Thursday, March 29, 2007

Tulip Wannabes

Tulip Wannabes

Tulip Wannabes (2004)

Profit makes spring so generic.
Please pick one meat and saddle her
with festivals. A group of Goths
start threads and confess love

for bulbs. A wannabe Texan
ponders quizzes as country girls
feed him little credit. He sulks around
like Robert De Niro. Punksters

and hitwomen carve up Holland
with a drop on the tongue but profiteers
mob the White House -- hacking,
crazy. Slap him with wooden shoes.

Detail of: Tulip Wannabes

Upper left corner detail of Tulip Wannabes

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Image sprouted in Fractal Zplot and genetically modified in Photoshop et. al. Found poem cultivated and fertilized from phrase strings cut and vased from a Google search of "tulip wannabes."

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Friday, March 23, 2007

Ways of Seeing -- Part One

After all, every picture is a history of love and hate
when read from the appropriate angle.

--Leopoldo Salas-Nicanor, Espejo de las artes, 1731

I've been spending time lately with an interesting book -- drinking in one chapter at a time some nights just before turning in for sleep.

Reading Pictures by Alberto Manguel explores the various ways human beings "read" images and breaks the viewing process ("seeing") into a series of imaginative permutations. Although I wonder if these categories could be applied to most if not all visual imagery, Manguel limits his analysis to the fine arts -- specifically painting, photography, sculpture, and architecture.

I'm not saying I agree with Manguel's subdivisions, nor do I mean to suggest that alternative ways of reading/seeing images are not possible. I am interested, however, in trying to determine if Manguel's rubric can be applied to fractal art -- which, naturally, I consider a bona fide fine art.

I've chosen my own work to illustrate this first post -- because, well, I'm most familiar with it -- but, if I continue to post on Manguel's categorizations, I'll mix in work by other fractal artists as well.

Here, then, according to Manguel, are the first two options for seeing and reading (and thus interpreting?) any image.

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The Image as Story

Every good story is of course both a picture and an idea, and the more they are interfused the better the problem is solved.
--Henry James, Guy de Maupassant

Flower Girl

Flower Girl (2007)

Trouble with the Tanning Bed

Trouble with the Tanning Bed (2003)

Images are most frequently seen placed within a narrative framework. Not surprisingly, many viewers are driven to "make sense" of what they see -- even if the image is highly abstract. The question then isn't what is it? -- but what's happening here? The answer often comes in the form of a story provided by the viewer -- created out of individual experience or pieced together in the imagination. By casting images into narratives, people make pictures meaningful. Fractal artists who make more "representational" art might have an edge here. Manguel notes such story conversion is the most frequent method for "reading" images, and he describes such interpreters as "common viewers." The example Manguel uses to illustrate this method is Van Gogh's Shipping Boats on the Beach at Saintes-Maries.

Perhaps this is part of the reason why some viewers strongly dislike modern art. The abstractions "don't look like anything." There's no nature to mirror and -- critical to Manguel -- no story to spin.

But wait. Whose story is being told? The artist's? Or, more likely, the viewer's? After all, it is he or she who fills in the plot's missing gaps and supplies the rising and falling action?

And, more disconcerting, can we trust the artist to truthfully tell "a story"? We know novelists sometimes revert to unreliable narrators (like Huck Finn). Film, too, can cause us to distrust the storyteller -- as in The Usual Suspects and Memento. How can we be sure the artist is not just messing with us, stringing us along, even mocking us? I'm reminded of Hamlet teasing foolish Polonius over the shape of a cloud:

Hamlet: Do you see yonder cloud that is almost in the shape of a camel?
Polonius: By th' Mass, and 'tis like a camel indeed.
Hamlet: Me thinks it's like a weasel.
Polonius: It is backed like a weasel.
Hamlet: Or like a whale.
Polonius: Very like a whale.
--Shakespeare, Hamlet, Act 3, Scene 2

Of course, Polonius thinks Hamlet is mad. But what is our excuse if an artist decides we need to be put in our places with ironic jokes at our own expense?

Even if an artist is straightforward, can we always believe our eyes and be certain our concocted stories are not self-deception? Are we seeing only the shadows on the wall of Plato's cave? Can we "mis-read" an image? And why, even when we've studied the same work, are our separate narratives often so noticeably different? Consider this exchange from Woody Allen's Manhattan when Isaac and Tracy run into Yale and Mary at the Museum of Modern Art:

Mary: Really, you liked the plexiglass, huh?
Isaac: You didn't like the plexiglass sculpture either?
Mary: Uh, that's interesting. No, er, ...
Isaac: It was a hell of a lot better than that steel cube. Did you see the steel cube?
Mary: Now that was brilliant to me, absolutely brilliant.
Isaac: The steel cube was brilliant?
Mary: Yes. To me, it was very textural, you know what I mean? It was perfectly integrated, and it had a marvelous kind of negative capability.

Apparently, not all our stories get straight -- however much we (artists? viewers?) try.

Manguel notes that "storytelling exists in time, pictures in space." A text is not contained within the boundaries of book covers. We can cite individual lines of Emily Dickinson and summarize whole novels in a paragraph. Here's Kafka's The Metamorphosis in one sentence: "A man turns into a bug and his family and his boss get pissed." But, in contrast, an image is perceived instantaneously and is confined within the parameters of its frame.

What is "the story" of the flower girl in the image above? Is the scene a wedding or a rehearsal or merely playacting? What is her mood? Scared? Nervous? Bored? Or is it inscrutable? Why the big eyes? Where's the background? Do I see wings? Are the flowers still fresh? Hey. Choose Your Own Adventure.

And what exactly is the trouble with the tanning bed? Did it malfunction turning someone inside out resulting in mass melanoma (and giving new meaning to someone being "toast"). Could it be (cue sinister Cold War music) sabotage??? Or is the image a projection of the future? A suggestion of exaggerated things to come? Or just the horrific sunburn of the living dead?

You tell me. You're the one "reading" it. What's your story?

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The Image as Absence

To restore silence is the role of objects.
--Samuel Beckett, Molloy

Birdbath

Birdbath (2001)

The Butcher Shop

The Butcher Shop (2000)

Sometimes what is unseen is what one is supposed to see. The convenient linearity of the well-made play doesn't apply here. What is missing is what is meaningful.

Life's most intense emotional events -- like death or divorce -- can often be shown better by what is absent: the empty chair at the table, the indentation on one side of the bed, the closet filled with unworn clothes.

How does one see the unseen? Is some art so...I'm searching for the right word here...so...confused...that the very imposition of making a reading undercuts what one is trying to comprehend?

Manguel gives the example of writer Severo Sarduy who wrote about a traveling film projectionist who tried to show a documentary on new agricultural techniques in a remote village in Cuba. The villagers had never seen a film before, and they sat politely on rows of wooden benches and quietly watched the swirling light. Apparently, they recognized a chicken when it suddenly appeared in the lower left corner of the screen -- but comprehended little else. They had no way to "read" a film -- to decipher its codes of quick cuts and tracking shots. Sarduy sensed the villagers saw the film as a jumble of shadows and light. In short, it was a mess.

Some people had a similar response to the paintings of Jackson Pollock. Just drips. What a mess. I could do that. But at the very moment when the culture was moving away from digesting words (radio) and racing to a constant stream of imagery (TV), Pollock produced paintings that shunned any attempt at narration -- either in words or through pictures -- and seemed to disdain all control for either the artist or the viewer. Manguel claims that Pollock's work "seemed to exist in a constant present, as if the explosion of paint on the canvas were always at the point of occurring" (Manguel 24). Maybe that's why one critic complained that Pollock's paintings had no beginning or end. Pollock's reply: "He didn't mean it as a compliment, but it was. It was a fine compliment" (Manguel 24).

Although Manguel devotes plenty of copy to Pollock in this chapter, he uses Joan Mitchell's Two Pianos to show work that exhibits absence.

It's hard to talk about this. Words are one problem here -- as Beckett discovered. The more he tried to write about nothingness, the more he had to name it and thus codify it. Colors present a similar paradox. Since every color is named -- either individually ("blue") or in groups ("blue-green") or in its own subdivisions (turqoise, aquamarine) -- Manguel says that no color is "innocent." Moreover, he observes that colors are not known for their absence -- but, instead, for their contrasts. Thus, black is not a vacant void. Rather, it is "not white." And so on.

So what is absence to the fractal artist? Not a blank canvas. A monitor in sleep mode? The dead space in your generator before you fill it with a fractal? Parameter files riddled with black holes?

Or are those the obvious examples? Elvis Costello once sang: "There are some words they don't allow to be spoken." Are there also things we can't show?

Or do I mean that we can't know? How much information do we need to properly "read" an image? The artist's biography? The socio-political context? The deconstruction of all signifiers? An exhaustive itinerary of all materials used? Every trend, movement, and change that impacted the world during the artist's lifetime? There's a kind of Howard Hughes obsessiveness creeping in here. I can never wash my hands enough to be completely and perfectly clean. Just as I can never know enough about any given work of art to truly -- to perfectly -- "read" it. Something will always remain behind a veil.

Balzac wrote about the painter Frenhofer who spent many years fussing over one female nude. The work was to be his masterpiece. He said he wanted to capture that which cannot be captured. "Look," he said, "there on the cheek, under the eyes, there's a faint dimness which, if observed in nature, would seem untranslatable to you. Ha! Don't you think it cost me unspeakable pains to reproduce it?" (Manguel 35-36).

But we'll never know, will we? Like the Cuban villagers seeing their first movie, Frenhofer shows us something we cannot see because we have neither the language (since it's untranslatable) nor the context (because it's unexplainable if seen in nature).

In short, we can never see or read any image in its contextual entirety. Some absence is always going to be a given. Perhaps this is what Beckett meant in Molloy when he said that "there could be no things but nameless things, no names but thingless names."

As I was putting the finishing touches on Birdbath above, my daughter, age 13 at the time, walked up behind me and squinted at the monitor. She had a grimace on her face, as if the image had a putrid smell, and the following conversation ensued:

Her: What do you call this?
Me: Birdbath.
Pause.
Her: Where's the bird?
Me: That's not the question that bothers me.
Her: What bugs you then?
Pause.
Me: Where's the birdbath?

The Butcher Shop above looks more like a Christmas card. It has no PETA points to underscore. There's no cleavers or wooden blocks -- no spattered aprons -- no blood pools. But something is unseen.

Something remains absent when both the butcher and the artist finish their work. Can you not see...

...not see the animals?

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Sunday, March 18, 2007

Future Wine

Future Wine

Future Wine (2007)

Something new and thus not well aged yet.

Detail of: Future Wine

Upper right corner detail of Future Wine

Open. Let breathe. Swirl. Sniff. Sip. Savor...

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Friday, March 16, 2007

Dante's Golf Game

Dante's Golf Game

Dante's Golf Game (2004)

Poor players must be purged.
Nero's the dude with a new spin
on Cerberus. Best to disrupt weddings
and sweat in glaring desert sun.

A southern man laments his evil twin
implementing PGA hell. Focus on physical
checkpoints and swing away or be
banished to the Second Hades Sand Trap.

The devil's on the links wrecking
what typically sucks. He's a theorist
of nine bad shots and the market value
of Satan's putts. Rusting bridges

and action-heavy airports where
demon slayers tee up suffer Sunday
inferno mode. Dante rests by the shrine
of Nintendo. Mario boogies, dies.

Detail of: Dant's Golf Game

Lower right corner detail of Dante's Golf Game

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Image rendered in Sterling-ware then clubbed and driven in Photoshop. Poem collaged together from phrase strings found in Google water hazards snorkeled using "dante's golf game."

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Wednesday, March 14, 2007

At the Monastery

At the Monastery

At the Monastery (2002)

Will Alberto "Torquemada" Gonzales have to quit the High Church of BushCo and enter a private-life monastery to atone for his multiple lapses of moral and legal chastity. The calls for excommunication hark the herald everywhere. From Editor and Publisher:

The Sacramento Bee:
"We haven't seen a renegade U.S. Justice Department like this since John Mitchell ran it for President Nixon. With a new Congress beginning to exercise serious oversight, the problems at the Justice Department and with its leader, Attorney General Alberto Gonzales, are becoming clearer by the day. And what is becoming most clear is that Gonzales must go."

The Philadelphia Inquirer:
"U.S. Attorney General Alberto R. Gonzales should resign. If he ever does, the nation could take it as a clear sign that President Bush finally grasps the need to preserve core civil liberties while guarding against terrorism."

The Buffalo (N.Y.) News:
"He should go. The country needs an attorney general who wants to uphold the law, not subvert it."

From Florida Today in Melbourne:
"He should be removed and replaced with someone willing to protect the Constitution. Chances are Bush won't do that."

The Courier-Journal in Louisville (KY.):
First, [President Bush] should fire Attorney General Alberto Gonzales. Whether Mr. Gonzales is the instigator of this travesty or merely the unprincipled executor of White House political demands, this debacle is further evidence of his insuitability for his critically sensitive post. Then, the president can answer this question: If the eight prosecutors were dismissed for failing to respond to Republican political concerns, can Americans assume that his other U.S. attorneys do fulfill a partisan agenda?"

The Washington Post:
"Now that the political costs are higher than the administration could have imagined, now that senior officials have squandered their claim to credibility, it is imperative that the entire story of the firings be uncovered. As we have said previously, the administration is entitled to prosecutors who reflect its policies and carry out its priorities. It is not entitled to treat federal prosecutors like political pawns -- nor is it entitled, any longer, to the benefit of the doubt about the propriety of its conduct."

The Los Angeles Times:
"We opposed Gonzales' nomination to be attorney general two years ago, arguing that the nation's top law enforcement job should go to someone who understands the limits as well as the power of the law, and someone who understands that his loyalty is to the Constitution as much as it is to the president. Gonzales' atrocious performance as White House counsel, when he enabled far too many shortcuts in the war on terror, was ample reason to disqualify him for attorney general.

This attorney general is loyal to a fault to Bush. He is too loyal to be an effective lawyer, causing the president harm both when he worked at the White House and now that he oversees the Justice Department.
"

Pull up that hood. Cinch that waist. Let the self-flagellating commence.

But wait. Don't get your rosary beads in an uproar. What did the infallible one decree? From the Associated Press:

Bush, at a news conference in Mexico, told reporters when asked about the controversy: "Mistakes were made. And I'm frankly not happy about them."

But the president expressed confidence in Gonzales, a longtime friend, and defended the firings. "What Al did and what the Justice Department did was appropriate," he said.

What was "mishandled," Bush said, was the Justice Department's release of some but not all details of how the firings were carried out.

I see. It's just the faulty method -- not the perpetual madness.

And. Hey. Frankly. I, too, am unhappy that "mistakes were made." Now where have I heard that phrase before? From zealots and crusades of yesteryear? Oh yeah:

There you go again...

Let's review, class. Mistakes aren't made. They are just mishandled.

[Cartoon by Herblock and seen here.]

So get set for some real March Madness as the House and Senate Judiciary Committees gear up for hearings with blasphemous bloviating and holy writ subpoenas enough for everyone. Get out the hairshirts and fill in your brackets. Will Bush allow his aides to testify under oath? (Does the Pope wear a cowboy tall hat?). And, if aspects of this case actually go to court, won't Gonzales then have to appoint a U.S. attorney to handle the case?

No problemo. Surely there are a few Rove toadies like Tim Griffin left who haven't yet been farmed out to do the devil's work.

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Monday, March 12, 2007

Wrench It

Wrench It

Wrench It (2003)

I've already said too much.
--Karl Rove

And what was I saying last time? I guess the wheels don't turn slowly when they come completely off.

From the Associated Press via The Huffington Post:

Congressional Democrats on Monday singled out presidential adviser Karl Rove for questioning about the firings of eight federal prosecutors and whether the dismissals were politically motivated.

The demands to question Rove signaled anew Democrats' shifting focus beyond the Justice Department and toward the White House, in the inquiry.

Last week, House Judiciary Committee Chairman John Conyers, D-Mich., said he would seek to interview former White House Counsel Harriet Miers and deputy counsel William Kelly for insight on their roles, if any, in the firings.

Rove emerged as the Democrats' newest target after weekend news reports said the New Mexico Republican Party's chairman urged Rove to fire David Iglesias, then the state's U.S. attorney.

In a statement Monday, Conyers said stories about Rove's alleged link to Iglesias' dismissal "raise even more alarm bells for us."

"As a result, we would want to ensure that Karl Rove was one of the White House staff that we interview in connection with our investigation," said Conyers.

Sen. Charles Schumer, D-N.Y., who is leading his chamber's probe into the firings, said he also wants to question Rove.

White House spokeswoman Emily Lawrimore said the demands would be considered after lawmakers send letters requesting an interview. "If we receive such a request, we would consider it in the ordinary course and respond appropriately," Lawrimore said.

The ordinary course? How about an extraordinary one -- as in rendition? Given BushCo's new rules, I suppose neither habeas corpus nor the Geneva Convention apply to America's enemies. If Rove, certainly an enemy of American justice and fair play, dallies in his reply, I guess he'll just have to be held in Gitmo indefinitely. Or, maybe, turned over to Torquemada Gonzales for a few enhanced interrogation techniques.

And I think we are all familiar with an "appropriate response" from the likes of Rove:

Hey. Wait. I've got a new complaint.

Talk about shadows on the cave wall...

[Cartoon by Dan Piraro]

Don't take no catapulted propaganda from Rove this time. Put him under oath before a congressional committee.. Wrench it -- and twist the truth out of this nutjob.

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Friday, March 09, 2007

Not Waving, But Drowning

Not Waving, But Drowning

Not Waving, But Drowning (2000)

Karl Rove was skulking around my stomping grounds yesterday. And here's what he had to say about the Great Prosecutor Purge, courtesy of TPM Muckraker:

Look, by law and by Constitution (sic), these attorneys serve at the pleasure of the president and traditionally are given a four year term. And Clinton, when he came in, replaced all 93 U.S. attorneys. When we came in, we ultimately replace most all 93 U.S. attorneys – there are some still left from the Clinton era in place. We have appointed a total of I think128 U.S. attorneys -- that is to say the original 93, plus replaced some, some have served 4 years, some served less, most have served more. Clinton did 123. I mean, this is normal and ordinary.

[...]

But this is the right of any president to appoint people to these offices. They serve at the pleasure of the president. And my view this is… unfortunately a very big attempt by some in the Congress to make a political stink about it. And the question is did they have the same reaction if they were in Congress in the 90’s, or did they have the same reaction if they were in the 80’s. Because every president comes in, appoints United States attorneys and then makes changes over the course of their time.

Like most BushCo utterances, there's more catapulted propaganda than fact. Bush's Brain, true to form, is being typically obsequious. At the risk of making a political stink, let's point out why Rove's bullshit smells:

All presidents clean house, but not using BushCo's methods and rationales.

Clinton's mass firings were much less ominous. His actions applied generally to all 93 of the U.S. Attorneys he downsized. No one was spared. No one's conduct was called into question. There was no general application with BushCo. Only certain attorneys were targeted. The reputations of those attorneys were besmirched by termination for "poor job performance." Complaints from partisan congressional Republicans (Pete Domenici, Heather Wilson) were allegedly a factor for the decisions. Here in Arkansas, Bud Cummings was replaced with Rove aide Tim Griffin who helped wipe out voting rights for 70,000 citizens before the 2004 election.

Clinton's appointments faced Senate confirmations. BushCo's come courtesy of Patriot Act loopholes allowing Alberto "Torquemada" Gonzales to appoint federal prosecutors indefinitely without Senate confirmation.

PF, a Washington lawyer, adds this over at TPMMuckraker:

Taking things sequentially in his statement, the notion that "U.S. Attorneys serve at the pleasure of the president" is true, but irrelevant in this context. Congress is not investigation whether the President has the legal authority to fire these USAs -- it is investigating what factors the President permits to influence his judgment. It is one thing to say "I am legally entitled to do X;" it is quite another to expect that you can do X for nefarious reasons and expect to go unchallenged in the political arena by a coordinate branch of government. Given the supine nature of Congress over the past six years, though, I can understand why Rove believed "because the President says so" is a reasonable excuse.

Rove's reliance on "the president can do it" to try to shut down debate, is specious for another reason. The President, for example, has unfettered rights to pardon people. If President Bush started selling pardons, under Rove's logic, Congress would have no right or reason to investigate what the President had done. Many Republicans certainly took a different tack with respect to investigating President Clinton's perhaps-poorly-considered pardon of Marc Rich.

He's right. Bush is entitled to do many things -- but should he never face scrutiny for his actions? Didn't another not-a-crook president once observe: "When the president does it, that means it's not illegal."

Paul Krugman sees through Rove's nonsense and writes today that

In fact, it’s becoming clear that the politicization of the Justice Department was a key component of the Bush administration’s attempt to create a permanent Republican lock on power.

[...]

For now, the nation’s focus is on the eight federal prosecutors fired by Attorney General Alberto Gonzales. In January, Mr. Gonzales told the Senate Judiciary Committee, under oath, that he “would never, ever make a change in a United States attorney for political reasons.” But it’s already clear that he did indeed dismiss all eight prosecutors for political reasons — some because they wouldn’t use their offices to provide electoral help to the G.O.P., and the others probably because they refused to soft-pedal investigations of corrupt Republicans.

In the last few days we’ve also learned that Republican members of Congress called prosecutors to pressure them on politically charged cases, even though doing so seems unethical and possibly illegal.

The bigger scandal, however, almost surely involves prosecutors still in office. The Gonzales Eight were fired because they wouldn’t go along with the Bush administration’s politicization of justice. But statistical evidence suggests that many other prosecutors decided to protect their jobs or further their careers by doing what the administration wanted them to do: harass Democrats while turning a blind eye to Republican malfeasance.

Will someone break it to Rove that strong-arming federal attorneys to target opponents and shelter loyalists or face reprisals is not "normal and ordinary?" It's dictatorial -- and shows clearly the tactics of politicians who are not waving -- but drowning.

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Wednesday, March 07, 2007

Jackpot

Jackpot

Jackpot (2000)

Somebody hit it yesterday. From CNN:

There are just two winning tickets in the record $370 million Mega Millions jackpot -- one sold in New Jersey and the other in Georgia, lottery officials announced Wednesday.

No one had come forward to claim their share of the prize at midday [the Georgia winner has now come forward], but lottery officials in both states were expecting to hear from the winners soon.

One winning ticket was traced back to Campark Liquors in Woodbine, New Jersey, on the state's southern end. The other was sold at Favorite Market in Dalton, Georgia, lottery representatives in the two states said.

[...]

The odds of hitting it: about 1 in 176 million.

One probably has a better chance of being struck by a meteor.

My odds -- even less. There's no lottery offerings here in Baptist-tyrannized Arkansas, although I sometimes used to see the locals heading for the border at peak times when I lived in Northwest Arkansas. My common sense tells me that participating is throwing money away -- but $370 million? Talk about "mad money." Reason be damned. And give me a Slurpee with those tickets.

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Monday, March 05, 2007

Take Me to Your Power Grids

Take Me to Your Power Grids

Take Me to Your Power Grids (2002)

Neo: What does he want?
The Oracle: What do all men with power want? More power.
--The Matrix Reloaded

I have not blogged on politics in quite a while. The Democratic victory in November seemed to blow up a dust cloud of sleeping powder. Sighs of relief were breathed. Some political blogs eased up -- others, like Billmon, closed up shop. Progressives carried the day. BushCo got bitch slapped...

...with a non-binding resolution. Still, today, my state-wide newspaper's editorial page tried to convince me Dubya has turned over a new leaf. The Bush Doctrine bully boy days are over, they say. Rummy and Bolton got their marching orders, they note. The Decider seems indecisively cowed (I'd prefer glazed) during recent news conferences, they moan. Paper tigers, declawed and defanged, pussyfoot around the White House these days, they gnash.

I'm not buying any of it.

BushCo doesn't give a damn about elections or the so-called will of the people. It's always been all about them. Again and again: Take me to your my power grids.

The signs are still everywhere. Hidden landmines in the misnamed Patriot Act (did anyone in Congress actually read this thing?) explode allowing Gonzales to lie and fire state prosecutors for "job performance" (apparently they weren't prosecuting enough Democrats) and replace them with loyalists -- including a Rovian hatchet man here in my home state of Arkansas (the better to dig up dirt on Hillary?). Benefits for Vets -- long on the receiving end of BushCo rhetoric (is that body armor on the way yet?) but lean on actual funding -- get further trimmed as Walter Reed Army Medical Center and other care facilities for those who served crumble more quickly than the Coliseum. Oh, and, yes, BushCo did cook the pre-war intelligence. And, if Seymour Hersh is right (and he usually is), we're gearing up to go nuclear toe-to-toe with Iran.

But even if the Republidroids at my state newspaper were right about the gelding of BushCo, the victorious Dems would need to work every day and night until 2008 to make a chink in reversing BushCo follies and quasi-fascism. Talk about the Labors of Hercules. Where would one even begin?

How about cleaning the stable? The New York Times recently published a Must-Do List. It's a good start. Here's how they start:

The Bush administration’s assault on some of the founding principles of American democracy marches onward despite the Democratic victory in the 2006 elections. The new Democratic majorities in Congress can block the sort of noxious measures that the Republican majority rubber-stamped. But preventing new assaults on civil liberties is not nearly enough.

Five years of presidential overreaching and Congressional collaboration continue to exact a high toll in human lives, America’s global reputation and the architecture of democracy. Brutality toward prisoners, and the denial of their human rights, have been institutionalized; unlawful spying on Americans continues; and the courts are being closed to legal challenges of these practices.

It will require forceful steps by this Congress to undo the damage. A few lawmakers are offering bills intended to do just that, but they are only a start. Taking on this task is a moral imperative that will show the world the United States can be tough on terrorism without sacrificing its humanity and the rule of law.

And, laid out in detail, is a short list for unraveling the horror show of Bush/Cheney:

* Restore Habeas Corpus

* Stop Illegal Spying

* Ban Torture, Really

* Close the C.I.A. Prisons

* Account for "Ghost Prisoners"

* Ban Extraordinary Rendition

* Tighten the Definition of "Combatant"

* Screen Prisoners Fairly and Effectively

* Ban Tainted Evidence (like that obtained by abuse or coercion)

* Ban Secret Evidence

* Better Define "Classified" Evidence

* Respect the Right to Counsel

These are not suggestions. They are must-do priorities.

The editorial is worth your time -- if just to clear away layers of catapulted propaganda. The simplicity of the reversals shows how far America has tumbled from "the land of the free." What, really, does the editorial outline? That we honor the Geneva Convention? That we not set up gulags and torture other human beings? Not hold kangaroo courts in stress-position-happy countries while using selective and bogus evidence? Not illegally spy on our own citizens? Instead: Do the right thing? Play fair? Act civilized?

Would doing so really be unpatriotic and embolden our enemies? Or would it restore our good name and show our allies that we bargain in good faith and act with understanding and mutual respect.

And would it do the one thing the current administration most fears -- unplug much of BushCo's power grid?

It's past time for some rolling BushCo brown-outs...

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Sunday, March 04, 2007

The Garden Gets Some Sun

The Garden Gets Some Sun

The Garden Gets Some Sun (2007)

Finally starting to feel a little better. Sat outside today and could feel the first wisps of spring in the air. Tree buds are starting to peep out and scattered daffodils are blooming in the yard. In a few weeks, it will time to till the tiny garden in hopes of enjoying summer tomatoes, squash, and peppers -- if blight allows.

A new image today -- and a short poem mash-up:

The climate grows
sunnier. The muscles of high summer
and a top-tier rusted rose get
offended by limited light.

My garden needs wires
to blaze and build more shaded weeds.
The bloomers have low batteries,
shrug like neutral figureheads.

Detail of: The Garden Gets Some Sun

Lower left corner detail of The Garden Gets Some Sun

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Image made with Vchira and fertilized in Photoshop. Poem pruned from phrase strings staked up by a Google search of "the garden gets some sun."

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Thursday, March 01, 2007

Chinese Lantern

Chinese Lantern

Chinese Lantern (2004)

From China Highlights:

China's paper lanterns are more than just decorations. Since 250 B.C. they have silently spoken of births, deaths, social status and approaching danger. For instance, special red lanterns are used for weddings and white lanterns for funerals. Children in China also make lanterns at school and hang riddles on them. Today they have their place as honored guests at ceremonies and festivals.

[...]

The placement and color of lanterns serve as a vital communication link in these tremendously communal residential areas. Since red connotes vitality and energy at its maximal state, a red lantern placed outside a doorway tells of a birth or marriage. A blue lantern, representing declining energy or sickness, indicates there is illness in the household. And white signifies energy eliminated or death, so a white sash draped across the top of the doorway, flanked by two white lanterns announces that the family is in mourning.

Still feeling quesy. Perhaps my lantern needs a little touch-up...

Make Mine Blue...

Makes a good bathroom night light, too...

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