January 29, 2007

News Overload

Let’s list just a few possible headlines one might have read during the past several days.

1. Jimmy Carter Accused of Anti Semitism!
2. Worst Day in Iraq War!
3. Nineteen United States Troops Killed!
4. Hillary’s Hat Is In the Circle!
5. Maniacal Man Kidnaps Mother and Four Children!
6. Nasty American Idol!
7. Hate Crime Claims Hmong Hunter!
8. 200 Iraqi insurgents killed
9. Three Israelis killed by suicide bomber
10. Brookings Institute says Iraq Civil War will expand into a regional war.
11. Soldiers rape Iraqi girl and kill family
12. U.S. influence world-wide will slide because of Iraq war.
13. 29 States have anti-gay marriage laws on the books
14. Between 50,000 to 60,000 Iraqis dead in war
15. 3090 US Troop deaths in Iraq
16. Housing Market Crash!
17. Man Sentenced to 4 Years for War Protests
18. Rejected American Idol Crashes and Burns

It’s just me, I suppose, but I’d like to read something really nice in the news. I’d like some relief from all the prejudices and hate we Americans exhibit toward one another. I’d like some relief from the war that claims us though I personally did not want it. I’d so much like to be relieved of American Idol. Speaking of relief, I’d like to have some from the Bush presidency as well. Fat chance!

I’m weary of it all! I want a break!

I suppose God will arrange a permanent one for me soon enough, so I best stop with the complaints.

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January 26, 2007

The Weather Change, and A Walk on the Beach

Thursday was chilly with a cold Northwest wind accompanied by a misty drizzle and at times a heavier shower. Today is cool with intense cobalt skies and a predicted high of 70 degrees Fahrenheit. Of course all this is much better than Ruth and Samuel are having in Lancaster, Pennsylvania with lows in the 10 to 15 degree range and highs around 25 to 30. I spoke with them on the telephone last evening and they said they had been having off-and-on snow showers all day with about an inch accumulation – just enough to make driving difficult, but not enough to make the rolling hills and farms into a pretty “snowscape.” The long warm fall and winter have finally been broken.

A couple of days before the cool weather started - perhaps it was Tuesday - Peter drove me to the beach in the evening. My memory seems to be slowing these days. He helped me walk to water’s edge. The water was relatively calm, and I waded into the gentle surf clinging to Peter for support. It was clear, aqua-green, and perhaps 74 degrees - too cool for these not so hearty folk down here, though it felt marvelous to me. In Rehoboth Beach, Delaware we were always lucky if the water warmed to 74 degrees in August. The light sea breeze felt marvelous against my face and scalp as it picked up the few loose white strands of hair I have remaining up there. There were low puffy pink cumulous clouds near the horizon, and both water and air had that special sparkle that seems to happen just before sunset. Peter told me that there had been Man-of-war washing up on the beach the past several weeks, which make it unsafe to swim because they can sting really badly. However, the bright aqua and magenta balloons the creatures use as flotation devices were not in evidence that evening. I took a few pictures of the waves rolling in, and I include one here.

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January 23, 2007

The State of the Union

Why, it’s pathetic, Mr. President -

I understand you are going to speak to the following domestic issues, and I’ve got a fairly clear picture of what you might say, so here is my response.

1. Health: We have done nothing to prevent vast increases in the cost of healthcare since refusing to listen to Hillary Clinton’s proposals back in the early 1990’s. The big boys continue to reap vast profits, and great numbers of our children are not able to obtain basic medical services. Your plan does nothing to address these fundamental inequities.

2. Energy: By all means, lets encourage the use of ethanol. However, we should also be encouraging utility companies to switch to renewable energy sources such as wind and solar power (Not Nuclear energy!). For instance, Florida Power and light does have a renewable energy program in which it asks the customer to foot the bill! In a state in which county property taxes, insurance costs, and utility costs have skyrocketed, only 23,000 customers have elected to add the renewable energy charge to their bill. My conclusion is the logical one - a federal mandate is necessary to require utilities to invest heavily in alternative energy sources before they ask customers to take on the burden.

3. Education: No Child Left Behind is a paper nightmare that tests a child’s ability to memorize and learn by rote. First, It does not allow the child to learn through gestalt and/or creative leaps of insight much less provide the opportunity to learn the use of deductive and or inductive problem solving skills. Second, all children do not learn alike Mr. President. One will be a mathematical wiz with low verbal skills, while another will be brilliant verbally, and another may have neither predisposition, but be a mechanical wiz-kid. Third, all children are not capable of reaching the level tested as you require them to do without a great deal of extra help by additional personnel that poor school districts cannot afford to hire. Thus, inner city school districts are bound to loose funding, instead of gain the funding needed to help children from poorer families gain expertise and access to “The American Dream.”

Your proposals will not deal with these basic domestic issues in the creative/innovative way necessary to create actual change and improvement for the people of our nation.

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January 21, 2007

The Return of Politics.

Based on viewing statistics, I will put my political entries back in my daily journal, at least for the time being. I had felt that these entries made my journal disjointed and cluttered. However, since readership of the separate political journal is practically nonexistent, I’m bringing the politics back. Starting with my next entry, I will publish the political entries in both journals, and perhaps ultimately I will remove the political journal altogether.

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January 17, 2007

My Boy Peter

He is often here in the evenings, brings books and his studies along. He comes for dinner, and we talk about the world - THE BUSH plan for Iraq (more of the same, it’s broke and can’t be fixed), local Palm Beach County issues (taxes and insurance are way out of line), his classes (Art History class requires way too much memorizing and there isn't time to thoroughly look at the artworks), but he will not talk about his mother and father. I don’t know what’s going on there - actually I do - I just can’t talk about it and keep Peter’s trust. So, I’ll let it drop there. It feels almost as though I’ve adopted a son, except that we have a connection that allows deeper intercourse (pun not intended) than father and son.

Our conversation is likely to wonder into art, literature, art theory, history or religion. For example, the other evening, the night of the Golden Globes, we discussed Kate Kretz’s painting of Angelina Jolie, Blessed Art Thou. That evening Angelina on the big rectangular box, looked cool, almost cold, reserved, as though she were somewhere other than the Golden Globe Awards. One of the co-hosts even made a half-snide remark that Angelina was too busy saving third world children to be interested in the mundane events at the awards. I showed Kate Kretz’s painting to Peter, and that sparked a conversation about Judith Butler’s feminist work, Bodies That Matter, 1993, and Gender Trouble, 1990, much of which I had discussed also in my December 20, 2006 entry, Charles Ray’s Art, Entrapment, Fear of Conversion, and the Palm Beach County “Social Disease” – Part II. In both books Butler discusses her notion of “performance,” as the way normative behaviors become socially encrypted, that is our behaviors are like recordings, molecules rearranged on the surface of our psyche by repeated socially accepted acts that are demonstrated to us by the adults around us when we are young. The rearranged molecules are built in stronger strands and layers by repeated performance until the behaviors we play back to others seem to be the way all human beings of our type should behave. Even feminine and masculine behaviors are learned at the feet of our parents, though I believe the child doesn’t choose which behaviors to encrypt based on the necessity dictated by his/her own genetic/biological makeup.

Be that as it may, Peter and my conversation returned to Kretz’s painting of Jolie, having decided that Jolie’s performance of “Mother” was perhaps based in part on an encrypted recording of a parent or other family member’s altruistic mothering behaviors. We also discussed the possibility that Jolie as a child literally believed the teachings of her religion that we are all of us God’s children. As an actress, she has trained herself through performance to be that which she was shown as a child, perhaps a modification of Butler’s idea of performance, but the proof is in the pudding as they say.

After dinner I sit and read on the porch, or I work on photographs I’ve taken recently, or write to you, dear journal. Peter is at the desk in my living room studying. It seems colleges and universities down here return to school immediately after the holidays as do the public schools in the North, not the third or fourth week of January as most colleges and universities do in Yankee land. There is no talking during study time. It is so quiet that even I can hear the tapping sound as Peter works on his laptop. Often I go to bed leaving Peter engrossed in his books, papers, and computer. When I get up in the morning, he has left for home, work, or school.

Check My Political Journal!

There are so many more readers of this blog than that. Click on the link just above or the one on the side links, or go to the link at the bottom of my blog description at the top of the page. I may not predict the future, or anticipate events, or even be the first with news of current happenings, but my interpretation and understanding of the events offers a unique point of view.

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January 14, 2007

Florida Property Taxes, Quarterly Fees, and Insurance Costs Go UP, UP, UP!

I moved to sunny South Florida to get away from the cold. So, what happens? Global warming has Lancaster County Pennsylvania averaging eighteen degrees above normal. Samuel tells me they’ve had but one hard freeze so far this year, and most days are in the upper fifties to lower sixties. The daffodils are ready to bloom, and the cherry trees are blossoming. Of course, here in South Florida, it’s more like summer. Yesterday on my porch, in the shade it was 76 degrees, and last night the low was 71 degrees. The weather folks are promising the low 80’s the next several days. I won’t complain when it turns chilly. I PROMISE!

At the same time, my basic cost of living here has gone up 50% in one year. How absurd is that. Since the summer of Katrina and Wilma, my insurance on the interior of the condo went up a whopping 50%, and my quarterly condominium fees – they do outdoor maintenance, painting, lawn mowing, garden mulching, pool cleaning, pool bathroom cleaning (every blue moon) – went up 45%. My Palm Beach County Property tax also went up a whopping 40 %. The current system is designed to protect Florida's longtime middle class home owners, but penalizes her new middle class residents. All of this has happened in the one year since I moved in. The basic cost of having my two-bedroom condo in South Florida is over one-thousand-four-hundred-dollars per month, not including all other basic expenses, like medical insurance, electricity, telephone, food, and gas. Hell, Pine Needle Manor was only costing me one thousand a month in maintenance expense, and that was an apartment in a retirement community. I’m frustrated and I’m angry. I expected an incremental increase over time, but nothing like this one-year leap in living expense.

I listened to our new Governor, Charlie Crist’s inaugural address the other day and he said that something must be done about the escalating insurance costs, and profligate county government spending because it is forcing middle class citizens to leave the state. I hope he means what he says, but I can’t imagine any of these existing increases will be taken back.

I can’t afford to live here now!

It looks as though this major change in my life has been a major misadventure.

I have applied to homestead here so that when I sell the condo the Federal government cannot tax me on the proceeds, and I will begin a search for another location that is less expensive though not as warm as South Florida.

I was already feeling upset with Palm Beach County over that entrapment incident I reported concerning my heterosexual neighbor, a husband and father, who was detained and charged 100 dollars court costs for exposing himself when he went to take a leak in a public men’s room, forced to attend classes on the evils of homosexuality -It’s a social disease! - given maps, told he must not go into any downtown area in Palm Beach County until sometime in April or he will be arrested and sent to jail for sixty days. He was told that 1200 men have been put through this profiling juggernaut. He went to pee for God’s sake! Talk about county programs that cause profligate spending. Ah, well, I’ll stop there. Just go back and read the December 14, 2006 entry titled, “Danger in the Parks, Gay- Entrapment(?).”Also, read the two follow-up pieces, December seventeen and twenty that describe the social reasons for this kind of "police-state" activity.

It seems to me that the name of the game is “Save Palm Beach County for a certain type of rich person (sort of like the Bushes and Cheneys). Make the extremely poor servants of the rich even poorer so they’re willing to continue work in, around, and on the rich peoples homes, pay high rents for slum condos in Riviera Beach, and at the same time, force the new middle class arrivals out of the county, perhaps even the state.”

No, I’m not bitter!

I did go for a walk on the beach last evening just before sunset, and I include a picture here. I can certainly understand why the rich, Republican, fascist types want to have all this beauty for themselves.

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January 09, 2007

Blessed Art Thou

Kate Kretz’ painting of Angelina Jolie shown this past weekend at Art Miami, has garnered a great deal of attention. Suddenly 15,000 people a day are visiting Kretz’ website and blog. One art critic, Blake Gopnic of the Washington Post pans the painting as an inconsequential play on a superstar’s notoriety. However, I think Gopnic missed the point(s). Kretz herself says, and I am paraphrasing, that she chose the subject - an angelic Jolie holding her newborn, Shiloh, her other two children, Maddox, and Sahara at her feet ascending on clouds above a Walmart checkout line – because of our cultural indulgence in celebrity worship, because of Jolie’s unachievable beauty, and because of Jolie’s good-works, her seeming total immersion in saving the children of the world. The painting is thus, a visual metaphor on several levels, and it refers with obvious (ir)reverence - Both I think - to Catholic religious paintings of the Renaissance, and it has a definite kinship in style with the paintings of Paul Cadmus. As such, it is a Postmodern tour de force. I went to Kretz’ Website myself, and discovered that she also makes objects, clothing, purses, and embroiders with human hair, and that all of these objects perform second wave feminist commentary on the status of women in our culture, as well as address Kretz’ own personal life.

Last week I saw a Larry King interview with Jolie about her humanitarian work. It amazed me that one of these beautiful, adored and pampered, made rich as Croesus, objects of our affection has been able to transform herself into an actual humanitarian angel. Perhaps there is some of that wonder in Kretz’ painting as well.

I’m so close to Miami, and I’m sorry I missed Art Miami, though the trip and all the walking would have made me utterly miserable. Never the less, It would have been worth it if for no other reason than to visit Kretz’ representation of Jolie as angelic mother figure.

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January 06, 2007

Peter’s Visit

My young hunk neighbor stopped by last evening, and we had a telling conversation.

“I’ve missed our talks Isaac. I mean, I’m happy that you had such a great time with your family in Pennsylvania, but it’s just not the same around here without you. Friends my age are mostly interested in drinking, doing drugs, clubbing, and sports, in that order.”

“Perhaps you should be looking for other friends.”

“That wouldn’t do any good. It’s pretty much a sea of sameness out there.”

“You’re a physical guy. You exercise, and play sports.”

“I’m the typical gay guy.”


“I exercise to be healthy and look good, but mostly to look good. I do sports you can do on your own, like tennis, swimming, running. I’d like to try wind surfing, but that will have to wait until I’m done with school and can afford it.”

“I see. No team sports.”

“Well, wrestling back in high school, because that was the only way I could get physical with guys.”

“It would be interesting to see how much research has been done on this aspect of the gay man.” You want to do a search at your school library? I’ll search on line.”

"I don't know."

"Come on. You might even be able to use the research for a paper in one of your courses.”

“I’m not taking any LGBT classes right now.”

“You never know.”


“In any case, I can publish the results as part of my journal.”

“Okay. Let’s do it.”

I'm afraid the poor young man needs to get out more.

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January 03, 2007

Christmas in Pennsylvania Dutch Country: Part II

Christmas eve was a treat that I wish every person on our planet might experience just once. Samuel and Ruth are not members of the Moravian church, but Samuel had made advanced arrangements for the entire family to attend the candlelight, “Love Feast” Service at the Moravian Church in Lititz, Pennsylvania. It is a marvelous Christmas Story extravaganza. The minister/pastor gave a brief sermon about God’s gift of love to all of mankind through the birth of Jesus Christ. The service included the music of Franz Joseph Haydn presented by orchestra, chorus and organ, as well as the sharing of Moravian sugar cake, and prayer.* The historic Moravian church building was filled with the palpable Holy presence of God’s love for ALL of mankind.

Christmas day began with gift opening of course, and I marveled that the major gifts were all technology based. Not that there weren’t the usual shirts, sweater, and wallet presents. However, Amy and Terrance, Sam Junior’s children, both received iPods and new cell-phones. Sam and Ruth got a plasma-screen television from Santa for their bedroom. Nichole, Sam Junior’s wife, got a card from Santa that guaranteed a year of DSL Internet to replace her slowpoke landline service. Stephen gave Adam satellite radio for his car. Adam gave Stephen a new digital camera, and I know Adam and Stephen had some input into Santa’s delivery of my new digital 10-mega-pixel camera. So far, the first decade of the 21st Century seems to be all about personal and/or digital electronic devices.

Mid afternoon found the family sitting down to Ruth’s marathon Christmas dinner that included roast turkey, duck, and ham. Not satisfied with one item in any course of the meal, she made rutabagas, mashed potatoes, sweet potato casserole, and a French cut string bean casserole with fried onion topping. She served homemade rolls, multi-grain bread, and egg bread steaming from the oven with molded butter in the shape of snowflakes, presented on ice in cut crystal. The dessert menu included homemade apple pie, pumpkin pie, bread pudding with a butterscotch sauce, and bourbon balls (her own confectioners’ masterpiece). There was, however, no shoofly pie, thank goodness!

At the end of my Christmas visit to Orchard Hill Farm, I felt as though my family had finally managed to put aside differences, to replace the false teachings of evangelical Christianity with the actual gift of tolerance and love that Jesus Christ meant for us to take from his teaching. I hope each family member took that lesson of reconciliation away from the Pennsylvania Dutch Country in order to pass it on to friends and acquaintances in our various communities. If only other families could do the same, we might manage to pass that lesson on to our members of Congress, the Senate, and even the President in Washington D.C., and thence to the rest of the world.

I’m such a Romantic old fool!

*Franz Joseph Haydn was composing at the time the Moravian Church was brought to Bethlehem, Pennsylvania, and Winston-Salem, North Carolina, and his music has been used historically in Moravian Church services.

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