The Slow-moving Coup … and there’s nothing that can be done to stop it

It’s terrifying that a long-form coup could happen, but for all intents and purposes, there seems to be very little that could be done to stop it.

Also see this assessment from Yale History professor Timothy Snyder.

One thing that gives me a bit of hope is that one of my best friends works in D.C. for the government. He claims often that conspiracies to game the system are incredibly challenging, because D.C. can barely tie its own shoes.

The thing is, someone infiltrated the party with the idea that authoritarian rule is what we need in America. Otherwise, reasonable people seem to almost suddenly think this. Propaganda moves quickly within their movement. It’s tough to keep up with it all.

Criticizing Critical Race Theory

I love how talking points get thrown into the media cauldron and some stick like shit on a wall and some don’t. Well, Critical Race Theory stuck for a lot of people, and it’s laughable how the term is thrown around without so much as a general understanding of what it is and who’s learning it.

I was recently with friends of ours whom we love and look up to. Quietly in fall 2020, they sold their Chicago condo and moved out of the state. One of the reasons they were thrilled to move was that teachers at their son’s school were teaching third graders Critical Race Theory, specifically teaching that white people were responsible for slavery.

“Well, who else was responsible for it?”

Continue reading “Criticizing Critical Race Theory”

Martha Graham’s advice to Agnes de Mille

I found the below text at Wikipedia. But below that is a JPG of another version of it that I found more profound. I’ll include that below the fold. It’s a conversation between Martha Graham and Agnes de Mille, two dancers/artists/creators. I only know Martha Graham’s name from the scene in the Bird Cage when Robin Williams’ character is chastising the young dancer for being bored during Nathan Lane’s character’s cross dress routine. I had no idea Agnes de Mille came up with the musical Oklahoma.

Their conversation moved me to tears.

I emboldened parts that moved me the most.

The greatest thing [Graham] ever said to me was in 1943 after the opening of Oklahoma!, when I suddenly had unexpected, flamboyant success for a work I thought was only fairly good, after years of neglect for work I thought was fine. I was bewildered and worried that my entire scale of values was untrustworthy. I talked to Martha. I remember the conversation well. It was in a Schrafft’s restaurant over a soda. I confessed that I had a burning desire to be excellent, but no faith that I could be.

Martha said to me, very quietly: “There is a vitality, a life force, an energy, a quickening that is translated through you into action, and because there is only one of you in all of time, this expression is unique. And if you block it, it will never exist through any other medium and it will be lost. The world will not have it. It is not your business to determine how good it is nor how valuable nor how it compares with other expressions. It is your business to keep it yours clearly and directly, to keep the channel open. You do not even have to believe in yourself or your work. You have to keep yourself open and aware to the urges that motivate you. Keep the channel open … No artist is pleased. [There is] no satisfaction whatever at any time. There is only a queer divine dissatisfaction, a blessed unrest that keeps us marching and makes us more alive than the others.

The struggle that Agnes de Mille expresses seems universal within artistic communities. It often is the target of my insecurities and dissatisfaction with my own work. I can look at an image that I took and know its value as possible good and satisfactory to our clients. But I think it absolutely sucks.

There are hardly any jobs that I release to clients that I’m happy with. Sometimes years down the road, I’ll look at work and think, “Oh, that’s pretty good.”

But there’s rarely a feeling of my own work that reaches a level any higher than mediocrity. Finding worth in my stuff is forever a challenge. When Tina asks me how much I want to charge for intensive edits to photos, I’ll freeze up.

Just last week, we were contacted by a commercial architect who wasn’t happy with the way the sign on a building he designed was appearing in photos. The logo was raised white type on a beige surface back lighted with tungsten light, that’s to say the temperature of the light appears yellow to the human eye.” They wanted the light to match the inside light, which was appearing “white” which is something I did in post. The interior lights are florescent which is “green” to the human eye. So the white light behind a white sign on a beige building? Who knew that that would be illegible?

They also wanted the glow behind the sign to scale back some 60% to 70%. Something I could only do in camera by taking photos of it 60% dimmer.

The problem was the plates of the sign are the plates. Plates are exposures of an image that we use to blend together to make a final image. Typically that means I take a regular exposure followed by a very bright one and a very dark one. That way my shadows and highlights can find the right balance. Our eyes do a pretty good job of capturing balanced imagery, and we don’t tend to know the difference within in the limitations of modern cameras.

I had to recreate the sign from a logo, erase the existing one, and replace it to look realistic. I was, in a real world scenario, providing them with documentation for how their sign really appears in real life.

The torment and the time it took to recreate the sign to “look realistic” was painstaking. The client kept using terminology like, “Just make 50% less glowing” which didn’t mean I could flip a switch and bring down the glow. That required a completely new, built from scratch logo, including three dimensions and a new application of a glow that wasn’t white, but wasn’t yellow.

What I heard was how I’d failed to capture the sign in an impossible way, a way that does not exist in photographic techniques. They exist only in re-touching techniques. And sometimes my brain only wants to express reality and not what, say, happens in one’s imagination.

And by the end of it, I was screaming at my screen that I wanted to give up all things photography. I loved my original work and thought it was solid.

At the end of it, I created a much better version of the logo on the side of the building. Something the designers needed to have done in the first place. But I digress.

Said and done, I thought Martha Graham was talking to me, directly, when she said, “You do not have to believe in yourself or your work.”

Hard stop. Wow. There are so many things that either I do not create because fear prevents me from doing so or I create and am paralyzed to share with the world what I created.

But if no one ever sees it, no one may ever be inspired by it.

We are bombarded right now with information from all directions. And sometimes that knowledge prevents me from contributing something on top of that.

It’s not my job to be celebrity or well received by all people. It’s a bit pretentious to assume that I could be that to other people. I read an article recently that at no time in history are so many people this well known thanks to social media.

Thousands of people might see something I’ve done and see my name attached to it. And that, in some ways, that’s celebrity-esque. I don’t even blink when someone has a byline next to a piece of art. I rarely know the name associated with much that’s out there. But if you go to a museum, you may recognize more names, because there used to be far less to choose from (even though there were likely budding artists who we’ll never know about).

Anyway, I hope this quote inspires you like it did me.

Create! Just do something. Even if it sucks. And share it. Someone somewhere will appreciate it.

Continue reading “Martha Graham’s advice to Agnes de Mille”

What dinosaurs actually looked like

When I was a kid, I would hear news about millions of years old or billions, and my brain was trained to shut that shit out or disregard it as satanic propaganda. But there was always a level of cognitive dissonance that I couldn’t stop thinking about.

The smart people in the room thought in terms of evolution. And there was a point when I was sick of finding myself in the corner with a dunce hat on my head.

The distance that evangelicals go to try and battle evolutionary ideas from their children is quite unbelievable looking back at it. It makes sense. Get ’em young. But the world really makes much more sense in the evolutionary standpoint.

Anyway, I repeat myself too much.

Take a look at this cool video. Enjoy.

As the year 12,021 slowly comes to an end, we present to you the 12,022 Human Era Calendar: Eons Edition. You can get the very shiny, high-quality, limited edition now until we sell out and then never again. WORLDWIDE SHIPPING AVAILABLE.

Sources & further reading:…

The past is a vast and mysterious land that begins at the big bang and ends in the present, expanding with each passing moment. It is the home of everything that came before, the key to understanding our present. Here we find the most amazing creatures to ever roam our planet, hundreds of millions of species so diverse that our imagination cannot do them justice. Unfortunately the past carefully guards its secrets.

Facebook’s most popular pages for Christian and Black American content were being run by Eastern European troll farms

This article is a fun read.

Facebook loves to target vulnerable people with provocative content. That’s not a mystery.

Older generations are one of the easiest targets of meme finding and sharing, especially ones who aren’t able to generate their own voice into words. So they use bumper sticker solutions that kind of qualify their “opinions.”

It’s sad. Especially because they don’t realize they are the ones being targeted by farms of people in Eastern Europe who LOVE to get their attention.

I am and I’m not surprised how people who otherwise claim they do not subscribe to conspiracy theories like QAnon are more likely to spread their theories, because of these kinds of troll farms.

From the article:

Troll farms—professionalized groups that work in a coordinated fashion to post provocative content, often propaganda, to social networks—were still building massive audiences by running networks of Facebook pages. Their content was reaching 140 million US users per month—75% of whom had never followed any of the pages. They were seeing the content because Facebook’s content-recommendation system had pushed it into their news feeds.

“Instead of users choosing to receive content from these actors, it is our platform that is choosing to give [these troll farms] an enormous reach,” wrote the report’s author, Jeff Allen, a former senior-level data scientist at Facebook.

Reuters: OAN Was Created By And Is Funded By AT&T

I know way too many people who get their news from OAN and it’s dumbfounding how amazingly horrible they are at their jobs. But this development that AT&T started and funds the network is nuts.

“What science can tell us about the benefits of religion”

The above headline caught my eye:

So I took a look at the article (here).

People have turned to religious practice to help them deal with issues of life and death, loss and meaning for thousands of years. In his new book “How God Works,” psychologist David DeSteno uses the latest scientific evidence to examine how rituals help shape behaviors such as compassion, trust and resilience and why many of them are so beneficial. He looks at how Shinto rituals surrounding childbirth can help strengthen parental bonds with children. He shows how Buddhist meditation can increase compassion. And he considers how the Jewish practice of sitting shiva helps those who are mourning.

Go read the whole thing. It’s quite the acrobatic approach to picking and choosing parts of all faiths to approach life.

The most accurate part of the piece was this line: “I can’t be sure God doesn’t exist. I see no evidence of it, but I can’t be sure.”

Hard stop.

That’s what all people should admit. And yet, many people have told me that I’m the one who is pretentious, pompous or whatever to think I’m right.

There’s absolutely NO way to know if you’re right about God. None. So one can merely believe or not. It’s not a big deal.

We were in Santa Fe last week for a project. On the plane back, the guy next to me was reading a tome of a book. I finally caught the title. It was, “The Gagging of God” by D.A. Carson.

The man reading it was highlighting the hell out of the pages. One chapter title read something about how Christians need to insert themselves into Hollywood-level cinema. As if to say, “To be a propagandist, you must be the propagandist.”


I wanted so badly to lean over and say, “You’re wasting your time.”

How can a person reasonably pursue a book that claims that the creator of the universe can be gagged? As if this being is approachable in the first place to wrap a gag around his mouth and tie it in the back. As if God’s creations are powerful enough to overpower the all powerful.

This is the problem with religion in America. People claim that God is removed from culture, schools, government, families, etc. That this is what causes problems. When one speaks of the almighty, the all powerful, the omniscience, the omnipresence in this way … it demeans and belittles the views they claim to uphold.

Disbelief should NOT cause a less powerful god. It should not diminish his ability to reign supreme. And yet the thought crime of not worship or no faith is the kryptonite that crumples God’s muscles into flaccid atrophied flappy skin?

When I looked up the book later, it had some mixed reviews. Most people thought it was too long and repetitious. Some had a reasonably good criticism of its approach. Others loved it.

No one criticized the title for being egregiously damning of God and his character.

According to the reviews, though, one of the sections of the book is critical of universalism, which is the point of the article I posted above. One should not mix ideologies or religious practices. Buddhistic practices have no place in the minds of congregants.

Universalism might have saved my deconversion. But it arrived to the massacre too late. And by massacre, I mean the 10-year battle to diminish belief from my noggin.

The end of the article on faith is equally troubling:

Q: Where do you see some of the trends in religious practice headed?

A: People are leaving faiths. They’re looking for new ways to be spiritual. But when you leave the institution behind, you often leave behind all these tools, rituals and practices that form the daily rhythms of life. You can’t just create a ritual randomly. Over thousands of years they’ve been kind of debugged to leverage the mechanisms of our minds and bodies.

“People are leaving faiths” followed by “they are looking for new ways to be spiritual” is completely illogical.

Leaving faith and looking for spirituality is not cogent.

I left faith and did not replace practices for other practices. That’s why it’s a challenge to hang with anyone who practices their rituals. Tina and I hope for the best, but that doesn’t make us prayerful. We think about others, but that doesn’t mean we reach out to some power for intercession. We hope that it makes people feel better if we say we’re praying for them. But that’s not really what we’re doing.

Since I stopped “praying”, whatever I do hope for in a “prayerful” manner has a better track record as it did when I “prayed” to a deity. So I find it hard to return to the ways I was taught.

I find value in yoga. But it’s not a spiritual love. It’s a physical one. My body and mind reach a zen place, but it’s because we’re loving ourselves and those who practice with us. It’s a chance to pause from the rat race.

If that’s spirituality, then I would have stayed in church. Self care and care of others is what I was taught the church offered, but as I grew up I saw that it really wasn’t. It’s a method for people to cope with not caring about all people regardless of sex, race, love interest, etc. The church said Jesus loved all the children, but the church also said those children need to profess faith in God, or they’ll burn endlessly … like the sun.

And that, dear reader, is why this guy doesn’t adhere to church teachings. You can’t love all the children with threats of torture and be legit.

Clap hands like dusting chalkboard erasers.

That’s the breaking point.

Sam Raimi being Sam Raimi is Raimi

I watched this short dissection of a scene from Spiderman 2, and while I loved rewatching the visuals, I was a little miffed that Evan Puschak was so pleased with his review of it.

To me, a Sam Raimi fan through and through, loved the scene at the time and bought a copy of the film to rewatch just that scene over and over. It was a precision homage to himself in an otherwise non-horror film.

But, I share it anyway, because it encapsulates why I loved the movie. Take a look.