The avalanche starts with a whistling wind through the trees on a quiet mountain top


I am a lifelong Republican. I voted for every Republican presidential candidate from 1968 to 2004. But I have watched what once was a sane, center-right party go off the rails, first to the extreme right, then to wherever Trump is, which is in another universe.

It’s tough, but we must end this dangerous presidency. Trump must be impeached and removed with all haste. But only Congress can initiate the process.

Our congressman, Steve Chabot, has been busy defending Trump from the media, which is simply reporting Trump’s machinations. It’s time for him to man-up and start drafting the articles of impeachment. As I remember, he did it for Clinton for far less than Trump has already done.

After the election, many hoped that Trump would “grow up” into the job – that he couldn’t possibly be as bad as some thought. Well, it’s gone the other way. The bully has become a more entitled bully. Anyone disagreeing is attacked. Policy is announced in illiterate tweets.

Read the rest here.

“This piece, written by Mark P. Painter, was posted on Cincinnati.com Tuesday. Painter is a lifelong Cincinnatian, and served as a judge for 30 years.”

The so-called hypocrisy of the left


I saw these two videos recently going around as cock-sure evidence that the left is sooooooooo hypocritical. As if we’re whiny babies about Donald J. Trump’s policies but glossy-eyed, pigeon-toed, gawking goober sluts when the leader from the democratic party showed signs of strength regarding immigration or border protection.

As the french say, “Holy shit balls, these videos are awesome!”

There’s not a lefty libtard I’ve ever met who didn’t agree and support the statements made here by President Clinton or President Obama. Strength of borders and concentrated, calculated approach to common sense ideas regarding these topics is what I expect from any sitting president.

Using these videos as some kind of proof of hypocrisy is dumbfounding, and it just shows how little thought any conservative seems to put into the discussion.

No one wants open borders, illegals skipping to their loo over borders.

The issue is the current commander in chief thinks it’d be a great investment to drop upwards of $25B on a goddamn wall. Here is an excellent write up on what the issues of building a wall are.

The other issue is the big, bad MAGA MAGA MAGA Muslim ban-cheese-balls- stir up the gun-totin’, dip spittin’, brainless cowherd that is the base of the rightwing dingdong parade. You know, the smarty-mc-smart cocks who post stuff like these videos and think, “That’ll show ’em!”

And now, let’s open this big dusty book to Matthew. Chapter 25.

34 “Then the King will say to those on his right, ‘Come, you who are blessed by my Father; take your inheritance, the kingdom prepared for you since the creation of the world. 35 For I was hungry and you gave me something to eat, I was thirsty and you gave me something to drink, I was a stranger and you invited me in, 36 I needed clothes and you clothed me, I was sick and you looked after me, I was in prison and you came to visit me.’

37 “Then the righteous will answer him, ‘Lord, when did we see you hungry and feed you, or thirsty and give you something to drink? 38 When did we see you a stranger and invite you in, or needing clothes and clothe you? 39 When did we see you sick or in prison and go to visit you?’

And then Jesus tells them that the lefties are going to hell.

Wait a minute!

I meant to say turn in your bible-pa-loozas to Luke chapter 10 verse 25:

25 On one occasion an expert in the law stood up to test Jesus. “Teacher,” he asked, “what must I do to inherit eternal life?”

26 “What is written in the Law?” he replied. “How do you read it?”

27 He answered, “‘Love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your strength and with all your mind’[a]; and, ‘Love your neighbor as yourself.’[b]

28 “You have answered correctly,” Jesus replied. “Do this and you will live.”

29 But he wanted to justify himself, so he asked Jesus, “And who is my neighbor?”

30 In reply Jesus said: “A man was going down from Jerusalem to Jericho, when he was attacked by robbers. They stripped him of his clothes, beat him and went away, leaving him half dead. 31 A priest happened to be going down the same road, and when he saw the man, he passed by on the other side. 32 So too, a Levite, when he came to the place and saw him, passed by on the other side.33 But a Samaritan, as he traveled, came where the man was; and when he saw him, he took pity on him. 34 He went to him and bandaged his wounds, pouring on oil and wine. Then he put the man on his own donkey, brought him to an inn and took care of him. 35 The next day he took out two denarii[c] and gave them to the innkeeper. ‘Look after him,’ he said, ‘and when I return, I will reimburse you for any extra expense you may have.’

36 “Which of these three do you think was a neighbor to the man who fell into the hands of robbers?”

37 The expert in the law replied, “The one who had mercy on him.”

Jesus told him, “Go and do likewise.”

Gosh, I wish I knew more biblical references to taking care of all people, no matter the race or religion.

Whatever. It’s just Jesus.

That brings me back to these videos. Seriously? This is the best the right can come up with as “proof” of hypocrisy? I’m stupefied.

Common sensical approaches to immigration and border protection is just that: Common Fucking Sense.

Sweeping explosive bullshit Muslim bans on some, but not all, Muslim countries and throwing money down the toilet to build an “I’ve got little hands, an even smaller penis, and no brains” wall … that there is some level of stupid I’ve never experienced.

Not standing up to the Cheeto in the white house whether conservative or liberal, now that’s the conversation we should be having. And when Trump gets thrown out, by his own people, I’ll be waiting for some fucking apologies — or apologizes as the Department of Education spells it — when it happens.

It’s forever Caturday


Yesterday evening, we said goodbye to our beloved kitten companion of 17 years Zoe Ann Witteveen Serafini.

She died at exactly 6:30 p.m. February 4, 2017.

The hurt from this loss stands alone as a pain I hate more and more with every passing second.

Zoe has been sick for a long time, probably longer than we could ever understand. She started yowling at night at least two years ago. And for a while, we thought it was her being a big jerk. And over time, I came to the conclusion that she was actually in pain. She wouldn’t want to tell us about the pain, but I thinks she went deaf as well. And she probably didn’t realize how loud her calls were.

We live in an apartment of six units, and I’m sure there were hours of her cries when our neighbors below and next to us had to have heard her.

Tina and I had started living with it, accommodating it the best we could. We thought she was craving water, so we left water bowls every where. When we heard water fountains are good for this kind of thing, we bought one. We often left toilet seats up (I know, gross), and water dripping in a couple different sinks.

Making the decision to euthanize her practically killed our spirits. Surely we could have lived with the night screaming and her strained breathing a little longer?

But the consensus is that it’s better to help her go while she’s still standing a little than when she can no longer function well. And that’s the only glimmer of hope we have that we did the right thing.

It’s been a particularly painful week of intermittent crying spells due to a strained family situation that I finally had to conclude was hurting me more than I could bear. I decided years ago that there were members of my family that cared more about hurting me than trying to have a relationship that didn’t include sadistic heapings of disturbing infliction of pain. It became torturelike. And no amount of discussion solved the problem.

I’ve been having nightmares, terrors and sleep paralysis for years. There comes a point when crying in private must stop.

One can only take so much stabbing before they need hospitalization.

There’s a dark cloud around these parts. I hate it.

Hate. it. so. much.

 

 

Come in. Sit on the couch. Tell me what you think. You’ve got an hour.


Yesterday my brother called.

We shared a text conversation earlier in the day. He sent me a quote from Sufjan Stevens.

It started like this:

America,

There really is no such thing as an illegal immigrant, for we are all immigrants and refugees in a wildly changing world that is dominated by superfluous boundaries built by blood and war. We all come from somewhere else. The truest of “Americans” have either been destroyed by the white immigrant, incarcerated, isolated, held captive, or stolen and enslaved. 

Read the rest here.

I thanked him for sharing. It was a cool quote. And it even referred to Jesus (turning the other cheek, loving enemies, etc.) and also to prayer. The quote itself embodies my own politics. Even though I don’t believe in a deified Jesus. I value my root understanding of him and who he was as a radical mind.

It drives me nuts that Jesus was clear about how to act and do in the world. And yet, no Evangelical would ever actually have enough faith that behaving like him would be the best option in the world. You can’t stop terror or enemies by turning the other cheek, offering up your last article of clothing, paying for someone else’s medical bills, etc etc etc.

Wait, can you? Why did he teach that stuff? What was his point?

One time, a wise evangelical explained this outright (“You can’t be friends with Muslims. You must fight. You must go to war.” I nodded my head at the time in utter confusion. I’ve always been down on myself for not saying, “Are you sure?”

Realistically or maybe practically, you’re digging your own grave or expecting a good hurtin’ if you act like Jesus acted. That’s why he said, “Turn the other cheek.” That means, “If they hurt you once, offer them another body part to hurt.” If anyone did act like Jesus, Christianity would go extinct in a jicama heartbeat. No no no. Jesus’s commandments weren’t “commands” but recommendations if not a nice story or two to pass the time on a Sunday morning between cinnamon buns and a big lunch.

Later in the day, I text my brother:

With all that’s going on in the world, I’m seriously considering looking for a new therapist or maybe going back to one I used to go to. I’m finding that i’m obsessing over it. 

My brother text me back a few hours later and wrote:

Sorry, just saw this.  Sorry to hear about the therapist…I’m gonna call you!

He called almost immediately and wanted to chat about the therapist thing. I think he thought my situation was much more dire. “Sorry about this …” Like I was living on the brink of brain explosive, skyscraper jumping, madness.

I don’t have a negative view of therapy. It’s positive. Therapy is a good thing. It took me over half my total 41 years to arrive at this conclusion. And when I finally did, holy shit, it was life changing.

When I was growing up, I was taught therapy was negative. Jesus is the wonderful counselor, prince of peace and all that shit. But you can talk to Jesus all day long, and he’s not going to help guide a more thoughtful way of approach through two-way discussion, focused listening and guided meditation. He’s just going to, wait, he’s not going to do a fucking thing. Unless you describe to him abandonment issues and then you call opening your bible and reading about the time he walked on water or recommended the Israelites bash babies heads on rocks as the best thing you can try to alleviate this kind of pain.

My point was that I just need to talk to a professional listener for an hour a week.

What’s going on in the world is definitely affecting me. And it’s why you’re seeing more activity here on this blog. I need to raise my voice, if only for the few of you who may be stopping by.

It’s not just Trump. And it’s not just America. It’s world events. It’s the shooting in Quebec. It’s terror. It’s earthquakes, tornadoes and hurricanes.

Whenever a mass something happens, I find myself pressing refresh on newsfeeds. It’s a 9/11 complex. And there’s so much 9/11-y type shit happening right now that I can’t stop clicking refresh.

I don’t watch TV News. I haven’t for eons. Visually, the redundancy is cataclysmic and it’s wrong. To listen to talking heads or to pundits is, quite possibly, the worst thing anyone can do for their brains.

I am a fan of NPR. No yelling. No screaming. Not a lot of out-of-control pundits. It’s not visual. It’s all aural. Once in a while I’ll find myself turning on a TV so I can see some visual that I can’t imagine.

My brother tried to console me a bit by repeating what some conservatives are repeating, which is: “Why not give Trump a chance? It’s only been a week, for pete’s sake!”

To that I say, “I’m strapped in. I’m doing my best to ride this tidal wave!”

My problem is I’ve read the 140 characters that emit from his fucked-up brain as they arrive on the twitter feeds. Way before that, I listened to him devalue the patriotism of John McCain. That alone should have disqualified any man from becoming a leader this country let alone a contender. I listened to him talk about assaulting women. I watched him make fun of a handicapped journalist.

I’ve even given credence to watching videos showing Trump making that same gesture when talking about so-called non-handicapped people, like Ted Cruz. Let me tell you, I’m not convinced. And even if Trump wasn’t making fun of Serge Kovaleski, stack the offensive behavior atop his inaugural speech atop his megalomaniacal obsession with deceiving the American public (e.g. inaugural crowd, alt facts, his own greatness, his executive orders, etc.), and we have a great case against a piece of shit of a man.

My approach is hardly ever going to be one of forgiveness and acceptance for his appalling behavior during the first 8 days of his unprecedented bizarreness that is his presidency.

As I’ve written on this blog, I was taught that leaders lead via strength of character, excellence in behavior, truth in perspective, focus from distraction, integrity, stoicism, authenticity, and accountability.

They should have a strong moral character. I can’t find these qualities in Donald Trump. It makes it really hard not to criticize him. But I’m listening. I’m watching. And I’m doing my best to be patient.

Okay. That sound means my hour is up. Thanks for letting me sit on your couch. See you next week.

See Johnny Depp run. Run, Johnny. Run!


 

I saw a meme on Facebook with Pirates of the Caribbean in which Johnny Depp’s character was being chased by an angry mob of 100 or 200 crazies, and the words on the screen read, “When you express your opinion on the internet.”

The guy who posted it is an evangelical and his Facebook posts rarely get more than a handful of likes. So it’s a head scratcher as to why he thinks his expressed opinions are so hated. I’m guessing he has a delusional victim mentality or a misplaced superiority complex. No one on social media that I can tell is oppositional to him. So maybe the lack of response causes feelings of attack.

No one ever comments on his stupid posts.

This guy was actually the principal of my Evangelical high school. He’s a guy who fed my brain so full of bullshit that I will always carry a certain level of anger that this guy was allowed at a chalkboard in front of young minds. It wasn’t that I didn’t learn anything under his tyrannical style of teaching. It’s just that the information was so far false and one-sided that once I learned about other views, and all the gray area between, I was able to determine he had little penis syndrome and wanted all young minds to never pursue a well-rounded education.

The Pirates of the Caribbean meme certainly got me thinking, though. Especially about how unwelcome his views seem to be. It’s astonishing that people bitch and moan that their views aren’t welcome in a world that has left folks like him behind. But it also is a reminder that views like his still exist. It’s astonishing.

And despite how marginalized his views are, he’ll keep posting like it’s helping his lost cause instead of learning from his failures and assimilating new ways of approach. His views are so archaic it’s like walking down the street and seeing a dinosaur, a real one. Walking, growling and munching on leaves from a tall tree.

But there’s another aspect of that Pirates of the Caribbean meme that bothers me. It’s that in the event you do express that unwelcome, archaic opinion, people like my old principal are still shocked that their “opinions” aren’t welcome.

My most popular post of all time wasn’t about religion or politics. It was about that sacred institution of quality craft called Ikea (“It’s official: Ikea is hell on earth”).

In fact, the post still gets comments despite the fact that it’s eons old and that this blog is a metaphorical ghost town. Most new comments I designate spam. I tried turning off comments years ago, but somehow they still seem to show up. I’ve even deleted comments to encourage people not to respond to other people’s hateful, mob mentality rage toward me for calling Ikea the shittiest furniture store in the universe.

There was a Pirates of the Caribbean mob mentality running after not only me, but my wife, for criticizing something so many people seem to love. I read one comment degrading Tina to her, and I found her getting really emotional and maybe even shedding a tear. It was cruel.

However I do see the hypocrisy in censoring comments on that old Ikea post. So I stare at my reflection and say, “Shame on me, too, for not understanding that expressed opinions generate responses, often nasty attacks.”

Thing was, I expressed my opinion about something a lot of people seem to like and want to defend, and the tension spilled into comments that made me want to run for cover at times.

If you fuck with other people’s “sacred” prepare yourself for pejorative responses. Here I thought we lived in a world where EVERYONE agrees that Ikea = shit. But in my bubble, I wonder how any decent human being could buy a Nickleback album let alone support a guy like Donald Trump.

On the flip, there are supporters of Trump, and Nickleback, who wonder why a person would NOT support them. There are people who think it’s funny to attack the person and not the thing.

While my point at the time of writing about Ikea was to be funny and to rail against a monster of a store that essentially steals your money in exchange for “furniture” that will be in your alley dumpster and landfills in less than 2 or 3 years.

The alternative is digging deeper into your pockets and buying something that will last 10 to 20 years … or longer … by simply investing in better quality.

But that’s not my point. My point is the whole biblical notion of you reap what you sow. If I write about Ikea being chalk full of crappy products, I should anticipate backlash.

If I post stuff that criticizes one kind of people in general, I should expect backlash.

I wonder sometimes how more people don’t understand that. If I criticize a non-person like Ikea, that’s not attacking a person. But people often misconstrue an allegiance as a personal attack.

But there are people who criticize, say, Liberals or Conservatives with false information or sweeping generalizations. Then they wonder why people respond to their views and chase them down with Internet Mob mentality negativity.

I’m done with that kind of toxic bullshit in my world, and instead of allowing it or saying, “Oh that’s okay that you’re offending me or attacking me personally,” I’m protecting myself by staying far, far away from those kinds of people.

Stick my ass with a fork. I’m fucking done.

Arkells Rock! And so do you!


Arkells perform at JBTV Music Television on January 23, 2017

Last Monday, I photographed a portrait and part of the performance with the band Arkells at JBTV Music Studio.

From Wiki:

Arkells are a Canadian rock band, formed in Hamilton, Ontario. In 2006, they signed with Dine Alone Records,[1] and have since signed with Universal Records Canada.[2] They have released four albums, two EPs and a number of singles that have charted in Canada. The band has won multiple Juno Awards, including one for their album High Noon in 2015.

As I photographed their sound check, I could tell these guys were super cool, very talented and definitely entertaining on stage. They were cool to meet in our quick photo session backstage and were complimentary of my camera gear.

They did not disappoint the crowd that showed up on their lunch breaks to catch the intimate show.

If you happened to miss them, check out anything you can find online and grab tickets next time they pass through Chicago or your town!

Arkells perform at JBTV Music Television on January 23, 2017

Arkells perform at JBTV Music Television on January 23, 2017

 

Arkells perform at JBTV Music Television on January 23, 2017

Whelp, there’s always a New Year to magically change into something you weren’t last year


I saw this quote at Kottke.org:

For what it’s worth: it’s never too late or, in my case, too early to be whoever you want to be. There’s no time limit, stop whenever you want. You can change or stay the same, there are no rules to this thing. We can make the best or the worst of it. I hope you make the best of it. And I hope you see things that startle you. I hope you feel things you never felt before. I hope you meet people with a different point of view. I hope you live a life you’re proud of. If you find that you’re not, I hope you have the courage to start all over again.

Attributed to F. Scott Fitzgerald, but was actually written by screenwriter Eric Roth for the film adaptation of The Curious Case of Benjamin Button.

If it’s any consolation or a pinch on your tuchis, Mr. President Elect Donald J. Trump probably read the same quote a year or two ago when he decided to run for office. It’s never too late to become president, an entrepreneur, a nurse, a doctor, a professor … or merely a better person.

The quote is a little long for a bumper sticker; but it’s about the same thing. “It’s never too late to be the You you always wanted to be!” These kinds of quotes definitely start hitting harder at the beginning of New Years. As if a New Year is when a person will magically change all there is about themselves and blossom into the person they just couldn’t quite become in 2016, or 2015, or 2014 … et al.

I have found myself ruminating on the idea that I can become someone I wasn’t last year or the year before. I don’t fall for it. It took a long time to get here, and I’m still forward moving … at least I hope anyway.

In my case, the person I want to become is a successful photographer with big budget projects, hot clients, and to let go of any shitty clients or work that doesn’t make me happy or satiate my creative spirit the way I supposedly think it should be.

I can’t help but be a bit cynical about success. I struggle with jealousy of other creatives, and often get angry rather than happy for other people’s successes.

I saw a quote attributed to photographer Chase Jarvis that said, “Play the long game. Be patient and know it takes time [to fulfill your ambition].” I saw it at fstoppers with other advice like:

The people you follow have been doing the above for years, and that’s why they have huge followings.

Don’t get me wrong. I have heard of people — and watched other creatives or photographers — do Lamborghini 0 to 150,000 MPH in what seems like a couple nano seconds. And I seem to examine my own path and it seems like I’m accelerating on the back of a turtle riding a snail, whose been cooked and served at a cheap French restaurant.

I have this conversation with our studio partner and one of my best friends Bill who shares that sort of cynicism about other photographers who seem to go from being an accountant to holding classes on how successful they are as a fashion photographer in less than six months.

There seems to be nothing more annoying than watching photographers post their asses off on social media hoping to garner respect, accolades, attention and new jobs. In its defense, social media is an amazing vehicle for artists. And like everything, it’s up to the artist to determine his or her involvement on social media.

I always keep in mind that social media is a deceptive front. I was at a dinner recently with seven other creative people, and the one person at the table I thought was the most successful and most creative talked about how difficult running her business is and how creativity plays such a minor role in her day-to-day life.

I’ve found that for years. Creativity is not a day-to-day luxury, and maybe … just maybe … anybody trying to tell you otherwise is fucking with you like an evangelical telling you that “the good news Gospel” is actually “good news”.

I lust over creative expression, but the time to do it is devoured by running my business. New Year’s only mean it’s time to get my paperwork together to send to my accountant. And start a new year of wondering if another client will commission me for my talent.

This last year, I failed at a few things. One was a themed monthly photo project. I stopped after six images. I also failed to continue vLogging, which I did several. Just didn’t keep it up weekly like I had hoped. I also feel that I failed to pick myself up after falling down and wiping myself off. Perhaps I got caught in the thought that, “I’ll start another creative side project again next year.” I’m not sure.

There are several keys to creativity. The main difference between a creative and, let’s say, everyone else is: ideating concepts and then executing them. It’s the follow through that sets folks apart. For me, the process of creating art is as important as the result. Quite possibly the hardest part is chipping away at the process that could take five or ten minutes or several long arduous weeks.

Fortunately, last year wasn’t all failures. My business has grown year over year since the economy tanked back in 2007-08. We worked with new and old clients that are certainly hiring us for the quality of our work. Also, I made great strides with pushing myself to a healthy equilibrium through diet and exercise. It’s not quite where I want to be, but it’s one of those on-going projects. Exercise is an investment. It’s playing the long game. I’ve also spent more time meditating than before. I do mind-calming exercises. I repeat mantras and concentrate on my breathing more. When I run long distance, I try to let my mind go blank. Or I repeat “Creativity” or “Calm” with every other step.

Twenty seventeen is a continuation of the long game, but I hope to introduce concrete creative experiences that help me grow and to keep chipping away at the same old same old that I was doing last year and hope to continue to do going forward.

Let’s do this!