TGIF Reads

Image

Charles Burchfield, “July Sunlight Pouring Down”, 1952, Watercolor on paper

Good Day

Sky Dancers!

Today’s art is from Charles Burchfield whose ethereal water colors of nature have always had a calming effect on me.  Water color is my favorite medium and I love painting landscapes and old buildings.  I always find his play of light to be fascinating. That’s hard to do with water color. You get one chance at it.

According to Burchfield’s friend and colleague Edward Hopper, “The work of Charles Burchfield is most decidedly founded, not on art, but on life, and the life that he knows and loves best.”

Those times were not simpler for most folks. There are always plagues and famines and wars.  However, this is the first time we look at Americana from the viewpoint of living through a nightmare of a leader who is not the least bit suited for the job a minority of the population shove him into.  I cannot wait to be rid of him one way or another and whatever gets him out of our lives quickly.

Polls continue to show the displeasure is not limited to us.  This is from Politico: “Poll shows Trump’s coronavirus approval at all-time low. The president remains reluctant to acknowledge the disease’s threat as he keeps pushing to restart the U.S. economy.”

Support for President Donald Trump’s handling of the coronavirus pandemic has hit an all-time low, according to a new survey, with a similarly substantial majority of Americans also disapproving of his response to widespread racial unrest.

An ABC News/Ipsos poll released Friday reports that a record 67 percent of respondents now disapprove of “the way Donald Trump is handling the response to the coronavirus,” while only 33 percent approve — the widest gulf in public sentiment since ABC News and Ipsos started surveying on the pandemic in March.

Dawn of Spring, ca. 1960s. Watercolor, charcoal, and white chalk on joined paper mounted on board,

It’s still disheartening that fully 1/3 of those respondents appear to be adherents to the kind of white christian nationalism that brands the Trumpist regime and supporters into the KKK corner of life.   What’s also disheartening is that the kind of blatantly fictional conspiracy theories and fairy tales embraced by these people seems to be still selling in some corners that send representatives to Congress.  This is from Media Matters: “QAnon may be coming to Congress, and journalists need to be ready”. This article describes the odd views of ““Gun-toting” restaurateur Lauren Boebert who beat an incumbent Republican in the Colorado primary.

In many ways,  Boebert and other QAnon-following candidates have been normalized in the press. FiveThirtyEight published an article about the likelihood that Republican women will increase their representation in Congress with the November elections, and used a photo of Boebert. Her fringe beliefs are not mentioned anywhere in the article or accompanying tweet.

When The New York Times wrote about Boebert’s victory, it made a passing reference to her support of QAnon, saying in the lead that she’d “spoken approvingly of the pro-Trump conspiracy theory QAnon.” It wasn’t until the 11th paragraph that the movement got mentioned again, and even that was framed in the context of how “Democrats immediately went on the attack” for her support of QAnon.

Media Matters’ Alex Kaplan has reported extensively on the QAnon movement, and he has identified two concepts that journalists need to understand when reporting on this movement. The first has to do with QAnon-supporting candidates and the need to probe their actual beliefs. “Some of these candidates seem to see QAnon and its supporters as an explicit political constituency to appeal to for support, and are trying to use existing QAnon infrastructure to do so, such as using QAnon hashtags (particularly #WWG1WGA) and going on QAnon YouTube channels,” he says. “So they seem to be treating a far-right conspiracy theory group tied to violence and flagged by the FBI as some normal voting block when it’s clearly not.”

The second issue is that reporters often seem unaware of, or aren’t reporting on, the actual number of QAnon-supporting candidates who are progressing in their races. Kaplan says, “I keep seeing just a few specific candidates mentioned over and over regarding those who made it out of primaries or to primary runoffs (Lauren Boebert, Marjorie Taylor Greene, Jo Rae Perkins), when it’s way more than that; it’s at least 14 candidates that made it out of primaries to the ballot in November or to primary runoffs (and that’s leaving out independent/write-in candidates).”

 

Image

Charles Burchfield, “Purple Vetch and Buttercups”, 1959, Watercolor over charcoal,

 

This shows you exactly how far Trump thinks he can go unchecked.  Via CNN: “Trump implies he’s ready to grant clemency to Roger Stone”. 

Trump is widely expected to pardon or commute Stone’s sentence, according to at least half a dozen sources close to the President.

>Asked by Fox News host Sean Hannity whether he’s considered a pardon or commutation for Stone, Trump said during a phone interview, “I am always thinking.”

“You’ll be watching like everyone else in this case,” he said.

In another interview, with radio host Howie Carr, Trump decried Stone’s treatment at the hands of law enforcement and said he may grant his clemency plea.

“He was framed. He was treated horrible. He was treated so badly,” Trump said.

Probably the most heinous thing Trump is doing right now is turning America’s school children into political props for his culture war.  This is an Op Ed by Michelle Goldberg writing at the NYT: “Trump Threatens to Turn Pandemic Schooling Into a Culture War. The president might sabotage parents’ best hopes for getting their kids back to school.”

Instead, Donald Trump has approached the extraordinarily complex challenge of educating children during a pandemic just as he’s approached most other matters of governing: with bullying, bluster and propaganda.

While doing nothing to curb the wildfire spread of the coronavirus, he has demanded that schools reopen and threatened to cut off funding for those that don’t. On Wednesday, he tweeted that the guidelines for reopening schools from his own Centers for Disease Control and Prevention were “very tough & expensive,” adding, “I will be meeting with them!!!” Mike Pence then suggested that the guidelines would be revised. On Thursday the agency’s director, Dr. Robert Redfield, said they wouldn’t be, but later, seeming to give into pressure, said the guidelines should be seen as recommendations, not requirements.

Also on Thursday, Secretary of Education Betsy DeVos gestured toward a plan of coronavirus-inspired school choice that would punish public schools that don’t fully reopen. Without offering details, she said families could take the federal money spent at these schools and use it elsewhere. She’s long wanted to give public money to private schools; perhaps she thinks this coronavirus has given her the chance.

 

 

 

Check out New York Magazine’s Olivia Nuzzi’s piece “The Unburdened Believer”.  There’s a lot of creepy here.

Trump’s central case for reelection — the strong economy — has evaporated faster than the tear gas the administration sprayed on peaceful demonstrators outside the White House in the aftermath of the killing of George Floyd, an unarmed Black man, by a white police officer in Minneapolis on Memorial Day. The coronavirus pandemic has killed more than 130,000 Americans and counting, and the shutdowns have left millions out of work. Trump publicly worked through his grief in phases: denial, semi-acceptance, promotion of bad medical advice, denial once again, then promotion of overly rosy recovery projections. Meanwhile, he has responded to the nationwide civil unrest that erupted after Floyd’s killing by circulating far-right conspiracies, calling for more violence, defending iconic losers of the Confederacy, sharing a video in which one of his supporters shouted “White power!,” and attempting halfheartedly to cast Biden as a far-left extremist.

Trump has struggled to offer his campaign a message behind which to organize. For Trump, this would never mean formulating a case to prove that voters are better off now than they were four years ago or something similarly normal. It would mean coming up with an effective way to bully his opponent. In the 2016 Republican primary, this meant Lyin’ Ted and Little Marco and Low Energy Jeb(!). In the general, it meant Crooked Hillary and the Fake News media vs. the Deplorables. In 2020, “Sleepy Joe” hasn’t quite caught on. Sean Spicer, the former White House press secretary who now hosts some kind of low-rent faux Fox News program on a D-list far-right cable channel, recently talked about this with Dick Morris. The issue with Trump’s “sleepy” message is that sleepy might sound pretty appealing to some voters right now, fatigued by the chaos of the Trump years. On Fox News, Ari Fleischer, a White House spokesman under George W. Bush, and Matt Schlapp, a Trump-campaign surrogate, had a conversation about the issue, too. They agreed that “sleepy” wasn’t working, that the president needed to go back to the drawing board and focus on something else. Kellyanne Conway has suggested that the campaign’s focus on Biden as senile and losing it might put off older voters. These allies of the president are offering campaign-strategy notes in public, on television, because that’s how you get through to him.

And so in walks Hogan Gidley, the new spokesman for the reelection effort — a job that recently belonged to Kayleigh McEnany, who in April became Gidley’s boss when she was named White House press secretary. In a normal White House, the position would’ve gone to Gidley. The ambition of any deputy, after all, is to replace the principal under which the deputy serves. Gidley has served under three press secretaries: Sarah Huckabee Sanders, Stephanie Grisham, and now McEnany. (So much for the patriarchy!)

Gidley, now 43, arrived at the White House as a supporting character in the volatile second season. A onetime broadcast-journalism major at Ole Miss and a student of political media, he ended up reporting on Mike Huckabee for a TV station in Little Rock, Arkansas, before defecting to the dark side to join the then-governor’s staff. “He’s got professional integrity. He will never do something that is wrong or immoral,” Huckabee told New York. “But, at the same time, he’s a person that, if he takes a check from someone in a job, he’s gonna be loyal to that person.” In the next breath, Huckabee addressed the question that hangs over any human shield for this president. “If it ever gets to where he can’t, then maybe he’ll find something else. But he’s not gonna go out and burn his bridges.”

When Mike’s daughter, Sarah Huckabee Sanders, replaced Sean Spicer as press secretary, she brought along her “big brother” Hogan as a special assistant to the president. In the very West Wing that inspired a tell-all book called Team of Vipers, he’s distinguished himself as “a golden retriever,” “a great teammate,” and “a really sweet person,” in terms that were repeated by more than half a dozen current and former White House staffers who spoke to New York. Across the board, but never on the record, Gidley’s colleagues described him as a nonthreatening force for good, for making things run a tiny bit smoother in what can charitably be described as the very definition of a hostile work environment — a happy-to-be-here functionary who keeps things light and in perspective. However, these qualities can sometimes read more like haplessness than virtue.

Sun and Rocks, 1918-50. Watercolor and gouache on paper,

I would really like a nice quiet weekend but I imagine I’m going to start hearing the sound of perpetual sirens.  Any one who knows me heard me say I am not going anywhere until at least two weeks after 4th of July because I want to see what Memorial Day and the 4th drag into town with all this reopening stupidity.  Well,  it reignited our Covid -19 upward trend.  So, ask me again when we get a few weeks after Labor Day.  I’m staying my fat ass home.

This is from NPR News Baton Rouge.

Louisiana is now one of the leading states in the nation for most new coronavirus cases.

It ranks third in the U.S. this week for most new cases per capita on a rolling seven-day average, according to new data from Harvard’s T.H. Chan School of Public Health. It’s a trajectory that could spark another shutdown.

Louisiana’s jump to the top of the list for most new coronavirus cases cannot be explained by increased testing. Hospitalizations grew by more than 50 percent over the last two weeks, and the percentage of positive tests in the state has also been rising. On Thursday the latter rate hit 12 percent positive — over the 10 percent threshold set by the state for safe opening in Phase 2. The 7-day rolling average is 8.7 percent, according to AH Datalyitcs.

But that could already be too high. The World Health Organization’s recommended goal is 5 percent. A high positivity rate indicates that the virus’s spread is too great for contact tracing to work — and that’s assuming contact tracing is actually being broadly embraced by the public, which hasn’t been the case in Louisiana.

Dr. Vin Gupta, an assistant professor of pulmonary and critical care medicine at the University of Washington, is among the medical experts warning that contact tracing is now useless across much of the U.S. because the virus has already spread too widely.

On Wednesday, Gov. John Bel Edwards said the state has “lost all the gains made in June” and is “now seeing some numbers that rival our peak back in April.”

And while Texas, Florida and Arizona are seeing higher increases in hospitalizations, Dr. Thomas Tsai, a surgeon and assistant professor at Harvard’s School of Public Health, said it could be a matter of time.

“My worry is that Louisiana may just be a few weeks behind Texas and Arizona and Florida, unless more concerted efforts are taken,” he said.

It’s unclear whether there’s public appetite for that — or even to abide by the guidelines already in place. Health officials say that as the state reopened — too many people have ignored public health guidelines, particularly around wearing masks and keeping distance. Bars in particular have become a key source of outbreaks.

“Frankly, it’s been really, really frustrating. Because just a few weeks ago, we were in a really, pretty good place,” said Suan Hassig, an infectious disease epidemiologist at Tulane University.

“The curve is going to bounce back up if we don’t keep jumping on it and stomping it down.”

I’m no epidemiologist but frankly,  I knew opening the damned bars would send us into a spike.  The mayor backed off a little and put some size limits but we still have indoor eating,  Short term Rentals, and open bars although you can’t drink at the bar.  They’ve put them outside which is highly unpleasant in a neighbor even at the best of times.

And we have this too look forward to!  Climate change hoax again … right?

 

So, I hope it’s going better where you are.  Keep letting us know you’re safe!  If you’d like to see the Whitney Showing of Burchfield: Heat Waves in a Swamp please go to this page and enjoy  a teaching led tour!.

What’s on your reading and blogging list today?

 

 


Friday Reads: Cold Weather Distractions

winter moonlightGood Morning!

I’ve been trying to find some distractions recently.  I’m going through one of those periods where I’d rather hole up and not see what’s going on around me.  I’ll snap out of it once we’re passed 12th night and the carnival season ramps up.  It’s difficult to ignore random parades and continual parties. I love the season up until about the last two weeks when the tourists come and the celebration becomes less personal and a lot more fake.

So, here’s a few things to keep you distracted.

Evidently, some one decided to keep track of bizarre deaths listed in news papers from the Victorian Era. Some of them are really strange.

An equation familiar to anyone who’s sat through a few old episodes of Tom and Jerry. Women + Mice = localised uproar. It’s a sexist old TV trope, of course, but it played out for real in England in 1875, when a mouse dashed suddenly on to a work table in a south London factory.

Into the general commotion which followed, a gallant young man stepped forward and seized the rodent. For a glorious moment, he was the saviour of the women who’d scattered. It didn’t last. The mouse slipped out of his grasp, ran up his sleeve and scurried out again at the open neck of his shirt. In his surprise, his mouth was agape. In its surprise, the mouse dashed in. In his continued surprise, the man swallowed.

“That a mouse can exist for a considerable time without much air has long been a popular belief and was unfortunately proved to be a fact in the present instance,” noted the Manchester Evening News, “for the mouse began to tear and bite inside the man’s throat and chest, and the result was that the unfortunate fellow died after a little time in horrible agony.”

That was a follow up to this weird list of 10 dangerous things found in Victorian and Edwardian homes.

When basic staples like bread started to be produced cheaply and in large quantities for the new city dwellers, Victorian manufacturers seized on the opportunity to maximise profit by switching ingredients for cheaper substitutes that would add weight and bulk. Bread was adulterated with plaster of Paris, bean flour, chalk or alum. Alum is an aluminium-based compound, today used in detergent, but then it was used to make bread desirably whiter and heavier. Not only did such adulteration lead to problems of malnutrition, but alum produced bowel problems and constipation or chronic diarrhoea, which was often fatal for children.

Aren’t you a little more appreciative of government regulations and inspections now? Well, there’s a lot of defunding of basic public goods going on.  Here’s one weird little story.the white hotel

A small town in Oregon has become the victim of so much austerity that it’s police department has become completely dysfunctional. So, they’re relying on private posses now.  That sounds like a town that some one like George Zimmerman would just love.

The North Valley Community Watch (NVCW,) a private volunteer public safety group in northern Josephine County, has announced plans to attempt to “fill the gaps” left in law enforcement, which have come about as a result of recent budget cuts related to the ongoing deficit reduction. The group, of which many of it’s members perform their self assumed law enforcement support roles armed, are expanding on the duties more typically performed by community watch organizations, by actively responding to calls as police might normally. Following the end to federal subsidies which sought to promote timber harvesting while balancing the costs derived from their own environmental regulations, the largely rural Josephine County found itself facing a revenue crisis similar to many going on throughout the nation. After a vote seeking to raise revenues failed, the Sheriff’s office released as statement announcing that it would only be able to respond to “life threatening situations” and went on to advise that those who feared they were in danger to consider relocating. In response, former Sheriff’s Deputy Ken Selig, who lost his position as a result of the cuts, formed the NVCW with friend Pete Scaglioni. In addition to the standard patrols and flier circulations that community watch groups are know for however, Selig and Scaglioni are looking now to take neighborhood watch duties to the next level by creating a “response team” of, sometimes armed, civilian first responders to respond to burglaries and other suspected crimes. While the effort of private citizens to assume public duties in the absence of sworn law enforcement personnel is admirable, many, including County Commissioner Keith Heck, are worried that the forming of private posses like these could lead to “aggressive” behavior and dangerous situations.

charles-burchfield1893-1967street-vista-in-winter-1360520143_bThe Cleveland Public Library has discovered a lost first edition of Dickens’ “A Christmas Carol”.

Cleveland librarian Kelly Brown had far more modest plans when she first began collecting items for a holiday traditions display at the Cleveland Public Library. But when she began poking around the stacks, she stumbled on a fairly unexpected Yuletide surprise: a first-edition copy of Charles Dickens’ A Christmas Carol.

The leather-bound book, donated at one point but soon forgotten about, is one of only 6,000 first-run copies printed on Dec. 17, 1843. At the time, it cost a modest 5 shillings. In the last few years, first editions have sold at auction for several thousand dollars.

The newly discovered first edition may have been too valuable to make it into the library’s final display, but curious visitors can go visit the rare book in the library’s special collections department. “The Cleveland Public Library is a library, not a museum, so you actually could come here and sit with it if you wanted to,” Brown told Cleveland’s Fox 8.

The relations between the Japanese and Chinese have not been good recently. Japanese PM Abe has visited a shrine to Japanese soldiers from World War 2 that has them really upset.  It’s also upset the Koreans.  So, what’s the deal?

Japanese Prime Minister Shinzo Abe’s visit to the Yasukuni Shrine has enraged the Chinese and South Korean governments and ignited – no surprise – a firestorm of protest across Asia. The shrine, which honors more than a thousand indicted war criminals who took part in Japan’s disastrous war in Asia, remains a place of fascination for Japanese rightists, who persist in claiming that Japan’s war in Asia was a war of liberation against Western imperialism.

This claim sounds particularly hollow in China and Korea, which suffered horrifically from Imperial Japan’s invasion and occupation of much of Asia. Yet there has always been a jarring element in official Chinese protests against the Yasukuni Shrine visits. Such visits are condemned as insensitive to the feelings of the Chinese people. But, just as Japanese conservatives are rightly taken to task for refusing to acknowledge the horrors of their country’s colonialist past, so China would do well to expand discussion of its own wartime history at home.

For many decades, under Mao Zedong, the only acceptable version of China’s wartime experience was that the Chinese Communist Party (CCP) spearheaded the resistance against the Japanese, honing its armies while preparing one of the world’s most significant social revolutions. Meanwhile, China’s Nationalist (Kuomintang) government under Chiang Kai-shek, weakened by incompetence and corruption, did little to oppose the Japanese.

Yet, in recent years, research from China itself has shown the enormous scale and cost of the war against Japan. Fourteen million or more Chinese were killed from 1937 to 1945, and 80-100 million became refugees. And the invasion destroyed China’s roads, railways, and factories.

But other significant changes also began to occur during that period. As the bombs fell on China’s wartime Nationalist capital, Chongqing, the social contract between state and society became more important. The state demanded more from its people, including conscription and ever-higher taxes; but the people also began to demand more from their government, including adequate food provision, hygiene, and medical care. To understand why the war changed China so profoundly, historians had to move away from treating the 1937-1945 period as a simple story of an inevitable Communist victory.

Thus, in the last two decades, China has started remembering its own war history anew.

That’s the background, here’s the current controversy.

Chinese newspapers rounded on the Japanese prime minister, Shinzo Abe, on Friday, describing his visit to the Yasukuni war 1298449441_large-image_charles_burchfield_houses_in_snowy_winter_landscape_1920_023_oil_painting_largedead shrine as “paying homage to devils” and warning that China had the ability to crush “provocative militarism”.

On Thursday Abe visited Yasukuni, where Japanese leaders convicted as war criminals by an Allied tribunal after the second world war are honoured along with those who died in battle. The move has infuriated China and South Korea, both of which were occupied by Japanese forces until the end of the war, and prompted concern from the United States about deteriorating ties between the Asian neighbours.

In an editorial headlined “Abe’s paying homage to the devils makes people outraged”, the People’s Liberation Army Daily said Abe’s actions had “seriously undermined the stability of the region”.

“On one hand, Abe is paying homage to war criminals, and on the other hand he talks about improving relations with China, South Korea and other countries,” the newspaper said. “It is simply a sham, a mouthful of lies.

“Today, the Chinese people have the ability to defend peace and they have a greater ability to stop all provocative militarism.”

In a separate commentary published under the pen name Zhong Sheng, or “voice of China”, the Communist Party’s People’s Daily said: “History tells us that if people do not correctly understand the evils of the fascist war, cannot reflect on war crimes, a country can never [achieve] true rejuvenation.”

burchfield-winter-sun-and-backyards-19471

I decided to feature the artwork of Charles Burchfield.  Some of his paintings of winter scenes are really fanciful.  I’ve always been fascinated by his work.  Many of his paintings of trees and nature look like images of natural cathedrals.

Charles Burchfield was one of the most inventive American artists of the twentieth century. Throughout most of his career, watercolor was his medium of choice, sometimes used in combination with gouache, graphite, charcoal, conté crayon, chalk, or pastel. During Burchfield’s lifetime three major periods in his work were generally acknowledged: an early period dating from roughly 1915 to 1921 when landscape was often treated in metaphysical, fantastic ways; a middle period dating from the early 1920s to the 1940s when realism reigned; and a late period which marked a return to a transcendental, mystical perspective. Some recent scholarship has challenged this view, emphasizing instead qualities evident throughout Burchfield’s entire career: his consistent aesthetic and cultural point of view, his desire to work from familiar surroundings, and the deep personal symbolism of his works, which probed the mysteries of nature in an attempt to reveal his inner emotions.

So, that’s a little bit of the bizarre news from me.  What’s on your reading and blogging list today?

Oh, and here’s a little music for our Republican Friends:  Fitz and the Tantrums doing “Money Grabber” in honor of them stealing food from children and unemployment insurance from the long term jobless during their sacred Christmas Season.  I’m still looking for the part in the new testament where Jesus said starve the hungry and fuck little children.  I must have a bad copy or something. Oh, and ending benefits will actually cost us more in economic activity than it will save us in deficit spending.   You’re a bunch of mean one’s Republican Grinches!