Tuesday, April 11, 2017

Why Not...

When Jimmy Carter wrote Why Not the Best, he had Plato's Republic (Cornford's translation free) in mind. The leaders he argued ought to be the best in terms of experience, knowledge, practical as well as theoretical, and ethics. Without saying so, he supported some of what Plato meant by aristocracy (rule of the best). Sadly, because of what Plato wrote about poetry in the Republic, he has gotten a bad rap. 

The discussion among those who actually understand Plato over his views on poetry and writing in general is best found, I think, in the Stanford Encyclopedia of Philosophy article: 

"Plato on Rhetoric and Poetry" (click)

At times, we all hear the uninformed comment that Plato's Republic is like a dictatorship, or an evil oligarchy, a fascist state, or something resembling the present Republican control of the government in the U.S. today. Never has a proposed or idealistic state been further from the above. 

First, the leaders in the Republic own nothing. They have arrived in the leadership category by proving their intellect, their knowledge, their ethics, and their tests of experience. Their elaborate education has, contrary to the current popular misconception, included all of the arts. Music is especially important for giving future leaders a sense of harmony. Plato's world is anything but materialistic. What the leaders know is that true wealth is of the mind, not money or material possessions. To be a leader is to forego not only material possessions, but private interests altogether, including a private family. Such leadership repudiates the interests of a dictator, a money-based oligarchy, the power and ego of fascists, and the greed, lust, and materialism represented by Republicans and their party. 

My own view of what Plato does say about poetry can only be comprehended by realizing what Homer and epic poets presented as a worldview. Socrates was sentenced to death for, among other things, not believing in the traditional gods. Those gods are represented in all their greedy, selfish, petty, immoral detail by Homer and others. Both Socrates and Plato saw the damage irrational religion can do. They saw how leaders in other forms of the state, especially dictatorship and democracy, can use religion to manipulate and control people. Plato prophesied what has happened in the U.S. where "even an actor can become the leader," by popular manipulation, lies, pretense, and promises. Pretend to be a follower of the popular religion and the votes and devotion overflow, even for a despot.

Jimmy Carter was in fact the sort of leader Plato had in mind for the Republic. Educated, experienced, ethical, he dared tell the people the truth about needing to conserve energy, to be mindful, or as John Kennedy proposed, to ask what you can do for your country. Carter refused to go to war or to do and say things only in order to be re-elected. He has proven his ethics and his devotion to the country in all the decades since he lost the election to the smooth talking actor. 

The only Republican President I can think of who fulfilled Plato's requirements for a leader was Lincoln. Most of the others were the very false product of popular sentiment and delusion Plato predicted for an uninformed democracy.


Wednesday, April 05, 2017

How to enjoy the spring rains in a world of evil

Springtime in Atlanta is a feast of nature. Birds sing, trees blossom, flowers provide a profusion of bloom. Between the warm sunshine and the cleansing rains, living in this Southern city is like living in a garden. How could we not find bliss in this plenitude?

Because there is evil in the world, ought we to temper our joy with grief? The history of mankind is a gruesome one, filled with brutality, sadism, torture, rape, slow and agonizing death.  Who can ignore the atrocities from ancient times until now, the burning of witches, the killing of babies, the humiliating tortures of Abu Ghraib? Gas attacks and bombing in Syria? How can we not despair over the abyss of cruelty fed by greedy administrations from Russia and our own country? Whether the consolidating power of a despot, or the punishments of a parade of religions , or the genocide, killing, and enslavement of minorities, human history is one of slaughter and oppression of every magnitude. 

The person I loved most in the world was brutally beaten and murdered. At times I've empathized, if not envied, my loved ones who have killed themselves. Both my parents suffered agonizing deaths in hospices where staff mostly ignored them, leaving them in pain. The lack of empathy or concern for suffering permeates our society. Indifference has been more the rule throughout history than compassion. Indifference stains my own life as it must so many of us. Camus wrote that despite everything we must create values and do what we can to perpetuate those values. Jean Paul Sartre & Simone de Beauvoir dedicated their lives to fighting for those values. The most noble lives are those that compassionate people have dedicated to better the lives of others in need. Most of us do not live up to such an ideal, settling instead for being pacifists ourselves, expressing liberal values of care for all, loving nature, but doing little directly to achieve either world peace or to end poverty, famine, and suffering. 

For all the joys I take in life-- love, friendship, art, philosophy, literature, and music, I never lose my pessimistic view that evil will most likely win out. Humans will destroy themselves and take much of natural wildlife and the planet with them. Is it absurd to find pleasure in staring at Jupiter on a dark night? Is it absurd to admire and spend so much time in Tolstoy's War and Peace, to love and imagine the world of the woodcuts of Hiroshige, to listen repeatedly to Mozart's Jupiter symphony, his last? No doubt. But I know no other way to live. 


Monday, March 27, 2017

Gender is a River

Article from my current issue of Time Magazine:

Beyond 'He' or 'She': The Changing Meaning of Gender and Sexuality
Katy Steinmetz
Mar 16, 2017

Katy Steinmetz is TIME's San Francisco Bureau Chief, covering news and ideas in the American West. In addition to writing features for TIME and TIME.com, she pens a column on language and organizes the occasional spelling bee.

In Park City, Utah, students are lining up at a local high school to get their locker assignments for the semester. Extracurricular clubs have set up tables to attract new members. It's only midday, but the Gay-Straight Alliance, a group with outposts at about a quarter of American secondary schools, already has 47 names on its sign-up sheet. Sitting behind piles of rainbow-colored paper cranes — a hot fundraising item — the group leaders are counting the different identity labels they've encountered. Sure, there's lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender. But there are more. Way more. "There are people who are pan," says 17-year-old club president Grace Mason, meaning pansexual. There's also aromantic, asexual, genderqueer, two-spirit and on and on.

Hyperindividual, you-do-you young people from across the U.S. are upending the convention that when it comes to gender and sexuality, there are only two options for each: male or female, gay or straight. These aspects of identity — the sense of being a man or a woman, for instance, and whom one is drawn to physically or romantically — are distinct. But they are related, and together, they're undergoing a sea change, as an increasing number of people say they aren't one or the other but perhaps neither or maybe both.

As many transgender people fight for equal status as men and women in society — with identities that feel just as static as anyone else's — others say their feelings about gender don't fit in either of those boxes and might change over time. "Some days I feel like my gender could be like what I was assigned at birth, but there are some days when I feel the opposite way," says Rowan Little, an 18-year-old high school senior in Kentucky who identifies as gender fluid and uses the pronoun they, rather than he or she. Young people are pointing to the middle in terms of sexual attraction too, with one survey finding that nearly a third of young Americans see themselves somewhere between 100% heterosexual and 100% homosexual.


GENDERWhy All Bathrooms Should Be Gender-Neutral

Expressions of gender and sexuality that go beyond this-or-that are nothing new, but they're increasingly moving from the margins to the mainstream. Facebook, with its more than 1 billion users, now has about 60 options for users' gender. By some counts, there are more than 200 regular or recurring LGBTQ (Q stands for "queer") characters on cable TV and streaming series. Influential celebrities, including Miley Cyrus, have come out as everything from flexible in their gender to "mostly straight." And companies are getting in on the movement too: a recent Bud Light commercial declared, tongue-in-cheek, that beer is for "people of all genders."

Some of the legal trappings that organize society around two categories of people are also starting to be challenged. A bill introduced in California in January would add a third gender option on identification documents like driver's licenses and birth certificates: male, female or nonbinary. And cities across the country are passing laws that require single-user bathrooms to be marked as gender-neutral or "all-gender." President Obama even established one at the White House, as his Administration instructed all federally funded schools to allow students to use facilities that correspond with their gender identity — guidance that President Trump's Administration rescinded (though he kept the bathroom).

This social change isn't happening without a fight. Politicians are debating the very meaning of words like sex in fights over so-called "bathroom bills." Several lawsuits are fleshing out the meaning of that word, too, as plaintiffs allege that sexual orientation and gender identity are covered under bans on sex discrimination.

The erosion of these binaries could, over time, have profound implications for the many systems that prop up the two-gender reality most people are accustomed to: not just in Facebook statuses, but in competitive sports, courts, the military, toy aisles, relationships.

According to a survey commissioned by the LGBTQ advocacy organization GLAAD, and shared exclusively with TIME, 20% of millennials identify as something other than strictly straight and cisgender (someone whose gender is in line with the sex they were assigned at birth), compared with 7% of boomers. These are people who may be sexually curious about members of their own gender, or who may reject the notion that they have a gender in the first place.

"In older generations, people were often told what feelings to have," says Sara Oswalt, an associate health professor at the University of Texas at San Antonio. "The college students I'm working with today really say, 'It's okay for me to be me, whatever that is.'"

Jacob Tobia identifies as genderqueer Jody Rogac for TIME

When it comes to the array of lesser-known identities young people are embracing, the big question is whether this is just kids experimenting or whether it reflects true variance that has long existed but went unexpressed in past generations. The answer may be both.

In the GLAAD survey, conducted by Harris Poll, more than three-quarters of the roughly 2,000 respondents said it feels like "more people than ever" have "nontraditional" sexual orientations and gender identities. But older Americans were more likely than younger people to say they were uncomfortable with those who "do not conform to traditional ideas about gender" and that LGBTQ people who "blend in" deserve more respect.

Kyle Scotten, a 21-year-old from Texas who identifies as a gay man, says he did not come out until he went to college in part because attitudes were different even a few years ago. "I remember hearing the word gay being thrown around a lot when I was kid," he says, "and it wasn't really used as an endearing term." Like many of his peers, Scotten has come to see sexuality as a spectrum: "I totally believe there are a 100, 200 shades in the middle." And he tends to have an open mind even when he doesn't understand the nuances his peers are talking about when it comes to their gender. "It makes sense to them, in their own head," he says, "and that's enough."

Some experts say that there is more natural variation than has been widely acknowledged and that terminology is more limited than the sum of human experience. "There's something in between 'born that way' and choice," says Stephanie Sanders, a senior scientist at Indiana University's Kinsey Institute who studies human sexual behavior. "This is a much more nuanced thing ... Is it biology or nurture? I don't know why we can't let that debate go. We are always, at every point in time, the product of both."

Many young people have, from a very early age, personally known people who are out. GLAAD's survey found that millennials were, for example, about twice as likely as boomers to have someone in their circles who identifies as bisexual, asexual, queer or questioning.

Sophie Vanderburgh, a 19-year-old college freshman in Maine, recently realized that she's attracted to women as well as men. Her older sibling came out as transgender two years ago, an experience that Vanderburgh says "made me a lot more sensitive to everything." Well before that, she'd known several openly gay students at school; she'd even had a teacher when she was in fourth grade who was open about having a partner of the same sex: "I remember thinking, 'Oh that's interesting.' And then I moved on with my life."

The Internet and social media, which many young people do not remember life without, have only increased early exposure to different types of people. "A lot of things I'm politically correct on," says Vanderburgh, "I know because of Tumblr." Social media has also made it easier for young people to find themselves — and each other.

"It's really easy to tell someone who is alone and doesn't feel like there are other people like them that who they are is wrong," says Jacob Tobia, a 25-year-old writer-producer in Los Angeles who identifies as genderqueer. "But once someone realizes that they're not alone, it's really hard to take away that sense of personal empowerment."


ROYALSThis Photo of Kate Middleton Raising a Pint With the Irish for St. Patrick's Day Is Very Relatable

A couple of years ago, Marie McGwier, 26, started selling Gender is over! If you want it shirts online. The tech worker based in New York has since shipped more than 2,400 of them for about $20 apiece. (Proceeds go to charity.) "With younger people, I see a lot more of 'I have never had a gender'; 'Gender isn't me'; 'Gender just doesn't apply to me'; and 'Screw gender,'" says McGwier, who identifies as queer and gender nonconforming.

Before anyone can purchase one of the T-shirts, they're asked to send a message saying what the statement means to them. McGwier publishes the responses on Tumblr.

In GLAAD's survey, it was more common for millennials to say they are not strictly straight (16%) than not cisgender (12%). And the gray areas of sexuality — as well as the notion of exploring them — can seem more familiar. Pioneering sex researcher Alfred Kinsey developed a scale for measuring sexual orientation back in the 1940s on which a "0" describes someone who is exclusively heterosexual and "6" exclusively homosexual. Other researchers have proposed more complex measuring systems, factoring in not only sexual behavior but also sexual fantasies and emotional preferences.

Back in Kinsey's day, many men felt more free to engage in same-sex behavior, even if they didn't talk about it, historians say. "The very rise of the homosexual as a distinct minority, that people who wanted to be straight-identified had to distinguish themselves from, had a policing effect," says Yale history professor George Chauncey.

Today, Ritch Savin-Williams, a professor emeritus of psychology at Cornell University, is researching the population he categorizes as "straight with a bit of gayness," as one of his interviewees put it. Savin-Williams estimates that about 15% of women and closer to 5% of men fall in this mostly straight category today. He also thinks the latter number will grow, as stigma lessens and "men realize that this is a sexual label that can apply to them as well."

With gender, the identity breakdown seems newer to many people — and in some ways tougher to unpack. There is one's anatomy but also other traits, from facial hair to chromosomes, that may not "match" those body parts. Then there is gender identity (sense of self), gender socialization (how people are expected to act) and gender expression (how a person dresses or styles their hair and so on). "While all these things exist and for a lot of people, they line up, in some people they don't," says Julia Serano, an author and transgender woman. "One of the things the average person doesn't really appreciate is just how holistic gender is."

As it becomes more common to be nonconforming — and as slang spreads at lightning speed online — the list of labels people use has grown. In one large-scale survey released in 2016, respondents were asked to write in the term that best fits their gender, and researchers received more than 500 unique responses.

Even for those tuned in to such things, keeping track of it all can be overwhelming. About eight years ago Nick Teich, a 34-year-old transgender man, started the first summer camp in America for transgender youth. In recent years, he says, the organization has found more registrants checking the "other" box on their intake forms. "We have a growing number of kids who identify as genderqueer, nonbinary, gender variant. People put 'demigirl,' 'genderless,' 'no gender,' 'all genders,' 'pangender,'" he says. "We get things all the time, and I'm like, 'What is this? I have to look this up.'"

While it's still up for debate how many of those labels belong in textbooks or on official surveys, experts agree they're important for people in the throes of self-discovery. "They're not just saying, 'Screw you,'" says Cornell's Savin-Williams. "It says, 'Your terms do not reflect my reality or the reality of my friends.'" The more expressive one is of their various layers, the more detailed the picture can get.

K.C. Clements, a 28-year-old living in Brooklyn, says, "I identify as a white, able-bodied, queer, nonbinary trans person," Clements says. "It's a mouthful."

For those who grew up alienated by the options, finding a label that feels right can be freeing. "I was like, I don't know who I am. I don't know what I'm doing. I don't know where I want to be. I don't know what pronouns I want to use," says Tyler Ford, a 26-year-old who grew up in Florida and has attracted a large social-media following. Ford, who goes by they and identifies as agender — meaning they feel they have no gender at all — was assigned female at birth, came out as a transgender man at age 20, tried hormones for a couple years and then stopped.

"After testosterone I was like, O.K., my body is more where I want it to be. People can't really pinpoint me anymore, and that is comforting to me," says Ford. "I really like being neutral. I don't like having to identify with either binary gender. I like being beyond."

While Ford's many supporters on social media idolize what they see as a person taking brave — and very public — steps toward self-determination, the trolls are never far behind. "Who would want to hear an experience of a woman who pretends she is a man?" ... "We are all just sick of your basic attention-seeking nonsense." ... "F-CK OFF."

Other critics don't bother with the Internet's cloak of anonymity. At a March hearing over a bathroom bill in Texas, which would require people to use bathrooms that match their birth certificates, one pastor called the notion that gender is determined by the brain "foolishness." Another supporter of the bill dismissed less common identities as a trend, saying "We live in a time when the entertainment industry says it's cool to question your gender identity."

Cyrus, who has famously referred to herself as gender fluid and pansexual, says she's accustomed to hearing such comments, but she rejects them. "It's not a trend. It's just that now it's acceptable to discuss it. It's acceptable to come out now. It was so scary before," Cyrus tells TIME. The 24-year-old says that going public about her feelings, and providing support to LGBTQ youth through her nonprofit Happy Hippie Foundation, is what she's most proud of in her career.


HEALTHHow to Die Well

Examples like Cyrus can help young people who feel they are constantly explaining themselves to doubters."Let's say you're white and I said being white isn't a thing," says Miguel Johnson, a 16-year-old high school sophomore who grew up in the Kansas City area and identifies as gender fluid. "To me that's the same way people sound when they say your gender doesn't exist, your sexuality doesn't exist." Johnson says he has been bullied at school, called an "it" and "creature."

Little, the high school student in Kentucky, has had plenty of practice arguing for the "existence" of their gender too, especially with older people. "It's just something they've never heard of and don't care to understand," Little says. "That's the usual form it takes."

Others who have identities they describe as fluid or changeable say the pushback even comes from some older gay and transgender people, who have long fought for equality with arguments that one's gender or sexual orientation does not change.

"The one thing I wouldn't want to lose sight of is that the generational gap on this issue translates into actual conflict, victimization and pain," says Eliza Byard, the executive director of GLSEN, an organization that supports LGBTQ students.

Those young people are at increased risk for violence and attempted suicide, especially when they lack family support. Over one-third of LGBTQ students report being physically harassed at school.

Still, the more people come out, the more others may ultimately be emboldened to think beyond whatever they may have been told about who they ought to be — and how they can express it.

Marie McGwier identifies as queer and gender nonconforming Jody Rogac for TIME

Back in Park City, high school senior Mason is taking a break from signing up new allies to the Gay-Straight Alliance. She's in the middle of telling the story about when she came out to her mother as bisexual at 16, and how her mother's reaction was to ask if it wouldn't just be easier if she would choose one or the other. Suddenly, she's interrupted by another student and her mother.

The pair stops at the table to ask for a copy of a sign Mason had laid out, designating the area as a "safe space" for people of all identities. The mom has a friend who recently came out as transgender, she explains, and wants to show support.

Mason hands her a sign politely, like she's heard that story a thousand times, and resumes telling her own.

"I told her, 'I know it's one of those things in life that could be easier, but I know who I am,'" Mason says. "And I'd rather be who I am and be authentically me than try to fit into one of those crappy little boxes. I have a great box that I have made for myself."


However they self-identify, young people tend to be more accepting of whatever identities they encounter


Grace, 17, Park City, Utah

Grace, who identifies as bisexual, believes that one's gender or sexuality can change over a lifetime. "There's no reason you have to say, 'Oh, I'm gay and there's no way I will be anything else for the rest of my life,'" says the high school senior. "Because there is the possibility that you might find out that you like something else."


Kyle, 21, San Antonio

Growing up in a small, conservative Texas town, Kyle worried about coming out as gay, but he says that teenagers today are more empowered and more aware because of social media. "We are able to see a bird's-eye view of all the different types of people that are in existence," he says. "That exposure opens people's eyes a little bit."

Courtesy of subject

Sophie, 19, Orono, Maine

As her senior year of high school drew to a close, Sophie realized that though she loved her boyfriend, she was physically drawn to women too. Now a college freshman, she identifies as bisexual and wishes people were more open-minded about sexuality as well as gender: "I don't understand why people are so attached to labels like female and male."


K.C., 28, Brooklyn

K.C. has a long answer when asked how they identify —"a white, able-bodied, queer, nonbinary trans person" — and says that it has taken years of work to overcome expectations of a society "that can't really handle me." K.C. adds that "as a child, I felt very in-between."

Courtesy of subject

Rowan, 18, Louisville, Ky.

Rowan, who identifies as gender fluid, says that watching politicians fight over which bathroom transgender people belong in is upsetting. "Essentially what they're arguing about is, Should trans people be allowed to exist?" Rowan has worked on getting a nonbinary slot added to their school's homecoming court, alongside king and queen.

Courtesy of subject

Miguel, 16, St. Joseph, Mo.

As with many young people, Miguel's exploration of gender started with a Google search: "What does it mean to not identify as male or female?" Now that he's out as gender fluid, he is sometimes bullied at school, but he also finds acceptance: "People in my generation, if they hear something new, they're like, 'Oh, O.K.'"



Sunday, March 12, 2017

To Savannah with Love

It was exhilarating to be in Savannah with so many friends, those pictured here and a few not photographed. Darryl and I enjoyed afternoon tea at the lovely, light-filled home of Benjamin Head. Earlier, some of us lunched with Edwin G. Reynolds, with a lively, witty discussion of current events. A tour of alligators in the Savannah Wildlife Refuge brought to mind Republicans wallowing in the mud. Dar and I are grateful to Wolfgang Bosch and Sebastian Brandt for dinner at the historic Pink House. We bid Lee and Karen Killian a fond farewell until the summer, when we return to Tybee, and observe the Zone of Totality in the mountains of North Georgia. John Miller shared in our merriment and dining delights, including Coco's Sunset Grill, Vic's on the River and the Flying Monk.

Image may contain: plant, tree, flower, sky, outdoor and nature

Image may contain: plant, flower, tree and outdoor

With Love,


Tuesday, February 28, 2017

Blame Democrats, Right?

Trump's military build up will probably lead to war. We have yet to see the scale of that war; but it could even involve nuclear weapons. The Republican war on the environment will lead to ecological catastrophe and the projected global extinction of half the species on Earth by century's end. The attack on medicare, healthcare generally, and social security will lead to sickness and suffering all across the country. The hate of Trump's followers and the bigotry of many Republicans are spreading, not only against Muslims, but against Jews, African-Americans, and immigrants, not to mention gays. These are the realities. Yet people are still attacking HRC and the Democrats, saying they are the same as Republicans. There may no longer be an opposition party in the near future, and we shall live in a totalitarian, one party state. As a democratic socialist, I'd love to see an egalitarian state run by those who care deeply about peace, erasing poverty, and universal healthcare and protection from pollution. But we are not going to get anywhere near those goals by attacking Democrats. Sanders and Ellison realize that.
But many of their followers are still spewing their venom that is poisoning the rest of us and the planet. We are doomed, as I see it, because of such self-righteousness. We are faced with two choices, live in an Epicurean Garden (which faces the same fate as that of the Finzi-Continis) or sit naked like Diogenes in a tub and wait for the end.
(like) Michael Carroll, Marcia Kendle and Richard Funderburke 



Tuesday, February 07, 2017

San Francisco's Keystone Korner and Bill Evans

(photo: Wikipedia)

From Journal 23 (Aug.-Nov. 1980)

Sept. 4, 1980
Last night, after spending time at Cafe Vesuvio with Diane Zimmerman, recalling 1977 with Jake in New Orleans (It was Jake's birthday), I went to the 11:30 performance of Bill Evans at Keystone Korner. I sat in the intimate space no more than 20 feet from the Evans Trio. 

The house was full, of course, and eager for the music. At moments during the performance, I was enraptured and wondered how I could ever leave San Francisco. The bass player, on two numbers, moved into an ecstasy of deep melody, motion, and expression-- outdoing even Evans. 

Afterwards, I walked up Lombard Street, up Russian Hill, to my home overlooking the Bay. Despite the chilly mist, I was glad to be here. I tossed another log on the fire when I got home.

Here is a better, more detailed account of the performance by Sascha Feinstein:

"Imagine, for a moment, the young bassist Marc Johnson beneath the giant mandala, his eyes half shut, almost rolled back. Drummer Joe LaBarbera's to the right of the stage, and to Marc's left, behind the piano, sits their leader, Bill Evans. During his week—long engagement in 1980, the trio plays several versions of "Nardis." Early in the week, he looks through the smoke and says, "We're going to conclude this set with an extended version of something that's been in our repertoire from the beginning . . . We've learned from the potential of the tune, and every once in a while a new gateway opens. It's like therapy, this tune." On September 8, his last night of the engagement, he closed with another version of "Nardis," almost twenty minutes long. "We've had a very nice engagement here," he tells the crowd. "You people in the audiences have been wonderful, and I hope we'll be back soon." On September 15, he died." https://www.allaboutjazz.com/keystone-korner-portrait-of... This was the intimate performance I attended in that sweet club. My journal is witness to the transcendence.

Keystone Korner: Portrait of a Jazz Club jazz article by Sascha Feinstein, published on October 26, 2011 at All…

Tuesday, January 24, 2017

How to Act in the time of T.

A large crowd walks down Pennsylvania Avenue after the start of the Women's March on Washington in Washington, D.C., on Saturday, January 21. Organizers said the march is sending a message to Donald Trump that "women's rights are human rights." Similar protests unfolded across the country.

Before enlightenment, chopping wood and carrying water. After enlightenment, chopping wood and carrying water.  - 

Hsin Hsin Ming

Now that Mr. T. and his Cabinet of Deplorables is taking and consuming Power, the question arises: How are those of us who are opposed to his capitalist, oil-loving regime to act? 

We have gone over, ad nauseum, the reasons he won the Electoral College despite losing the election by 3 million votes. The blood of Democrats stains the country. We know now, as we should have known in 2000, that the EC is undemocratic and stacked in favor of Republicans. It can be changed easily: 

The question here, though, is how are we to act, given that we cannot do anything about the federal government until 2018. 

The Women's March in Washington, echoed in marches all over the world, even in small town America, were a start. They revealed visibly the lie that T. is popular with everyone, the lie that his inauguration was a success, the lie that T. has any kind of mandate in his attack on the social programs, the health care, the social security, and the interests of ordinary people. He is a flunky for billionaires, banks, corporations,and worst of all, the oil companies. So, yes, the March was important, vital for a growing resistance to his rule.
The web site link above offers more to do.

If there is to be any hope at the bottom of Mr. T.'s Pandora Box, it has to come from persistent protests and mobilization. As we go about our ordinary lives, work, family, creating and appreciating the arts, or whatever normal life we lead, there must always be awareness, our encouraging Congressional opposition, speaking out, supporting new legislators from the local level up. 

It is difficult for me to maintain any optimism as the two major destructive forces occur, climate change and war. Mr. T. and cabinet are hell-bent on more pollution and war on the environment. With his fanatic love of the industrial-military complex, T. increases the likelihood of more war, expanded conflict, even the use of nuclear warheads. 

All I can think of, never get out of my head, is the prophesy of Allen Ginsberg :

Moloch! Solitude! Filth! Ugliness! Ashcans and unobtainable dollars! Children screaming under the stairways! Boys sobbing in armies! Old men weeping in the parks!
Moloch! Moloch! Nightmare of Moloch! Moloch the loveless! Mental Moloch! Moloch the heavy judger of men!
Moloch the incomprehensible prison! Moloch the crossbone soulless jailhouse and Congress of sorrows! Moloch whose buildings are judgment! Moloch the vast stone of war! Moloch the stunned governments!
Moloch whose mind is pure machinery! Moloch whose blood is running money! Moloch whose fingers are ten armies! Moloch whose breast is a cannibal dynamo! Moloch whose ear is a smoking tomb!
Moloch whose eyes are a thousand blind windows! Moloch whose skyscrapers stand in the long streets like endless Jehovahs! Moloch whose factories dream and croak in the fog! Moloch whose smoke-stacks and antennae crown the cities!
Moloch whose love is endless oil and stone! Moloch whose soul is electricity and banks! Moloch whose poverty is the specter of genius! Moloch whose fate is a cloud of sexless hydrogen! 

-- Jameson

Sunday, January 08, 2017

Thrasymachus Refuted: NCLB and DT

Thrasymachus in the School of Athens

From: The School of Athens

(Thoughts inspired by a thread.)

No Child Left Behind (NCLB)  had a worthwhile aim but the method it proposed was deeply flawed and produced the opposite of genuine education and learning. We should be helping students discover the joys of learning, creating life-long learners and readers. It is a tall task in the age of cell phones. NCLB worked not to promote individual development but rather conformity in which all students study for taking the same standardized tests. The result was to destroy the love of learning and the sort of natural curiosity and thinking for oneself that is essential in college. Here is a good article on the details

Donald Trump is an example of education gone wrong. All he has learned is materialism, bullying, egotism, selfishness, and aggression. He has no ethical sense, no respect for learning that is other than business, no sense of fairness and, worst of all, no compassion for others. Learning can provide the essential quality of empathy, especially in reading literature, that seems to be utterly lacking in DT. Don't you wish you could sit him down, get him to read Plato's Republic, and explain to him why Thrasymachus is wrong?

Unfortunately, as Aphrodite Kavyas remarked, DT  "is Pacman - - never stops moving or reflecting, just devouring." 


Monday, January 02, 2017

Speak No Evil

It is impossible and immoral to stop seeing the actual path of the next 4-8 years. Liberals and moderates keep writing about opposition and resistance to Trump, claiming Bernie or Warren or the Senate will halt the coming onslaught. We shall survive Trump, they say. Every day, every tweet, every appointment, every indication points not to a passing few years of trouble, but rather to an irreversible catastrophe. T. and his team stand for and have fought for years to repeal the Great Society of Johnson and the progressive achievements of FDR. We shall see a radical dismantling of social programs. We shall see enormous infringements of civil rights, especially of Muslims and African Americans. We shall see nothing short of war on the environment, undoing protections to water and air, giving free reign to the oil companies, chemical companies, and the military-industrial monolith. It will be a war on science across the board. Religious fervor will be encouraged, especially by the fanatical Pence. Some of T.'s team  want to bring on the religious apocalypse. Really. And that leads to a war on Islam. It leads to a possible nuclear war with Iran or N. Korea. Is that what we shall survive? Will we be able to make everything OK again in 2020 or 2024? The biggest danger of all is complacency, thinking we can weather T. as we weathered Matthew and other natural disasters that will be increasing exponentially. Where is the evidence that Democrats will regain popularity and majorities? The election was not about T. nearly so much as it was about the millions of Americans who live in the South, the Mid-West and the entire middle of the country. They are the ones who have made the Electoral College such a farce; a nod to slavery that has, over the years, disenfranchised millions of voters in both the Red and the Blue states, ignoring a three million vote majority for the other candidate. Most Americans don't even understand the process. We are a stupid, complacent, superstitious people, afraid to admit and face the truth. We have condemned wildlife, threatened the lives of millions of people around the world, unraveled the possibility of saving the planet from ecological disaster. We are not only stupid and selfish, we are evil. Until we see that evil and overcome it, all of our positive thinking, optimism, and professions of love for humanity and the beauty of nature  are delusions and lies.  

Above: My photograph of the Three Monkeys at Toshogu Shrine in Nikko, Japan


From the Guardian:

World on track to lose two-thirds of wild animals by 2020, major report warns

Living Planet Index shows vertebrate populations are set to decline by 67% on 1970 levels unless urgent action is taken to reduce humanity’s impact

A victim of poachers in Kenya: elephants are among the species most impacted by humans, the WWF report found. 
Photograph: image BROKER/REX/Shutterstock

Monday, December 26, 2016

Art and Bourgeois Values

Pan and Psyche by Aristide Maillol. (a gift of Dr. James Land Jones)

How fortunate it is to be brought up by parents who appreciate art and music. My mother was a fine art painter and my father was an admirer of art and music. Mom adored Rembrandt and Van Gogh. Dad liked to listen to Stravinsky. There were always art books in our house to peruse, and as a child, I had the good fortune to hear the Savannah Symphony play the classics for my school class, taken by bus downtown, regularly. As a teen, I visited the Telfair Art Museum on occasion, enjoying the Ashcan painters and the marvelous works by Kahlil Gibran.  Later, in my early twenties, I actually lived in the house once owned by his beloved Mary Elizabeth Haskell.

24 West Gaston St. (my photo)

When I left for college, it was to study math and science. When I returned to Savannah to live, it was with a Ph.D. in philosophy of art. I spent some 20 years teaching at art colleges, including SCAD and the Atlanta College of Art. Best of all, I created the position of Art Librarian at the High Museum of Art to accompany my teaching at ACA. The wonderful and brilliant Gudmund Vigtel loved my proposal. During my seven years at the High, I was able to design and occupy a new Library space and to create a library/publication exchange program with many major museums in the U.S. and Europe.

Therein, we find my bourgeois delights. Almost daily in my new office, looking down on the High Museum across the street, I would open some magnificent catalog from MOMA, the Metropolitan Museum, the Tate, The Boston Museum... The publications from the High were rather marvelous too, often in collaboration with other institutions. Both the Library and I received copies of these latter publications of which I still own many-- a signed copy of the Avedon catalog, for instance. I often met and talked with top living artists at patron receptions.

As a member of ARLIS, I attended conferences in cities around the country where we had receptions in the best museums and art spaces, with visits to galleries and the like. The meals at receptions were feasts. At the Heard Museum in Phoenix we were greeted with margaritas in hand-blown glasses at the entrance, with Tex-Mex delights on silver trays within. One of my fondest memories is having the National Gallery in D.C. all to ourselves during the splendid Matisse in Nice show. I wandered happily from room to room of those divine paintings of open windows to the Mediterranean.

(From a recent New Yorker)

Here are some of the spaces ARLIS enjoyed in the years I attended: MOMA, The Metropolitan Museum, The National Gallery, The Art Institute of Chicago, The Heard Museum, The San Francisco Museum of Art, The Getty Museum, The Kimbell Museum, The Cleveland Museum of Art, The Nelson-Atkins... We met in New York twice during my years at the High. Every conference included side trips to such places as Taliesin West, art galleries and the like. There were also regional conferences in New Orleans, Charlotte, Raleigh, Birmingham, and of course, Atlanta.

Darryl at Taliesin West.

In other words, I loved the bourgeois privilege of having private art viewings, of grand parties, and best of all, an office I designed myself in an art library I designed, filled with gorgeous books of art and even some rare, very valuable catalogs with hand-tipped plates of the work of Kandinsky or other artists. The rare books were locked in a fine, antique book shelf in my office. In fact, the entire office was decorated with overflow furniture from the museum's exquisite Decorative Arts collection. From my days at ACA and the High until today, art has enriched my life. Travel has added the art of so many museums, galleries, and architecture.  From Teotihuacan, Monte Alban, and the art of Frida Kahlo to Nara and Tokyo to the Parthenon and the Pantheon; from FLW's Falling Water and the Sydney Opera House, to the Frick and the Uffizzi, I have had the blessing and the bliss of great art.

Should I be ashamed or proud of my exclusive and privileged access to art and parties created in artistic settings? Often, I've told the story that when I was working on my dissertation, I asked to see the famous portrait of Gertrude Stein  by Picasso at the Metropolitan. The Picasso galleries were closed at the time. A friendly curator asked a guard to escort me to the painting in question, and I had Miss Stein all to myself, with all the Picasso galleries, in fact. I felt that I had arrived in the World of Art, then. And the world of art has opened its doors to me so many times. Nonetheless, I do feel that we who love art, whatever our station in life or accomplishments, ought to be able to delight in such art as fully as possible. The Dalai Lama has said that the meaning of life is to be happy. I cannot imagine happiness without all of the arts: literature, music, and all of the visual arts.