Sunday, December 10, 2017

The Pale Blue Dot



     On Christmas Eve 1968, the astronauts of Apollo 8 transmitted holiday message to Earth. They were the first humans to fly to the moon, and they were the first humans to see Earth from a distance. They took this photo and our view of ourselves and our home changed forever. There is no way to express to the younger generations the full impact of seeing ourselves for the first time. They have grown up with this image - for us it was beyond expression, and for me it still is. This little "pale blue dot" as the late Carl Sagan called it is a tiny little planet in an unremarkable solar system in one arm of a somewhat average galaxy in a Universe that is so vast that we cannot even conceptualize it. Compared to the All, we are less than a speck of dust. But this little blue planet is our home. In a season that is supposed to be a time of Peace yet is so often far from that, let us remember that all of us, and all of our ancestors, belong to this little Blue Dot.

Thursday, December 7, 2017

December 7

     As I was posting the previous post I realized that today is one of the most important in the history of the U. S. of  A., the day that the United States was bombed by a foreign power, when thousands died or were wounded, when numerous ships were sunk and when we as a nation were propelled into World War II.  "A date which will live infamy" said President Roosevelt as he addressed the nation by radio.  Like most of us today, I was not born yet.
     But I do honor the many who died on that day and I respect this memorial day for what it means for me and for all of us.  I came to respect this day in 1991, 50 years after the attack on Pearl Harbor, when I visited the USS Arizona Memorial.  If you have not been there, and if you ever visit Honolulu, be sure to take the time to visit our most sacred memorial
     The Arizona Memorial is simple and profound.  A U. S. Navy vessel ferries visitors from land to the site of the all white structure which sits over the remains of the ship.  When you enter you see the bell, sitting alone at one side of the entrance.  Then you enter the middle portion which is open on both sides and in the middle - you can see the ship easily.  And then the last section and the wall of names of the Navy and Marine men who died, and who are still there, in that ship, just beneath the level of the water.  The memorial is, imho, the most honorable of all the memorials we, as a nation, have for the many who have died for this nation.
     The many who have died in all the wars that came after, whether declared or not - and I include everyone who died on or as a result of the attacks on September 11, 2001 - gave us the freedoms that we exercise to this day.  None are more honored, or well remembered, than the men who lie in the ruin of the U. S. S. Arizona.

When Is Art Art??

     Yesterday I wrote a post about a baker who is being sued by two gay men for discrimination, and who is claiming "artistic expression" and his rights as an AR-TEEST.  This case brought up something that I have been mulling over in my mind for some time.  What is the dividing line between art and craft?
     I ask this because in my experience there are a lot of folk out there who are talented, who have a good eye, a good sense of design and color, who can craft things like Christmas Tree ornaments and decorative items for the home and stained glass lamps and can knit and crochet lovely warm items for Winter and can make jewelry of various types.  But is all of this art?
     For me art is many things: painting, sculpture, architecture, music, great writing, etc.  But is a cake or a bracelet or a sweater art?  I don't think so.  Of course art is in the eye, ear, mind of the beholder most of the time and that line between great art and so so art is often blurry.  But when I think of an artist I think of someone who has a unique vision or style or a gift that cannot be matched or someone who can express that vision in a way that stands out from the crowd.  Many people can draw, not many are DaVinci.  Bad example probably since he was a genius.
     I have a friend who enjoys doing crafts - such as the aforementioned Christmas ornaments.  She has a good eye for color and composition, she is very sharp on what looks pretty or cute or funny.  She is skilled at making all sorts of interesting items.  But she is not an artist as such and does not consider herself to be one. She is an artistic crafts woman.  Period. 
     Years ago I knew someone who was good a soldering colored pieces of glass to make stained glass lamps.  They were colorful and good, being that they were made by someone not trained in the craft.  But the soldering was often uneven and the designs were basic puzzle pieces that fit ok.  Nice as a craft but not art.  Yet, this person claimed to be an artist and would not work as the artistic vision was explored.  This person had a reason to claim art that had nothing to do with art but more with not wanting to find and keep a job. 
     Recently I was looking for a pendant to wear on special occasions and found a web site that sells silver and gold pendants of various sizes and designs.  The crafts persons claimed copyright on some of their designs and yet every one of their designs looked familiar.  Simply stated, go to Google and put "Celtic" or "Viking" in the search for photos or art and see what comes up.  Can a crafts person copyright a design that is all over the internet?  In my humble, if you "borrow" the design no matter how good your craft is, you are not the artist of that design.
     In the age of everything about everything that is true or false or fake and all over the bloody internet calling oneself an artist leaves one open for serious criticism and, on occasion, ridicule.  Like that baker there are many out there who want us to believe their personal fantasies. 

Wednesday, December 6, 2017

RUSSIAN UPDATE

     No, not the Russian investigation or the Russian thing or whatever.  Just me and my blog.  For the past few weeks there have been no Russians looking at my blog.  I am very happy about this for reason I've noted in earlier posts.
     I did have a spammer - that person seems to be gone also.  But something odd did occur just after I booted that one off my blog.  One day I noticed two new "followers."  I did not recognize the names, so not friends or enemies or people I might know.  Odd thing, no photos.  No info at all.  Hummmm, I thought to myself.  I thought that Google and Blogger requires some kind of info if you have an account and want to post on a blog.  Guess I was wrong.  I delete these of course.
     So now few are looking at my blog, which is the way it was in the past.  Not that I don't want anyone looking, I just don't want spammers and scammers and the Russians.  I don't want the NSA either but that one I have to accept.

The Baker vs The Gay Couple

     I am very glad that I do not have to make a decision on the case before the Supreme Court of the U. S. of A. that pits a man who makes cakes against a gay couple who wanted to buy one of those cakes.  Just looking at the arguments made by both parties has my head spinning.  Actually, that is not totally accurate.  The gay men were insulted, offended, upset and believe that this baker, who admits that he would not sell them a cake because they are gay, discriminated against them.  The courts in Colorado agreed.  After all, the baker did admit that he would not sell to them because they are gay.
     But then something else came up.  Not the bakers religious prejudices, beliefs, call them what you will, but his ARTISTIC FREEDOM OF EXPRESSION.  Really?  OK, lets look at this just a minute, shall we?  This man openly admits that he has a problem with gays marrying.  He says his religion dictates that he cannot sell them a cake because of religion.  But this case is not discrimination because his cakes are works of art.  Really? 
     Did the gay men want him to put something on the cake that said "two gay men marry" or "the wedding of man 1 and man 2???  Or the Rainbow Flag maybe?  Not in any report that I have read.  So just how does selling a cake with some decoration that is not religious or about gays or anything except decoration infringe on his religious beliefs?  Boggles the mind this does.  But then, I have to admit that I know quite a few persons who do "crafts" of some kind who believe that they are artists.  I, do not.
     This man is a baker.  He makes cakes and cookies and whatever.  His designs on his baked goods are nice, pretty, whatever but they are not art.  How does he describe himself on his taxes?  As the sole owner of a pastry shop or an artistic studio?  Are all of his employees artists also?
     To be fair to this man, I do believe that any business, especially small businesses, should have the right to refuse service to anyone.  Used to be signs in store windows and restaurants - we reserve the right to refuse service.  And there are very good reasons for this.  Prejudice and religious bigotry are not good reasons.  That should be the real issue here.
     As for the two gay men - I am sorry they had to go through this type of discrimination at a time when they should have been celebrating joy with their friends and family.  There are comments all over the web stating that they should have just gone to another bakery which I assume they did.  That they chose to fight this is their right.
    But with respect to all of them, what is the real question here?


Tuesday, November 14, 2017

About Those Voice Activated Things

         Joseph Heller wrote, “Just because you are paranoid doesn’t mean they aren’t out to get you.”  If there is one thing that is sure to drive anyone with even just a touch of paranoia out of her/his mind, it is the voice activated devices offered by Google – Google Home – and Amazon – Alexa – and any other company out there that is trying to find out what I rant about when I’m here in my home talking to myself.  There.  Said it.  OK, typed it.
          If I understand the tech correctly – and that is a stretch, believe me – when one has one of these things in one’s home, or more than one, just speaking activates it, turns it on, whatever, and it then accesses some place on the internet to do whatever it is that you want it to do.  Or it turns on the tv.  Or sets the thermostat.  Or schedules a reminder or your alarm clock or turns on the lights at sunset or whatever.  Convenient?  Hands free bloody everything?  Really?
          Surely I am not the only person who is really suspicious of this.  As in Hell No I Am Never Getting One Of These Bloody Things!!!!!!!!!
          Just how does anyone know if they are being recorded?  Does any user truly know where all this info is going?  Hey, I shop on Amazon, and I am happy to accept that whatever I look at, browse, order, you name it is probably in some huge data base in some huge facility in Utah all ready to be examined in the (highly) unlikely event that some really big and really intrusive government agency decides to infringe on my privacy.  And that oh readers of my blog is paranoia.  In a nutshell.  But listening to me????? OY!
          In one of the Alexa commercials we see pieces of some round breakfast cereal falling on a floor and a woman’s voice tells the device to tell the self activated cordless vacuum cleaning thing to clean up the floor and then says “order cereal.”  Now, that seems simply and easy and wow she doesn’t have to actually turn on the vacuum thing and she doesn’t have to write down “cereal” on her grocery list.  That, is lazy.  Sorry but tools that make life easier or better do not have to turn us all into lazy sots.  I M H O.
          But to be serious here, we really do not know what or who might keep copies of what we say.  We do not even know who is hacking into our PCs, lap tops, tablets, cell phones.  We only know what makes the news.  If one is into conspiracy theory web sites we are all living in a very scary modern version of 1984.
          I am not that bad.  Yet.  But I do not trust that there are not  some recordings being made by these devices.  Now, here is my problem.  I talk to myself all the time.  I have been talking to myself since I started talking and discovered the wonder of my own voice.  That’s nearly seven decades people.  I talk out my frustrations, my fears, my joys, my loves, my theories on who will die on GOT.  I have imaginary discussions with everyone from friends to not friends to famous people living and dead.  I beat myself up verbally, all over my house, when I am trying to work out problems.  And I “write” out loud.  Literally.  I pre-talk posts on the blog, emails, letters, comments for the Facebook group I belong to, and my own stories, poems, etc.  I cannot stop talking.  I ask myself things, tell myself things, and I have some really interesting conversations with me.  I do not want some nameless entity hearing me rant and rave. 
          Do you?

Saturday, November 11, 2017

Things Russian On and Off My Blog

          I am sure this has nothing at all to do with my comments aimed at them but one of the Russians looking at the blog has dropped off.  And the SPAMMER has been quiet for a few days.  That was more of an annoyance than anything else but still, I prefer to not have people like that trying to post on my blog.
          JUST when I decide I am not going to comment on politics, the person who is the current president of the U. S. of A. once again goes on record saying that Russia in general and Putin in particular did not hack the 2016 election.  Well, lets get very very precise here, shall we?  Putin his own self did not do the hacking.  He ordered and approved the hacking because the Russian government has policies in place to hack elections in the U. S. and Europe and possibly anywhere else where “free” elections are held.  Hackers in Russia did hack, infiltrate, buy ads on Facebook etc. during the campaigns of 2016 and there is a lot of evidence to prove this.  Did the government or Putin order this or was this just a bunch of Russians free lancing all over the place?
          Let us be real people, NOTHING is done in Russian that Putin and his cronies do not approve.  Well, ok, almost nothing.  Certainly nothing this big and intrusive.  If they did not monitor, approve, allow, whatever hacking they would get hacked.  Russia is a totalitarian state.  Think Soviet Russia during the cold war.  Putin is KGB and once KGB always KGB. 
          But the really big question here is, still, what in the hell is the matter with the president of  the U. S. ?  Why is he so insistent, over and over and over, in the face of all evidence and logic, that Putin himself did not order the hacking?  What exactly is the point of this?  Add it to his rants, raves, blowups, state of unhinged mind when there is anything new about the official investigations into Russian hacking and we have a very serious issue here.  In short, just what is Donald Trump trying to hide?  Or what is he worried about?  Or what is he afraid of?
           Just sayin'.