applied myself to learning.  The Ventures' 1959 hit "Walk Don't Run"

Here's another instrumental from that general period. But this one is truly "Surf" as shown by its very name: 1963's "Surf Rider."


And now something quite different.  First of because it is played, not on an electric guitar, but on an acoustic. And also because it is a vocal number.  My own arrangement for solo guitar and voice of Muddy Waters' great blues song "I Got My Mojo Working"...

And one more. Again a vocal number, but this time of an one of my own compositions. A song entitled "On and On (she keeps going)."

On this one I am 'backed up' by "The Black Box Band" -- an assortment of programmable electronic instrumental devices.

* * * * *

Put these three forms of communication together -- words, imaging and music -- and you pretty much have the whole of me. A reflection of most everything that goes on in my head.

Yes, and much that goes on in my life.

Especially now in retirement.  This is where my heart resides. My world. A largely peaceful place of beauty, thought and expression. The things that daily surround me -- along with a few very dear, carefully chosen, friends and my family.




Tuesday, June 13, 2017

Some Thoughts on Finding "Beauty"

We are surrounded by beauty.  Yes, just as we are surrounded by "goodness" and "love."

Why then do some of us see it?  Find it?  Experience it?

In truth there is no one, simple, answer to that question. Some places are less filled with beauty than others. Some lives less surrounded by goodness and love.

But that said, if we look about something else is to be observed:  And that is that what we each see is what we choose to see.

We as a rule find what, and only what, we are looking for.

We experience only what we allow ourselves to experience.

Like beauty, love and goodness can be seen -- or they can be passed over. -Left unseen. Ignored.

Choices over time, too, have an effect.  A beautiful home is generally the product of many months or years of planning and executing. A beautiful garden does not grow in a single season.  -It begins there, but that is only its beginning. Much work must follow.

Beautiful friendships, too, take time to create and grow. And this, too, takes labor.

I make it a daily goal to to create and post at least one share-worthy photograph a day. It pleases me when others take pleasure in viewing these.  But in truth the one who is best rewarded by the images is me -- and that is not in their posting, but in the creating.  In the seeing that follows the searching, and the work that follows that.

That assignment -- finding an image that is to me worth sharing -- forces me to look for the beauty that is all around me. To see, not just what is, but possibilities.  And then to extract those possibilities -- the things seen in my mind and imagination -- and make them real, clear, and focused. Obvious, hopefully, to even a casual looker on.

The real reward is in the looking. And in the work of creating. This is true for art, Yes. And for music. And for relationships. Indeed it is true for everything.

Seeing the possibilities is where the journey begins. Being satisfied with nothing less and working to create them is the road. All beyond that is merely the destination.

We either go there, or we do not.  That choice, too, is ours.

Yes beauty IS all around us. To be extracted from life. Squeezed out of it like juice from a piece of fruit. And very often only then is it available to be savored and enjoyed.

It can't be bought. It does not come pre-packaged.

Some may say "yeah, but you are lucky. I see your photos. You are surrounded by beauty. For you it is everywhere."

For such that think that way here is a little secret:  Even that very real beauty often has to be found, extracted, and created.  Yes, it is there, but often not obviously so.

Here, as an example, is my "sharable" photo from this morning. First what I shared, and next to it where it came from -- what the camera saw --  the actual photograph. The first -- the image I shared -- is what I sought and found within the later.

Both are in truth the same photo. The choice of what to see and what to share was mine. -To be extracted, modified, squeezed, made "other."

Just as with life itself.