Friday, November 11, 2022

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Sunday, July 24, 2022

Praise for Tio and the Blue Witch from the wonderful Mary Norris, former New Yorker editor and author of Between You and Me, and Greek to Me: "The story reminded me of The Wizard of Oz, the way the troupe of characters keeps enlarging and traveling on. I love the Green Knight. And I love the Blue Witch and Tio the mule. And the art is fantastic. How wonderful that you let your experiments with ink grow into a story!" Go to:

Friday, September 11, 2020

Trump deconstructed. Watch this video from Feral Studio:

Friday, April 3, 2020

More light


Windows #2 (44 inches sq.)
This piece is heavily imbued with paint (the blood isn't the bright permanent rose but the brown spots in the upper left corner) and the color pressed through the muslin. I added the frame - metallic green, not black as it appears - later and I think it makes the painting. It moves the eye to the right and tapers down to open the square to infinity.
None of these Windows piece is stretched yet but simply draped on other paintings already hanging in our house. I like the baggy look but will probably stretch them later.

Tuesday, March 31, 2020

Glass between us and the world

                    Windows 1, acrylic, acrylic ink and gesso on muslin
Eyes on a sequestered world:

        I am working on a new series of paintings, called Windows, that began, in quarantine, noticing the patterns of sunlight on my studio wall. I began sketching the patterns and constantly shifting quality of light on muslin, then after a day or two spreading each canvas on the floor and trying to paint our world as it intrudes through glass panes.
        The medium is acrylic, acrylic ink, gesso, and once or twice my own blood mistakenly left on the canvas after intense application of paint included breaking glass.
        The canvases are then turned over and the paintings pushed through with pressure to appear on the flip side. They can't be viewed for several hours, so uncertainty prevails until the canvas is dry enough to lift and turn.
I'll be showing these and news landscape done in the way way.
        Please let me know what you think.

Tuesday, January 7, 2020

Read it and weep encore


Sunday, January 5, 2020

It's the planet, finally

 Please read my columns in American Scholar  

Saturday, January 4, 2020

Enviro cheat sheet

From the good ole NY Times:                

Thursday, January 2, 2020


I flew to southeast Alaska two decades ago straight into a fight among U.S. Forest Service officials, environmentalists, politicians, and investors over how many trees could be cut in the Tongass National Forest and under what conditions. It was a complicated story that went all the way back to Teddy Roosevelt, who established the protected area in 1902, our largest national forest and a source of interest to such disparate Americans as William Henry Seward, John Muir, and General Douglas MacArthur.
The Tlingit word rings like struck bronze—Tongass—and denotes most of the Alexander Archipelago, a sloping handle of southeast Alaska fused to British Columbia by glaciers and deep valleys. It harbors, in addition to gorgeous coastal peaks, immense forested slopes, muskegs reflecting like mirror shards, and braided streams feeding an inland extension of the Pacific Ocean.
Many of its beaches are defined by bleached logs—Sitka spruce, hemlock, and cedar—and all of its 17 million acres are under the aegis of the United States Forest Service. Lately, the question has again arisen as to how a federal agency—the Department of Agriculture, of which the Forest Service is part—can go against the wisdom of many of its own biologists, as well as the views of many American citizens in the long aftermath of the Exxon Valdez, the BP Gulf of Mexico oil spill, and ongoing environmental degradation?
Americans should be more familiar with the Tongass, the world’s largest intact temperate rainforest and home to the world’s largest concentration of brown bears, which surpass in size even their grizzly cousins to the south. There are also distinct subspecies, like the Alexander Archipelago wolf; wild coho, king, and sockeye salmon like those that once thronged the Columbia and Snake rivers; and birds steadily winging over the threshold of the Endangered Species Act, including the marbled murrelet and the northern goshawk.
MacArther allowed the bargain-basement cutting and shipping of the Tongass’s rare timber to Japan when he was that nation’s unofficial grand satrap after World War II, a dark period for the Tongass. Remnants of the companies that did this work controlled much of the cut for decades, leaving behind toxic mill sites that still need cleaning up.
Fortunately, much of the forest has been protected since 2001 by the Roadless Rule, which prevented loggers from carving out new trucking corridors, and cutting rare Sitka spruce and other huge trees. But that is about to change.
Forest Service lands harbor what writer and environmentalist Edward Abbey called the last of old-time America. By that he meant a wild vastness where Americans can pay homage to nature but also hunt, forage, and even mine as they have since the beginning of our democracy, contributing for better or for worse to what it means to be American.
The historian Frederick Jackson Turner pointed out in his famous 1893 speech, “The Significance of the Frontier in American History,” that the American character was formed by dealing with the frontier. It fostered self-sufficiency and egalitarianism, and arguably still does. “American democracy was born of no theorist’s dream … nor in the Mayflower to Plymouth,” said Turner. “It came out of the American forest.”
Today standing trees on a prodigious scale inspire a broad spectrum of Americans, from tourists to back-packers. In the age of global warming, they have acquired an additional preciousness in that they absorb carbon dioxide and replenish breathable air. But despite all of this (and apparently emboldened by the present administration’s attacks on development restraints across the board), the Forest Service has decided to reject the heretofore sacrosanct Roadless Rule.
In what appears to be a demonstration of democracy, the Forest Service has come up with no less than six proposals to build new roads and increase the cut. These proposals are open to comment by the public and the Forest Service will announce its decision in June 2020. All the proposals but the first would result in more logging, and the significant diminishment of America’s largest forest and the things that thrive in it—with the notable exception of the timber companies.
If the Forest Service’s stated preference is adopted, which seems likely, it would “return decision-making authority to the Forest Service, allowing decisions concerning timber harvest, road construction, and roadless area management … to be made by local officials on a case-by-case basis.” This means that citizens and environmental groups will have little say and the timber industry can revert to its old ways of cutting roads – at taxpayers’ expense – through vast domains of relatively unspoiled land without restraint.
The Tongass has long been a stepping stone up for Forest Service managers capable of pushing “the cut.” The blatant advocacy of over-riding of the near sacrosanct Roadless Rule has pleased local elected officials and timber companies that would potentially profit greatly from such a change. Alaska’s governor, Michael Dunleavy hailed the announcement of the prospective demise of the Roadless Rule in the Tongass as “further proof that Alaska’s economic outlook is looking brighter every day.”
It’s looking brighter in part because those who have been pursuing the bounty of the Tongass for close to a century will have easier, cheaper access to old growth timber that many Americans want preserved. We all depend on agencies like the Department of Agriculture to husband these diminishing resources.
The public comment period ends in December. Americans thus have a short time to comment on such a momentous change. But they must—because, after all, the Tongass belongs to them.
Permission required for reprinting, reproducing, or other uses.

Monday, December 30, 2019

Modern-day Neanderthals

Backstory on a Billionaire: Mayor Pete’s Favorite Wine-Maker Hasn’t Been a Good Napa Neighbor


Photograph Source: Jim G – CC BY 2.0
When wealthy Californians pay $2,800 to meet a presidential candidate, they expect to be wined and dined.
But, thanks to a recent debate exchange between Elizabeth Warren and Pete Buttigieg, future fund-raisers among members of the Democratic Party’s donor class will probably not be held in the nearest wine cave.
Warren made this venue a bit radioactive on December 19 when she denounced Buttigieg for partying with several hundred well-heeled supporters at the Hall Rutherford winery in Napa Valley.
The vineyard owners, Craig and Kathryn Hall, have given $2.4 million to Democratic candidates, party campaign committees, and PACs since the 1980s. But, on this occasion, the disclosure that the Halls served $350 bottles of cabernet sauvignon under a chandelier with 1,500 Swarovski crystals drew the populist wrath of Senator Warren.
“Billionaires in wine caves should not pick the next president of the United States,” Warren declared, a sentiment shared by Bernie Sanders, who later needled Buttigieg, during the same debate, about the 40 or more billionaires and their spouses who have contributed to his campaign.
Amid the resulting negative publicity, Mayor Pete’s own billionaire hosts tried to position themselves as ordinary civic minded Democrats, sympathetic to his positions on climate change, gun safety, and immigration.
“I am just a pawn here,” real estate developer Craig Hall complained to the New York Times.  “They are making me out to be something that’s not true.  And they picked the wrong pawn.  It’s just not fair.”
Wine Cave Defenders?
Rallying to the Halls’ defense were several neighbors in swanky St. Helena, CA, all well versed in the ways of wine caves. One denied that partying in them “connoted something snobbish.” Another noted that such storage places provide cheaper, natural temperature control, thus reducing the industry’s carbon footprint.
“It’s the green way to keep wine and preserve it for aging.” explained Jonathan Ruppert, general manager of Gary’s Wine & Marketplace, a local purveyor of Hall Rutherford wines.
James Conaway, author of the Times best-seller Napa: The Story of an American Eden and, a more recent sequel, Napa at Last Light: America’s Eden in the Age of Calamityhas a very different view of nouveau riche “vintners” and their environmental impact.
In Napa at Last Light, Conaway chronicles the Halls’ relocation to Napa from Texas, where Craig made his real estate fortune and once owned the Dallas Cowboys. In Dallas, the Associated Press has reported, “Craig Hall’s role in the 1980s savings and loan crisis” included making “risky investments” during the savings and loan meltdown” that required a $300 million federal bailout. His lobbying of House Speaker Jim Wright triggered a congressional ethics investigation that drove Wright from office in 1989.
Rebounding from that scandal, Hall arrived in Napa where, according to Conaway, “they quickly became benefactors of charities, the arts, and political causes.” Being big Democratic Party donors during the 1990s helped make Kathryn Hall our ambassador to Austria during Bill Clinton’s scandal-scarred second term.
An Environmental “Hall-O-Caust?”
Since 2008, the Halls have been trying to expand their existing wine making operations in both Napa and Sonoma Counties by creating new vineyards on the Walt Ranch, a 2,300 site they purchased for $8 million in the Howell Mountains. Concerned neighbors and local environmentalists have opposed this project because it would require cutting down 14,000 trees, resulting in hill-side erosion and damage to Napa City’s drinking water supply.
As Conaway reports in his most recent book, critics “fear that houses will soon follow, vineyards having become stalking horses for serial McMansions and more ambitious development.”
The Halls are used to getting their way in wine country, even amid protestors brandishing signs warning their customers about “Chainsaw Wine” and an environmental “Hall-O-Caust.” According to Conaway, one of their earlier winery expansion schemes involved tearing down a nearby trailer court, thereby “eliminating a significant portion of St. Helena’s rare affordable housing.”  Meanwhile, Craig and Kathryn live in a lavish home of their own– located above the Napa Valley resort known as Auberge du Soleil–where their house guests have included Bill and Hillary Clinton.
In 2016, the Halls lawyered up again and used their political clout and bottomless bank account to persuade county supervisors to back their plans for the Walt Ranch. But, as the San Jose Press-Democrat reported three months ago, foes of that project won a partial victory in what is now an 11-year legal battle,
A state appeals court ruled that “county officials did not properly show how preservation of an unspecified swath of woodlands on the site would offset the harm to the climate by the tree removals”—and sent the case back to a trial judge. Says Aruna Prabhala, a lawyer for the Center for Biological diversity:“We see this as a victory for the Napa forest.”
In a phone interview this week, Conaway described the Halls’ overall environmental record as “appalling.” He warned that they remain committed to cutting “down thousands of oak trees, among them old oaks that are crucial to holding up the hillsides” on one of the largest remaining undeveloped tracts of oak forest, chaparral, and open meadow in the area.  According to the author, “Napa Valley doesn’t need to lose whatever hillside it has left just to make another $900 cabernet for a billionaire’s vanity project.”
Conaway believes that the Buttigieg event hosted by the Halls illustrates how ultra-rich Californians cultivate friendly Democrats— as candidates for president or county supervisor. “Their wine cave,” he says, “is a wonderful metaphor for the ways in which these people are divorced from the average American.”

Wednesday, November 27, 2019

Reassigned BLM workers get a pay cut, too

From The Hill:
A new internal Bureau of Land Management (BLM) website designed to answer employees’ questions about the agency’s upcoming relocation out West says staffers should expect a drop in their overall pay.
The information was included in an internal page available to staff seen by The Hill that contained questions and answers about the controversial plan to move most D.C.-based BLM employees and establish a new headquarters in Grand Junction, Colo.
In the page, BLM leaders lay out their rationale for the move, touting one of the benefits of relocating as “general cost savings for the bureau because of less expensive office space, in most cases, and decreasing travel costs.”
“An employee reassigned to a relocated position will remain at the grade and pay of his or her current position; however the respective locality pay will vary based on the location of the position,” the website says. 
A question about whether employees can keep the locality pay that contributes to their current salary, the answer is a simple, “No, this is not an option.”
When reached for comment, BLM said in a statement that the agency has "given multiple briefings to committee members, testified before the committee and provided numerous supporting documents to answer all of their questions about the relocation."
"While we hope all affected employees will be able to follow their positions to the new locations, we understand that the decision for most people has many factors," the agency added. "We are committed to making sure that all employees have the information and resources they need to make the best decision and will continue to work with employees to ease the transition."
The BLM has argued the moves will bring those employees closer to the lands they manage. But critics see it as a way to dismantle the agency and upset the balance between conservation of public lands and prioritizing energy interests. 
Lawmakers have spent months pushing the agency to justify its claims that the move will save money — requests that have thus far gone unfilled.
Steve Ellis, who retired from the top career position within the BLM in 2016 after 38 years of federal service, said losing that locality pay is to be expected — it’s simply tied to where the employee lives. But he questioned why the BLM won’t turn over the financial justification for the move that lawmakers have requested.
“They may save a few bucks here or there on rent and salaries. However, they’ve not provided this cost-benefit analysis that takes into account flying people back and forth, that takes into account the lack of presence in the nation's capital of the senior career people that have to work with all the other agencies and NGOs and so forth," he said, referring to nongovernmental organizations.
"How do you put a dollar value on that?” he said. “So at the end of the day what’s broken here that they have to fix to move 3 percent of the workforce out West and move leadership out to the briar patch, so to speak? What are they trying to fix? I’d argue they’re going to create more problems in the long run by not having that presence in the nation's capital.”
A letter to lawmakers when the move was announced in July said the agency planned to save money on staff salaries, but it was not clear whether the BLM anticipated saving money with new hires or if they would change the salaries of current employees.  
There are upfront costs to the move. The Interior Department, which oversees the BLM, plans to use $6.6 million within last year’s budget to cover the costs, but lawmakers in both chambers have thus far blocked funding for the move in the 2020 budget.
Costs of the relocation include a house-hunting trip for each employee, moving costs and one-time incentive payments. 
The website also further spells out the agency’s thinking behind selecting Grand Junction for its new headquarters. The 60,000 person town on Colorado’s western slope is at least four hours from any major city and has only a small regional airport and no direct flights to D.C. 
The site says the agency considered cities where the BLM already has a presence, including “large cities as well as smaller communities.”
The list was further narrowed to Colorado, Utah and Idaho, and potential locations were evaluated based on locality pay, cost of living, relative purchasing power, ease of air travel to the BLM’s most frequent travel destinations and office space lease rates. 
Lawmakers have been particularly hung up on the ease of travel from Grand Junction as well as how the move will actually save money. 
“Why Grand Junction? What is the justification for locating there?” Rep. TJ Cox (D-Calif.) asked the BLM’s acting chief, William Pendley, at a hearing in September. “There’s no major airport there. Denver is 250 miles to the east, Salt Lake is 200 miles to the northwest. There’s no other federal agencies in Grand Junction. How can Grand Junction be more efficient than someplace else out west, be it Denver or Reno?”
The website also gets to another point of concern of critics: that the move will lead to a flight of expert staff as longtime employees will refuse to uproot with their jobs. 
“We hope employees will be able to follow their positions to the new locations but there are many factors that an individual may consider when deciding whether or not to relocate, so, it’s difficult to say at this time exactly how many people will choose to relocate,” it says. 
“For these employees who are directly affected there are opportunities and benefits, but also difficult decisions as some people will not be able to or will not choose to relocate to the western offices.”
In other cases, relocations of federal agencies have gut them of staff. When the Agriculture Department moved the Economic Research Service to Kansas City, Mo., nearly 80 percent of employees left the agency rather than relocate. 
The site says the BLM may allow staffers who choose to move to extend their time in D.C. in order to allow children to finish the school year or if an employee has holiday travel or medical concerns.
The website also has information about many of the places BLM employees have been slated to move, giving tips on where to live.

Sunday, October 27, 2019

Real help


Good news from the Philippines
By Morgan Conaway and Natalia Martin

OCTOBER 27, 2019 
   This week we are writing to you all from the island of Bohol. The island is in the Central Visayas region of the Philippines and approximately a two hour ferry ride from Cebu City. For those of you who don’t know, Bohol is home to all of WI Microfinance’s current loan recipients. Over the past few days, we have had the pleasure of revisiting many of the beneficiaries to learn more about their business ventures, ranging from hog raising to hairstyling and beyond. Every beneficiary that we have spoken to has expressed an immense amount of gratitude for all of the support that WI Microfinance has been able to provide since the 2013 earthquake. 
   Although these individuals continue to endure socio-economic hardships, they have not remained victims. We have found that these entrepreneurs take pride in improving their lives, as well as contributing to the sustainable development of their communities.
   Witnessing first-hand the radiant smile of a mother who has been able to fund her child’s education or the relief of a wife who was able to afford the medication needed to nurse her husband back to health has made us interns hopeful for future of the project. It is incredibly inspiring to interact with the loan recipients on a more personal level and build upon the existing WI Microfinance relationships and partnerships. Furthermore, we have realized the importance of visiting our beneficiaries more than once. Upon returning for the second round of interviews, the beneficiaries seemed much more comfortable with our presence and expressed genuine enthusiasm in getting to know us.
    More often than not, the loan officers/collectors of our partner cooperatives are the only people who interact with the beneficiaries on WI Microfinance’s behalf. This, of course, is due to the resource constraints of both WI Microfinance and its partner entities, however, we hope that with increased donor support more funds can be allocated to meaningful interactions to educate and empower. It is important to note that despite the project’s achievements, many of the entrepreneurs still lack the training, capital, mentorship, and market access to bring sustainable change to their communities. At the same time, beneficiaries across various industries have expressed interest in moving beyond a transactional relationship with WI Microfinance to one that includes business education and training. We believe that this kind of relationship building is an integral and mutually-beneficial component of ensuring the long-term success of both this program and the micro-lending movement as a whole.
    As we travel around the island, it is a privilege to represent WI Microfinance and all of its donors. After all, we interns just recently became a part of the project and much of the its current success is rooted in the contributions of those who have supported the organization over the course of the last ten years. We would also like to acknowledge the overwhelming support of VICTO and our cooperative partners Carmen Multipurpose Cooperative and Bohol Community Multipurpose Cooperative. Our partnerships here in the Philippines play a crucial role in helping us develop and maintain a sustainable plan for micro-lending and social entrepreneurship. We hope that our work together this fall will continue to attract and inspire the kind of enthusiasm that has fueled the project from the beginning.

Monday, September 30, 2019

The back has it


One of the prettiest backs in all of art is currently on display in a new exhibit at the National Gallery of Art in Washington, The Touch of Color, featuring works in pastels from the 18th century's Benedetto Luti to Jasper Johns in the late 20th century. The pretty back in question, "painted" by William Merritt Chase in 1888, is entitled Study of Flesh Color and Gold (above) and, like all the works in the show, belongs to the National Gallery.
        The expertise of the masters of pastel, including those of the Venetian, Rosalba Carriera, became so popular that one critic in the 19th century complained of pastels having "inundated" Europe. Artists working in pastels would come to include Monet, Manet, Degas - yes, ballet dancers - Cassatt, Whistler, Luks, and Matisse.  
       During the Renaissance pastels were widely made from pigment with chalk or clay as a binder. The subtlety of flesh tones was often unsurpassed when smudged to blend colors. The medium proved to be as versatile and as stunning as oil or watercolor.
      This unusual show, in the West Wing of the National Gallery, runs from today through January  and is a rare chance to see the variety and quality of a medium almost as old as painting itself.