Monday, September 18, 2017

From the October Atlantic, "The First White President," page 76... "It is often said that Trump has no real ideology, which is not true--his ideology is white supremacy, in all its truculent and sanctimonious power," by Ta-Nehisi Coates.

The president is an embarrassment to many Americans because many people who are not Americans believe he represents in the way he looks, in the way he conducts his life, in the way he expresses his true beliefs the way Americans believe themselves to be.  This BLOG entry from Paradise Village in National City is meant as a declaration that Donald Trump doesn't indicate who I am or what I think the world should think about Americans.  His election is a cruel joke my country and on the world.  I am reading and hearing many other Americans saying he doesn't represent them either. He won't get a second term, and I doubt the he can serve out one complete term of office without being removed from office by impeachment.



Sunday, September 17, 2017

The October Atlantic has gripped my attention to the extent that I'm having a hard time wrenching myself away from an uncomfortable reality that is the focus of the magazine.  I looked around the room where I'm working now and reminded myself that I am surrounded by books and "stuff" that declare that the protection and elevation of white people should not be the focus of an American president.  I am reminded that the man who is president now got his political start by declaring his devotion to a false idea that the first Black president of the country doesn't have a right to be in that high office.  His stroll into a political career began with his advocacy of Birtherism... and he had to know that the Barack Obama was born in the U.S.A., yet he couldn't stand the idea that a Black man could be president.  His inherent belief in white supremacy could win in the American social climate of this time. He and his handlers built a campaign around that notion, and he was carried to an Electoral  College win in the  election. He did not win by popular vote, a fact that he doesn't face honestly.  

Other essays in the October Atlantic which all Americans should read: "How Americans Lost Faith in the Presidency" by Ken Burns and Lynn Novice; "Is Trump Ending the American Era?" by Eliot A. Cohen; and "The First White President" by Ta-Nehisi Coats.

Saturday, September 16, 2017

Margaret was making soup from the leftover bones from a Costco chicken, and just as she was about to throw away these ugly pieces our television set was delivering into our apartment our president explaining what he was going to do with the 800,000 young immigrants who were brought into the US from their home country when they were very young.   The average age of The Dreamers when they were brought into our country was age 6 1/2.  Margaret went on with the task of making her soup, and I used my iPhone to take the picture above. I confess to thinking that the President of the United States of America, my president, is as distasteful to me as the bag of bones. The President was exclaiming how he loved The Dreamers.  I was thinking WHAT?  He had announced to two powerful Democrats that he is willing to "allow" the 800,000 to avoid immediate deportation.  The President and his party that is in the majority in both Houses of Congress are not agreeing on the ways he is following through on some of his campaign promises.  What will come next from the White House, is anyone's guess.

My October issue of The Atlantic came this week.  Jack Goldsmith, a former assistant attorney general in the George W. Bush administration, has written an essay that all Americans should read.  He fears for the Republic if the president continues to behave in his office as he has behaved up to this point in his administration. I quote here the first paragraph of Goldsmith's essay:

"Donald Trump is testing the institution of the presidency unlike any of his 43 predecessors.  We have never had a president so ill-informed about the nature of his office, so openly mendacious, so self-destructive, or so brazen in his abusive attacks on the courts, the press, Congress (including members of his own party), and even senior officials within his own administration.  Trump is a Frankenstein's monster of past presidents' worst attributes: Andrew Jackson's rage; Millard Fillmore's bigotry; James Buchanon's incompetence and spite; Theodore Roosevelt's self-aggrandizement; Richard Nixon's paranoia, insecurity, and indifference to law; and Bill Clinton's lack of self control and reflexive dishonesty."

You can read the entire essay in the October 2017 issue of The Atlantic, pages 60-66.

Friday, September 15, 2017

I was out for a walk this morning... with my phone/camera, and I came across blossoms on a tree in the new park near our building.  I probably once knew the name of the tree that belongs to these flowers, but I've forgotten it.  The flower is extraordinarily beautiful, so I couldn't pass it by without taking pictures. After leaving the park and the beautiful flowers on a new tree, I came across the bunch of clean branches of a low-growing plant. I don't know the name of this plant either.  The tangle of branches reminded me of the tangle of ideas coming out of Washington, D.C., especially those coming from the White House. The president's reversals after his meeting with two Democrats left me wondering what's about to happen.  The North Korean testing of a ballistic missile and the President's saying again that there were some good people among the neo-nazis and white supremacists in the Charlottesville last month and his reluctance to acknowledge that there is anything in the weather that smacks of climate change and on and on and one he goes with language that is designed to reassure  people whose lives have been torn apart by hurricanes that they will be "all right."

Thursday, September 14, 2017

Big Day at Paradise Village...  Mr. White unveils a poster (which will be replaced by a proper sign) dedicating and naming the new park.  Big plans were announced for the beautiful new park after we heard about the development of the plan to build a retirement village.  Margaret and I feel very fortunate to be members of this community.

Wednesday, September 13, 2017

The human condition is the subject of Sophocles writing, and he seems not to come up with a satisfactory answer to the problems associated with being human.   His characters seem destined to fail to solve the problems associated with their human condition.  Antigone seems to understand that she is helpless to solve the problems that are inflicted on her and on her family. 

Living in a retirement community isn’t like living out in the world.  Living in a retirement community is a bit like living as Antigone did with the reminder that there is finally nothing that a person can do to avoid the suffering and pain that comes with the search for solutions.  So like Antigone, one must look for a way to be at least dignified in the confrontation of inevitable suffering and pain.

Wow! I just reread that last paragraph, and it sounds worse than it actually is… but I’ve decided not to change it, to soften it.  I don’t have any pain and suffering… but I know it is coming for many of the people who surround me here.  Perhaps the knowledge that it will come should bother me more than it does.

Tuesday, September 12, 2017

Today is my 82nd birthday.  Birthdays are family events with friends who are as close or closer than family.  Today I have received phone calls from members of my extended family and from a slew of wonderful friends.  I mentioned two days ago that I would have something to say about family.  I wan’t thinking about my birthday.  I wasn’t thinking about any of my family members in particular, but I was thinking about Sophocles and his 2500-year-old play, Antigone.  I wrote yesterday and the day before about the play.  I’m not at all sure what I will write tomorrow, but today I must say that I am very, very fortunate to be a member of the family into which I was born.  We are typically American… but we have a world view that makes me proud.  There are Republican members of the family and there are Democrats.  We talk with each other about politics… and after the talks we love each other even more… if that is possible.  

The play was written around a myth which educated Greeks knew.  Oedipus killed his Father and married his mother… of course, neither Oedipus nor Jocasta knew who the other was, and that isn’t the point of the story.  They had four children, Antigone, Ismene, Eteocles, and Polyneices.  The sad story of their lives as it was told by Sophocles was meant to focus on family and family relationships, but my emphasis in writing about the play is not on the incestuous relationship, unknown to the characters as they lived out their lives and approached tragic deaths.  

My focus is now on the two sons of Oedipus… and their deaths, accomplishing nothing… I’ll try to pull my thoughts together before writing more.

Monday, September 11, 2017

Antigone:  About the play… The stuff of a 2500-year-old soap opera.

Background:  the four children of Oedipus are Antigone and Ismene, sisters who are on opposite sides in responses to a decree by the new ruler of Thebes and Eteocles and Polyneices, brothers on opposite sides in a civil war who have killed each other in battle… As the play opens, the new ruler, Creon, uncle to the four grown children of Oedipus, has issued a decree that Eteocles’ body should be honored with the burial ritual of a hero, and the body of Polyneices, should be left unburied in the battle field, denying him sanctified holy rites.  Antigone is unable to persuade her sister to join her in response to Creon’s decree, and she spreads dirt on the body of Polyneices.  Creon is furious and orders a sentry to find the person guilty of defying his order.  The sentry brings Antigone to Creon. She argues with him about the morality of his decree, and his fury continues… Creon declares that Antigone will die for her defiance.  Ismene’s is upset by the circumstances and tries to make things right with Antigone by saying to Creon that she was guilty of helping her sister with the rituals… and thinking she was a partner with Antigone in her crime against him… Creon orders both of them to be imprisoned until they can be executed.  Creon’s son, Haemon, who is engaged to marry Antigone, tries to persuade his father to spare her life, to forgive her. Creon and his son argue and separate angrily.  Creon forgives Ismene but doesn’t relent his anger toward Antigone.  He orders Antigone to be buried alive in a cave. Antigone hangs herself.  

A messenger comes onto the stage to report Antigone’s death.  Eurydice, Creon’s wife and Haemon’s mother enters and asks the messenger to tell her everything.  The messenger says he saw that Creon had taken the advice of the leader of the chorus and has allowed the body of Polyneices to be buried. Creon comes to Antigone’s cave where he found his son grieving over the body of Antigone.  Creon and Haemon fight.  Haemon tries to stab his father, doesn’t manage to do it, and instead stabs himself.  Eurydice grieving goes into the palace.

The play ends with Creon carrying his son Haemon’s body.  The messenger arrives to say that Eurydice has killed herself and that she cursed her husband as she died.  The play ends with Creon still being the king, but that he has lost everything important to his life…his wife, his children… 

Sunday, September 10, 2017

After the Sunday organ recital at the great outdoor pipe organ in Balboa Park, my mind was thrown into a state of confusion.  The organist, someone I know, was not announced at the beginning or at the end of the performance, and the audience was told to speak of him as "anonymous."  Everyone who attended the concert was asked to agree not to talk about the concert by saying who played the organ even if we knew his name. The audience was asked not to take photographs or videos of the concert. The reasons given had to do with fairness relating to the hiring of a new city organist.

A group of friends and I are reading and discussing The Great Transformation by Karen Armstrong.  Before going to the concert, Margaret and I attended the hour-long discussion about a short section of Armstrong's book.  Karen Armstrong, a former nun and a scholar, has caught my attention with her ideas about how religions that exist in the world today got their start. The section of the book we read before today's discussion was about the history and particularly about the "world view" of the people who lived and thought and wrote in Greece 2500 years ago.  Included in Armstrong's book and therefore in our discussion were the ideas that were explored in the plays of Sophocles, particularly in the tragedy Antigone... so I reread the play and reviewed the history of the period in Greek history when the play was written.  Before I go on with "a discussion" and an explanation in the Blog of the muddle in my thinking about how Sophocles plays are appropriate to the political situation in my country today, I have some more thinking to do.

The last time I spent time thinking about Sophocles and his plays, I was preparing to talk with high school seniors about Antigone.  I am thinking again about those days and Sophocles' notions about human conflict, particularly political conflict, and I may try to devote a few days of Blog writing to the subject.  We'll see...

Friday, September 08, 2017

In Elaine's and Patric's backyard... Kambucha stares at something I can't see.  Earlier at the beach south of Carlesbad a ground squirrel peeked at me.  Kambucha would have had a good time with that squirrel.  I don't think the encounter would have been friendly.  Brynn and Margaret were expressing their joy at the same place where I took the picture of the squirrel.  Our old friend Gary joined us for a ride around San Diego County.  Today was good.  The cat and the squirrel didn't get together, which was a good thing.

Thursday, September 07, 2017

A favorite Eucalyptus in Balboa Park... behind the parking lot behind the Science Museum... I see this amazing tree on my way to my volunteer job at the Museum of Photographic Arts.  Other big Eucalyptus trees have been blown over by winds earlier this year.  I keep hoping this one will continue to stand.

Monday, September 04, 2017

Walking through the Paradise Valley park on my way this afternoon to visit Jim Fudge, I stopped to take a picture of the pebbles and the big rocks in the pond.  There is a little oval on the biggest rock, and I will try to remember to look tomorrow to see if the marking is on the rock or is it the effect of something on my lens or...  Anyway, it's a mystery for now.

I also had coffee with Eric Johnson this morning, and I wanted to take a picture of him for this BLOG, but I decided against it... because the conversation we were having was too important to be interrupted with a photograph.  Friendship is better than good.  I can't resist those Hibiscus flowers outside the Parkside building.

Saturday, September 02, 2017

Search for myself... On a stroll up 4th Street East in National City where I live, I walked behind a long shadow of myself, and although the word "selfie" seems not quite the appropriate way of thinking of what I was about to do, I went ahead with the operation.  My mobile phone was the only camera I carried with me, so I took it out and snapped the image which I downloaded onto my computer.  The usual distortion of the image caused by the angle and distance makes my head seem smaller than it is, but looking at the shadow picture, I can identify myself.

I've liked Joseph Albers' work for a long time.  I especially like his series of paintings which he identifies as "Homage to the Square."  At least 30 years ago I first saw the actual painting that hangs in the San Diego Museum of Art.  I seem to remember seeing the painting at one of the museums in Washington D.C.  It occurred to me then and again when I saw it in San Diego that the artist was searching for himself when he painted it.  It hangs in the gallery beside the Frank Stella painting which I posted yesterday.

Trying to make sense of works of abstract art, especially abstract expressionist works, I have come to the conclusion that all of the examples that I can call to my mind, are examples of a person searching for himself/herself.  I am unwilling to commit myself to the notion that all art is done as a journey by an artist who is trying to find who he/she is, but the more I think about it, the more the notion seems to make sense.  I'll give the idea more thought.  Perhaps I'll even do some research, including talking with artists, with the people who "do art."


Friday, September 01, 2017

Frank Stella’s very large painting at the San Diego Museum of Art in Balboa Park is one in a group of paintings he called “Protractor Series.”  I like it and don’t know why.  Perhaps it is the boldness of his idea.  I think he called it “Flin Elon VIII.”  It was done in 1970.  

Perhaps I like it for the same reason that I like two photographs I got this morning at the new park at Paradise Village.  One of those pictures is of a little group of toadstools, and the other is  of small rocks on the bottom of a pool of water in the park.