The American Dilemma and How We Can Fix It

Archive for the ‘painting’ Category


This morning I was thinking about the many considerate and wonderful people I have known in my life.  I have had perhaps more than my fair share of those relationships (though in all honesty I’m not sure that one can ever have too many).

And I thought to myself, “Self, you’re a lucky person.”  I truly believe that.

It all started with my family.  Sure they were nurturing and provided me with the security that every child deserves, but through their example they taught me in a mostly unspoken way the “rules of engagement” which when I grew up seemed to be both generally expected of each of us and practiced by most.

The genesis of this post all began when I gave Gracie her morning treats.  I am always overwhelmed at the quiet dignity of this gentle giant.  How she doesn’t need words to say, “Thank you,” because the gratitude she feels is so apparent in her eyes.


It’s as though she and all the other dogs who came before her somehow intuitively know how to act in a civilized and loving manner – a skill which we humans have to acquire through parenting and the example of others – and far too many of us have skipped this class entirely or at least need to take a remedial course.

But there was a second reason for this post.  I was thinking back a few weeks to one of the children down the block who graduated from high school and how her house had been TP’d.  Until I moved out west, I was unfamiliar with this apparently common practice which involves unrolling a great quantity of toilet paper and catching it in tree branches at the matriculating senior’s place of residence.

Now this bothers me in several ways.  The first is that, for whatever reason, I have always had a great deal of admiration, respect and love for trees.  Obviously they are the source of this toilet paper and I earnestly feel hurt that we consider their lives and importance to be so trivial that we can can wantonly discard their sacrifice in this manner.  The second is that this wastefulness seems so unfortunately characteristic of our ever-consumptive and under-productive view of our world and our respective roles in society.  The practice, other than for the two reasons given above seems harmless enough and, I have learned, is almost expected.

That doesn’t mean that I grieve less for the trees.  I wanted to share an image of a painting done by Friedensreich Hundertwasser (born Friedrich Stowasser in Vienna) entitled “Conversations with a Tree.”  But while I could find the work cited in his catalogue raisonné, I couldn’t find the image itself.  All, however, was not lost as I had purchased a print, which hangs in my home,  of his painting “Noah’s Ark” which bears the admonition, “You Are A Guest Of Nature.  Behave.”


Whether the artist had the practice of TPing in mind when he executed this work is doubtful.  I’m not sure that the kids in New Zealand, where he moved and accepted citizenship, engage in the practice.  But his words speak to more than one impish prank.  They address an attitude toward life in general.

While the practice of TPing a neighbor’s house is relatively harmless and not yet construable as a Federal offense, this lack of respect (whether for Nature or for our kindred humans) has taken a nasty turn.  Apparently, some of our kids think it’s fun to create their own incendiary devices, housed in plastic bottles, and leave these on their neighbors’ lawns.

This was brought to my attention by a friend who sent me an email on the subject, and while he is someone whom I trust implicitly, nevertheless I thought I had an obligation to check out the facts (as any good reporter should).  Unfortunately, it took me less than 30 minutes to verify the information.

I am not going to list the three ingredients which combine to make this sort of “homemade Molotov cocktail” but they are items which may be found in virtually any American home or are easily purchased at our grocery stores.  When the container is picked up, the movement shakes up the contents, causing them to chemically combine and the result is that they heat up and can either cause severe burns or worse.

So my suggestion is, should you see a near empty plastic container which holds anything more than liquid in it, you should not try to dispose of it but call your local Fire or Police Department and have them handle it.

Having given you that unsettling information, I think it’s time to get back to the sense of tranquility that trees have always afforded me.  And what better way is there than with one of my favorite of the Impressionists, Paul Cezanne and his painting of “A Large Pine Tree and Red Earth.”


I wish all of you a wonderful day.


 I briefly noticed something that appeared on my Yahoo homepage a few days ago. It was entitled, “The Most Beautiful Woman Ever.” As I continued about my business I have to admit that I don’t know who the recipient of this prestigious award is as I really had no interest.

 A few days later, as a result of remembering seeing that headline, I began wondering, what is this thing called beauty? I remembered the old Latin maxim, “De gustibus non disputandum est.” (Concerning taste there should be no argument). Who were these gifted people who had risen beyond the highest heights of aesthetics and were so well-qualified that they could proclaim someone as, “the most beautiful?” And why would any intelligent person care?

 Well, I don’t know the answer to those questions – but I do know what I like and what I consider beautiful. And for that reason, I would like to take you with me on a journey that I made my junior year of high school to an art exhibit.

 Henri de Toulouse-Lautrec was an artist of extraordinary talent. I knew his name and had seen one or two of his posters in a history book, but I didn’t know much beyond that. One day a gallery about a half mile from our apartment had organized an exhibition of his work. The display included many of his posters as well as about forty of his original oils.

 Lautrec suffered from challenging physical difficulties – in part due to the fact that his parents were first cousins. He had broken both his thigh bones in his early teens and the bones never healed properly. While his torso developed normally his legs never achieved adult development and he stood just over five feet tall.

 Though Lautrec mostly drew and painted pictures of the people whom he knew at the bars and night spots that he frequented in his adopted Montmartre locale, I had only a moderate interest in these. He truly captured the decadence of people in search of joy and hope – finding only champagne and absinthe.

 But there were two paintings which captivated me. They were nearly identical country scenes. In the first canvass, Lautrec had painted a winter landscape, barren trees devoid of their leaves and the snow gently falling – blanketing the ground. This painting had a light blue tint. The second was of the same scene – except this time the artist had used a faint pink to bring the painting to life.

 It was remarkable how similar yet different these two works were. The first gave me the impression of bleakness and desolation – the second of hope and the promise of spring. Each of them in its own way was beautiful – and I spent an hour standing in front of them – looking at one and then the other, back and forth.

 Lautrec died when he was only 36 as a result of his excessive drinking. No doubt those who knew him, only seeing his deformed body, would have found looking at him disturbing.

What is truly remarkable is that in the space of less than 20 years he had created well over six thousand works of art.  And I couldn’t help but wonder – if it had not been for his physical handicaps and his tortured soul – would this “ugly” man have been inspired to draw and paint such amazing works of beauty?


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