… on… the race to the bottom….

“All propaganda has to be popular and has to accommodate itself to the comprehension of the least intelligent of those whom it seeks to reach.”

~ Adolph Hitler

This sadly shows what has happened here in America in politics, media and religion and can be seen on the rise throughout the world.  It is a race to the bottom.

******************

and now… the uplift….  As bad as things seem to get there is still hope.  The lower things go the easier it will be to turn around and head back up.  Here’s some uplifting music to help turn things around.

… on… nuclear landscape….

“… radiation makes mutations…”

nu1l20r n43ht910p2

“… if they push that button… yo ass gotta go….”

… on… question of abstraction….

we live in an over-saturated world of images.  Images are everywhere we go.   In fact they are so prevalent they are becoming  mundane.  Boring.  They’re primarily “pretty” photos of realistic/recognizable subjects (objects, landscapes, people, animals, plants).  Abstraction is seldom seen and seems to be less and less appreciated.   Is there still a place for abstraction?   And what is it?

Salt Ice Asphalt

s0lt 824 0sp70lt

First, abstraction in photography is very different from abstraction in the paint/sculpture arts.   Abstraction in photography is merely the “capture” and/or presentation of any deviation from the perceived norm (no matter how slight) and therefore more passive.   Abstraction in painting/sculpture is very different.  Painting/sculpture is an active medium unlike photography.   In painting/sculpture the abstraction is created compared to documented.  And it’s this creative action that I think gives a viewer pause to consider what “it” is.  Can photographic abstract also be the result of a creative action?  I think it can – but is extremely rare.   Because of the nature of photography; abstraction has become such a generalized category that it has become redundant.

w9t78n on4s or18t

w9t78n on4s or18t

Now about our world.  In addition to being overly saturated with heavily saturated images is also, thanks to technology, is moving at a faster and faster pace.  There is no rest.  There is no contemplation.  Even the internet with its myriad blogs, photo sharing sites, art sites, etc is not conducive to slowing down to consider what we are doing.   The internet has created a culture of clicking “LIKE” and moving on.  In one minute I can look at and “like”/”fave” a hundred photos.

For this reason I think there is more and more a need for true abstraction in the painting/sculpture sense.  Because these type of abstracts are more likely to cause us to slow down (maybe even stop) from time to time and consider what we are looking at and how we feel about it or what it means to us.    So bring on the abstraction.  Deviate from the norm.   Give people a reason to pause and “rest” on your work.

824 8sl0n3s

824 8sl0n3s

The images I’m including today are photos of something people would NEVER photograph.  I went to the park the other day – one of my favorite hangouts to decompress.  I went to photograph some winter scenes etc – you know the kind of stuff everyone photographs that I described at the beginning of this article.   The kind of stuff we DON’T need more of.  But most of the shots I kept were These here today.   Shapes and textures of salt melting ice on asphalt pavement in the parking lot of the park.   For me they have their own intriguing wonder.

Your music moment today is a track titled Awakening by Greek artists (and friends) MK-O from their album ETHER.  For me this song has the kind of energy I feel in these images.  The kinetic energy of salt melting ice.  Check out their website http://www.mk-o.com for more.

 

… on… traveling to/in the US….

So clearly the holidays are upon us.    If you will be traveling by plane either to the United States or flying within the United States you will definitely be meeting up with the local TSA (that’s the Transportation Security Administration – not my Initials Terry S. Amstutz).  Your local TSA agent will make you feel uncomfortable, offended, confused and bewildered (much like I do – as some of my friends all attest)….  Well here’s two videos to tell you what to expect  and what you can and can’t do.   Enjoy.   HAPPY HOLIDAY TRAVEL everybody! Welcome to the absurd world of travel by plane.

TSA – The Pokey Pokey


TSA – 12 Banned Items Of Christmas (fyi – You can’t fly, but you can drive across the border with any of these items.)

 

… on… photo editorialism….

***I found the subject for this photo near my home and felt it legitimately illustrated how I feel about what is happening here in the US.

In Trumpmerica – the left is not tolerated.   The legitimate press is not tolerated.   There is only one way – the right – Trumps way.

Story Of Our Lives #109

It’s funny how someone’s desire to “Make America Great Again” has actually made it worse.  Muzzle the press.  Authoritarian rule.  Punish the opposition.  Meanness.  Lack of noble character traits.  Ignorance.  Re-writing history.

Q: What happened to my country of birth?
A: SHE’S GONE AWAY (Nine Inch Nails – as performed in TWIN PEAKS: The Ltd Series)

 

… on… life in a fog….

Take Me To The River

What’s so good about the fog?

For so many people fog has many negative connotations.  It suggests a depressive mood, and is often associated with colder weather, absence of sunlight, obscured vision, loneliness and a lack of mental clarity (just to name a few).

But is that a fair assessment?  For myself, there are many more positive aspects of fog – and as a photographer even the above mentioned “negative” associations serve the image in a positive manner.

She Left Me Standing There

I enjoy the quietness of a foggy morning.  There is something restful and peaceful about looking out into a dense fog.   I like the softness of light and damp crispness of the morning air.  I enjoy seeing objects moving through fog – coming into focus then,  dematerializing as if disappearing by magic forces.   For me a foggy morning provides more clarity (not less) as it allows me to focus more intently on a single subject.   It removes so much of the visual noise that is persistent on a full sunlit day.   And finally, there is no depression or loneliness in a foggy day just pure mystery – a Draumalandið [dreamland].  And I enjoy the mystery.

Fog is something that is unplanned and hard to predict – for some people this constitutes as an unwelcome disruption that forces us to re-focus.  I think it this is actually beneficial and stimulating both mentally and physically and is certainly healthier than other life disruptions that occur on a regular basis.

What many people forget is how temporary fog is.  It seems to only exist for a short time. It usually comes overnight or early in the morning and usually disappears by early afternoon.  For me, this impermanence of fog makes it more precious and therefore increases its value.

Leaning Toward Autumn

Photographing fog is really tricky.   Because it entails finding the right balance between focus/clarity and the obscure object of desire.   It can be richly rewarding when done well.

While I would not want to spend ALL my time in the fog I am glad when it is present and I hope you can enjoy it also.

Indi go-go fog

Mono-fog-o-chrome

… on… interest in humanity….

THE STORY OF OUR LIVES is a series of photographs of signs that when taken outside the context of their function (and sometimes location) have a dual purpose of telling our story of existence.   In other words after we are gone and our culture no longer exists,  how would others (or aliens) interpret our lives based on what the signs reveal – supposing aliens decoded and understand our language?

This latest image is a personal favorite:  It is simply titled THE STORY OF OUR LIVES #95

Story Of Our Lives #95

This image as taken at a demolition site.  I found this sign on what remained of a wall at the site.   It’s a fascinating and wonderful little chapter in the story of our lives.

While smoking has been deemed as bad for our health and in some cases has been made illegal as a result – it is in a location that has been destroyed, demolished.  The demolition had nothing to do with smoking.  This is a perfect metaphor for our lives.  Life is fragile and there is more than one thing that can disrupt, tear apart or destroy it.  So often we focus on the wrong things.   We go to great expense to make things like smoking, abortion, drugs, “assisted suicide” etc illegal.  And while those things may destroy our lives as we know it – we actively pursue other methods of destruction – war, income inequality, denial of medical care etc.   Is it better to deny a person’s choice of self-destruction  in order to insure the destruction of many?  That is what is happening in our culture and our world.  It is seen in our immigration policies, how we deal with refugees, it is seen in our responses to foreign powers that we have deemed as enemies.  It is seen in the laws we pass for our own people.

  • Is it better to deny an abortion for a life that does not yet exist only to – after it is born – send that life to war to die?
  • Is it better to keep that minimum wage so low in order to help corporations enrich themselves while people cannot afford health care?
  • Is it better to deny the right for a person who has chosen to end their life only to ensure ongoing suffering and the slow destruction for that person and their families?
  • Is it better to deny people safe harbor because you are afraid – only to have them die at the hands of their own governments?

What makes life so precious is that it is fragile.  There are any number of things that can snuff it out in an instant without our help – disease, old age, the environment (poisonous plants, wild animals, accidents, etc)

Two things make life something worthwhile:

  1. It is limited – we are all mortal – we will all die at some point.
  2. Choice – we all are born with the ability to choose when and how we will die.

Now this may seem like something of an oversimplification but it is none-the-less true.

… on… civil disobedience….

Civil Disobedience Is Sometimes Necessary To Get To A Better Place

CIVIL DISOBEDIENCE IS SOMETIMES NEEDED TO GET TO A BETTER PLACE

We are living in a time where civil disobedience may be needed.

Some favorite quotes from a classic scholarly treatise from someone who might be considered a domestic terrorist in our current time ~ Henry David Thoreau: July 12, 1817 – May 6, 1862 – Quotes from CIVIL DISOBEDIENCE AND OTHER ESSAYS.

“If the injustice is part of the necessary friction of the machine of government, let it go, let it go: perchance it will wear smooth–certainly the machine will wear out… but if it is of such a nature that it requires you to be the agent of injustice to another, then I say, break the law. Let your life be a counter-friction to stop the machine. What I have to do is to see, at any rate, that I do not lend myself to the wrong which I condemn.”

“Unjust laws exist; shall we be content to obey them, or shall we endeavor to amend them, and obey them until we have succeeded, or shall we transgress them at once? Men generally, under such a government as this, think that they ought to wait until they have persuaded the majority to alter them. They think that, if they should resist, the remedy would be worse than the evil. But it is the fault of the government itself that the remedy is worse than the evil. It makes it worse. Why is it not more apt to anticipate and provide for reform? Why does it not cherish its wise minority? Why does it cry and resist before it is hurt? Why does it not encourage its citizens to be on the alert to point out its faults, and do better than it would have them?”

“If a plant cannot live according to its nature, it dies; and so a man.”

“Even voting for the right is doing nothing for it. It is only expressing to men feebly your desire that it should prevail. A wise man will not leave the right to the mercy of chance, nor wish it to prevail through the power of the majority. There is but little virtue in the action of masses of men.”

“A very few, as heroes, patriots, martyrs, reformers in the great sense, and men, serve the State with their consciences also, and so necessarily resist it for the most part; and they are commonly treated by it as enemies.”

“I think that we should be men first, and subjects afterward. It is not desirable to cultivate a respect for the law, so much as for the right. The only obligation which I have a right to assume is to do at any time what I think right. It is truly enough said that a corporation has no conscience; but a corporation of conscientious men is a corporation with a conscience.”

“Is a democracy, such as we know it, the last improvement possible in government? Is it not possible to take a step further towards recognizing and organizing the rights of man?”

“I believe,—“That government is best which governs not at all;” and when men are prepared for it, that will be the kind of government which they will have.”

*****Do you have a favorite passage from this particular collection of essays that is not in  the list above?  If so feel free to post it in your comment.

Now, a classic hiphop tune for your enjoyment – civil disobedience in the 20th Century and beyond.

 

 

… on… patterns….

Diamonds On The Inside

Patterns rule our lives
Patterns can be good or bad
Patterns in behavior
Patterns in spending
Patterns in emotion
It is easier to spot patterns in others than ourselves
Even if we think we’ve broken one pattern we have merely replaced it with another.
Patterns mean nothing.
What’s in your heart?
Do you have diamonds on the inside?

… on… empathy….

Floaters
When is empathy good or bad?

So maybe Oasis had it right…

Don’t empathize with suffering – have compassion instead. Compassion = when you suffer you can choose to have it teach you compassion for others. A lesson I am still learning. Too often I’ve empathized with others suffering which has lead to my own suffering which makes me less useful. If I let suffering drive me to compassion I become MORE useful to my world.

… on… madness….

The Madness Of King George – a great film regarding the subject of George III King of England who suffered the indignity of insanity. He ruled England at the time of the American Revolution and was largely blamed for losing the colonies. This film is even more chilling when viewed again in the context of a Donald Trump Presidency. Lately there has been a rising chorus of those who question Trump’s sanity, mental stability in executing his office as President. Could we witness a replay of this scene in some fashion here in America in the 21st century? I can imagine this dialogue all to well between Trump and Doctors, “I am the President”…..”No Sir! You are the patient”.

… on… wisdom….

Maya Angelou has been one of my favorite poets for quite a long time.   I recently came across these videos of her expressing wisdom that we can all put into practice.

and two of her poems…

… on… taking sides….

Blood On Both Sides

Blood On Both Sides

Some people claim “You MUST choose a side….”   But everything I believe dictates that I stay on the thin unpopulated line between two sides – the middle way.  I’ve lived too long and know from experience that when you create two sides and pit them against each other there is blood on both sides.   It is unnecessary “blood” shed.   Here are some songs from the 60’s & 70’s that have long been forgotten.  But they teach us some important truths.

… on… navigating storms….

Love Is The Lighthouse In A Storm

When we are in the midst of a storm – like the culture war that is raging here in America – there is only one way to get through it.  Love is the lighthouse and forgiveness is the light in the lighthouse.  Sure many people may say love is the light but that just seems to easy – even cliche.  I think that the lighthouse is love because it is the foundation that holds the light.  Forgiveness radiates.  How does this work?  Love is what we give to others and forgiveness is what we ask for ourselves.  We are all perfectly imperfect.  Have you ever noticed what happens when someone asks for forgiveness?  There is an immediate pause, a respite, a calm, things immediately de-escalate.  What would happen if the US asked Korea for forgiveness?  What would happen if the opposing sides – non-racists and racists asked for forgiveness from each other?  Would that not bring calm and open the opportunity for dialogue?  That’s what we need – and we don’t need to agree – we just need to stop hurting each other when we disagree.

So please, let this be our mantra: “I love you, forgive me.”
We can ALL learn how to live on love and forgiveness.

 

 

… on… hate….

messages-from-the-future-22-evn-smlr
Being a citizen of the United States Of America the past 8 months have been excruciatingly difficult to endure.  We have a President (along with other White House leadership) with no self-control, no discretion, no discipline, no compassion and no love who continues to emotionally/psychologically abuse, harass and harm the very people he is supposed to lead.  Never has so much damage been done in and to the office of President of the United States than has occurred under Donald Trump.  It will only go to deepen the cynicism and distrust that people have for politicians.  I think the notion of a politician being a force for good is not even possible with the current leadership.  It has been depressing to daily and sometimes hourly see breaking news stories of how the President has, yet again, done something so outrageous and shocking that it is virtually unbelievable.  We are being forced to watch a reality media show that is seemingly never-ending.  And the media is focusing on the sensational.  Now I have no great love for the media and that is about the only thing Donald Trump and I have in common.  Our reasons for disliking the media are completely different.  I would like to see more investigative journalism and less sensational journalism.  Trump just decries anything he doesn’t like as “fake news”.  But it’s NOT fake news it is the reality we live in.

This past weekend we saw many developments in the United States.  The rise of racism, talks of secession, hatred for all things non-white.  And in the past few months we’ve been seeing the increased likelihood of nuclear war with North Korea, Venezuela, and a trade war with China.  Sure with all this “madness” it would be easy to throw in the towel and say it is WAY bigger than anything I can have any power over or change.  But I’m not ready to do that.  Now more than ever we need to be strong.

We do need to look at both sides of a story but we also need to address and stand up to those values and positions that would harm others or enslave them for ones own enrichment.  For example: The American Constitution has a provision for free speech and lawful assembly.  These laws apply to ALL people – even people who believe differently from me. So for neo-nazis, white supremacists etc; we must acknowledge they have the right to protected free speech (we just don’t have to like it).  Just like people who oppose them have the right to protected free speech.  Now I know a lot of people are going to be uncomfortable with that notion. But as a follower of Jesus Christ I am a FIRM believer in what he taught about loving ones enemies (I’ll explain more on that later). It’s just that in these troubled times it is difficult to STOP, take a moment, consider, weigh ones reactions before making those reactions public.  But that is exactly what we must do.  I do not love Donald Trump’s policies I specifically hate his approach to what should be collaborative, positive working relationships.  I hate his non-stop “twittering”.  But I do NOT wish him dead.  I hate now Trump and many in the white house continues to hold his business interests (even if they are in his children’s names – who are his official presidential advisors and aides) creating conflicts of interest. I cannot hate a man who is misguided, foolish, delusional and emotionally unstable.  I can honestly say I’ve had to think about this long and hard.  The past 8 months have shown me that we all have the capacity for hatred but we do not all act on that.  I understand why people may think that the only way to solve this crisis we face in America is to kill or assassinate Donald Trump.  I understand because I felt myself slipping into the same hate for hate thinking and had to stop myself.  I pray to God that Donald Trump is not assassinated.  Here’s why.  I don’t have any confidence in the Vice President that would take his place.  And killing Donald Trump would only give the alt-right extremists the martyr they’d love to have – which they would use to justify further violence.  On top of that as a Christian I am against the death penalty for anyone because I believe that just as God gives life he also takes it away it is not up to man take life away.  And anyone who behaves abominably should have the opportunity to change or, to use an archaic term, repent.  If they are killed we are depriving them of that opportunity.  So death is NOT the answer.  But Donald Trump should be impeached and that needs to happen ASAP (in my opinion).  I seriously doubt that Trump will survive to the end of his first term.

Sadly America can only blame itself for creating AND electing Donald Trump the tyrant. No one should be surprised by what he is doing.  He used the same tactics in his reality TV shows.  People who have participated in his shows “THE APPRENTICE” and “CELEBRITY APPRENTICE” have noted how Trump would pit people against each other, he would harass and harangue people to create and build drama in the show.  He is a victim of his own celebrity – believing in a false value of self.  Unfortunately, we can see that what works on television isn’t what works as a world leader.  He has also gotten support from an “Evangelical Right” that uses scripture to justify and encourage Donald Trump giving him a false moral justification for all he does.  This same type of Evangelical movement that uses the Christian Bible to justify white supremacy also supported Hitler and The Third Reich (see https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/German_Evangelical_Church).   I also think it may be time to do away with the electoral college.  There was a time when the electoral college had value.  But in the internet age the electoral college is an archaic institution that can only do more harm than good.  It is time to elect leaders only by popular vote.

Now about love.  It may seem odd and unlikely to read about love in this type of post.  I think it is necessary to bring the needed balance and provide level-headed options to the discussion.   Please consider this; how do we love a tyrant, a despot, an oligarch, a hate-filled man? We CANNOT react in the ways he reacts.  We can find ways to slow down the discussion allowing time for all parties to think about their positions.  We can act respectful to them without agreeing with them.  We can seek to remove them from their position for their own good.  Donald Trump is clearly over his head and he is being battered on all sides continually and that would be enough to make anyone crack.  The kindest thing we can do for America is also the kindest thing we can do for Donald Trump.  Impeach him.  Remove him from the position that is causing him so much distress.  And wish him well as he leaves.  Now I’ll be the first to admit this is easier to type than actually practice.  Love is not some easy fluffy romantic notion – it is something we have to work at.

One of the benefits of writing this is that it also reaffirms what I believe and helps give me the strength I need to practice what I “preach”.  I cannot hate Donald Trump I can only hate the carnage he has created while in office.  I do not believe there are evil people only evil actions.  And I choose to not act evil or out of malice toward my fellow Americans, or any living beings.  And if I do act evil (because I am human and have occasional weakness) it is a weakness that I quickly seek to remedy.

Matthew 4:43-45 (NIV) “You have heard that it was said, ‘Love your neighbor and hate your enemy.’ But I tell you, love your enemies and pray for those who persecute you, that you may be children of your Father in heaven. He causes his sun to rise on the evil and the good, and sends rain on the righteous and the unrighteous.

Feel free to agree or disagree on any and all points.  That’s why it’s called free speech.  We can disagree and still be respectful.

***If you think more people should see this post – feel free to re-post.

… on… unmatched [pt 2]

 

For the second review in this (hopefully) ongoing series.  I’d like to draw your attention to a relatively new recording by Icelandic composer, Jóhann Jóhannsson, titled Orphée.    Jóhannsson has composed for numerous films including the recent ARRIVAL and upcoming BLADE RUNNER 2024 as well as many solo studio recordings….. But of all his work so far the one that really stands out as a pinnacle in his oeuvre is this “solo” recording exploring the myth of Orphée/Orpheus.

The second track on the album:

This recording for Deutsche Grammophon records can, at first listen,  be compared to Samuel Barber’s ADAGIO – but that is only in mood and temperament.   When listening to this masterwork  by Jóhannsson I find so many rich and wonderful feelings and ideas.   I can feel like I’m wandering through a darkened hallway, arms outstretched, moving slow and gently feeling my way around the space.   With continued listening I also feel a sense of gravity a tension that a very large bird may feel as it starts out in flight and slowly lifts itself from the earth.  And in its flight feels the constant pull of the earth again even in it’s supposed freedom of soaring on the winds.  Maybe it’s the speed at which the musical themes evolve throughout this 47 minute composition.

When thinking about this music, and the ideas, of Orpheus in the underworld wanting to bring back his love.  I also begin to muse on the “warning” he is given to not look back and trust that his love Eurydice is behind him.  And when he does look back – she is lost to him forever.   This notion of not looking back is also found in the Bible story (Genesis 19) of Lot and his family as they flee Sodom and Gomorrah who were also warned to not look back.  When Lot’s wife looks back she is turned into a pillar of salt.   I further begin to wonder, what is this problem with looking back?  It seems to be something we as humans do all the time.  It is the cornerstone of memory.  We don’t have memories of the future, do we? Or maybe we just haven’t learned to access those future memories.  And looking back isn’t really all that bad.   In the case of Orpheus the underworld can be compared to underground that where things are rooted – for plants literally.  Underground is the foundation upon which we build our buildings and other man-made structures.   It is not only a place for the dead.   It seems that one could make the argument that Orpheus was looking back to his roots and very foundation for his wife – the gods had tricked him.   In the case of lot with his wife turning to a pillar of salt.   Salt is beneficial and necessary in all our diets it is also a preservative.  So maybe her looking back actually made it possible for the rest of her family to be saved/preserved.   These two examples may relate to the sense of gravity that I hear and feel in this music under the earth there is no escape from gravity and a pillar of rock/salt is so completely connected to the rest of the rock it cannot escape.

We all look back at some point in our lives.  It is not a weakness.  It is only human nature and inevitable.  Orpheus, like Lot’s wife HAD to look back.  And that may be the tension I hear and feel in the music – the desire to only look forward while feeling the pull to look back that is ultimately irresistible.   So maybe the problem isn’t the looking back; as the warnings imply (and many bible scholars will try to teach), maybe these myths simply teach us of the cost.  There is a cost and consequence to everything.   It’s not a matter of good or bad but simply an understanding of exchange.   And that thought is freeing and non-condemning like a bird in flight.

The final and only genuinely vocal track on the album:

These are the many things that drifted through my listening of this excellent album.  All that being said, this music simply stops me in my tracks and forces me to listen, think, dream.  I hope you enjoy it as much as I do.

TRACK LIST
1. Flight From The City
2. A Song For Europa
3. The Drowned World
4. A Deal With Chaos
5. A Pile Of Dust
6. A Sparrow Alighted Upon Our Shoulder
7. Fragment I
8. By The Roes, And By The Hinds Of The Field
9. The Radiant City
10. Fragment II
11. The Burning Mountain
12. De Luce Et Umbra
13. Good Morning, Midnight
14. Good Night, Day
15. Orphic Hymn

Follow the link for more info:

http://www.johannjohannsson.com

… on… wanting….

“Do not spoil what you have by desiring what you have not;
remember that what you now have
was once among the things you only hoped for.”

~ Epicurus

2011-bystander

… on… crazy dancer….

“And those who were seen dancing
were thought to be insane
by those who could not hear the music.”

~ Nietzsche

2008-crazy-dancer

“How many people
have forgotten how to dance
on
the
long
march
to
WAR?

~ mobius faith

…on…offense & free speech…

“We shouldn’t teach people to stop using certain words. We should teach them to stop being affected by them.”
~ Daniel Ganama

messages-from-the-future-22-evn-smlr

….on…. take me to church….

It’s been a long time since I listened to Sinead O’Connor. I loved every track on her very first album. But everything after that was sort of hit-n-miss and I eventually lost touch with her career.

I recently came across this wonderful song from 2014 album I’M NOT BOSSY, I’M THE BOSS. It seems to have the same kind of edgy energy that I liked in her first album. The Chorus hits home for me and highlights the need for pure love and how the institutions of today fail to provide it – which is highlighted in the lyrically sharp chorus,

“Oh take me to church
I’ve done so many bad things it hurts
Yeah take me to church
But not the ones that hurt
‘Cause that aint the truth
And that’s not what it’s for”