"When dawn spreads its paintbrush on the plain, spilling purple... ," Sons of the Pioneers theme for TV show "Wagon Train." Dawn on the mythic Santa Fe Trail, New Mexico, looking toward Raton from Cimarron. -- Clarkphoto. A curmudgeon artist's musings melding metaphors and journalism, for readers in more than 150 countries.

Sunday, May 31, 2020

Justice? Normal?

"Justice?" 5 x 7 watercolor,  140 lb cold press paper
"Injustice anywhere is a threat to justice everywhere,"
                                                                --Martin Luther King Jr.
Another pandemic tears at America, threatening every citizen these days, though many of us have ignored it in the past. 
The new buzzword for recovering from the biologic virus being bandied about mindlessly and with false hope is an empty cliche "The New Normal," as though there will be normality again.
The virus of violent unjust racism erupted in a pandemic  around the country as violence and more hatred and injustice respond to the justified protests. Based on repeated instances around the country, racism apparently is the normal.
If there is to be a new normal to help heal the country, it will be justice for all.  But just as there is no vaccine for Covid-19, there apparently isn't a vaccine for racism in America.

All aboard--The blog at 11 years

Page views by month, though the blog started in May, 2009
This blog turned 11 years old on May 3, which sort of amazes me, since I didn't know then what I was doing or where it would lead or if I had the discipline to continue.
This marks the 2,386th post in the 4,013 days since then, an average of one every two days.
I'm  proud that this month the blog passed more than 310,000 page views since it began...that's an average of more than 2,300 a month. Highest month was May, 2014 with 7896 views, and two other months that year rank second and third. It was not until December, 2019 that it topped 5,000---5,606.
don't know why those large numbers in those months--I did repost my series on Bob Illidge, and "The booth" that May. Other times, it has mysteriously seem a large number of hits have come from Russian and this year, the Ukraine. That could be "bots" or maybe the KGB thinks I'm a troublemaker.
My largest audiences in 11 years
I'm also proud that there have been readers in more than 150 countries since this began. For a while, that became a motivation, and fun, wondering who  and why people in far off lands, where English isn't even a language, would click on what I said.
In the 132 months since I first posted, there have been only two months, April and May of 2018, that I haven't written something.
Part of that is because the blog, like me, has changed in that time, starting first as a journalistic and educational effort and gradually evolving into one more about art than journalism and education. 
Personally, there were times when I resisted sitting down at the keyboard, or had nothing to say, or had no motivation. I've written in the past that the blog was almost comatose compared to earlier years.
It's not unusual for a blog to be started and then be discontinued. People run out of subjects, or motivation, or passion. Of the thousands of blogs in the world, few last 11 years, especially those that don't make money, and are more general than niche blogs. My blog shows some of that trend with many more posts in the first and early years. It was also helped that I was teaching both blogging and twitter in those years, and believed it necessary to continue for my students. 
Fact is, I haven't figured out how to make money with this, and even with my web page, I don't spend enough time on it to make it profitable. Another fact is that I'm retired, and I don't really want a job.
In many ways, art has rescued the blog this year in terms of passion and motivation, also helped by the crisis of the pandemic which fueled my painting with more color and consistency.
This post marks 98 so far in 2020, compared to only 112 last year and 149 the year before.
So here are stats on 11 years of blogging:
Largest number of page views is for the first post, 11 years ago, "Toasting the passage of time." The other top posts tend to mention railroads...I figured out that if I put "All Aboard" in the headline, I'd get more readers.
I've avoided political comment, and most sectarian religious content as well. As many know, I reserve that for social media, which barely existed when this began.
Do I have favorite posts? Too many to count.
Most posts by month
August, 2009 -- 76
Fewest posts by month
April, May, 2018 -- 0
Most posts by year
2009 -- 339
2010 -- 292
Fewest posts by year
2019 -- 112
2015 -- 135

Pandemic journal...at two months, very personally

Two months ago, I began keeping a  "Pandemic Journal," writing a little every day.
Today I began writing on the 108th page of a largely personal diary that this week became intensely more personal, with a self-imposed quarantine for me and Susan. 
In those 61 days since April 1, when the pandemic was about two weeks old in Oklahoma, I've only missed one day, recording minor occurrences, major events, some thoughts and opinions, records of paintings completed, walks taken,  and so forth. Along the way, I've started recording morning temperatures and weather. Some days take 2-3 pages, others just one. 
 It was probably inspired by reading a little of Samuel Pepys' diary of the London Black Death plague  in 1665 that became a historical document.
But the journal is meant only for me, a time for private reflection and quiet amid the chaos of the pandemic, usually in the quiet of the mornings. Given my terrible handwriting, I doubt many people could read it anyway. My handwriting gets worse depending on which pen I use, and whether or not the cats decide to sit in my lap while I'm trying to write. 
Unlike my Dad long ago, I've never been disciplined enough to keep a diary, even when I start many journals for specific trips of other things. I wasn't sure I'd keep this one up, but the motivation has much to do with mental health, and I guess, my long experience as a "journal-ist."
I've started going back and reading it from the beginning, about 10 pages a day, and its brought back memories and more, whether about the OKC bombing, my Mothers' Day pilgrimage, my granddaughters' graduation, books read or other things. I can see why it is one form of history. 
We've been careful following all precautions when we go buy groceries or run necessary errands., which isn't often.  I wash my hands more than I ever have. We wipe down surfaces, spray disinfectant often, even on incoming mail. We put mail and packages in the garage for two days, even after sprayed or wiped down.
On the first day I started this journal, I wrote that, at my age, being the target audience for this virus, I was not optimistic, that I might make a mistake and get infected.
In spite of a few risks in these 10 weeks, I'd managed not to. But I learned Friday that an employee had tested positive at one location I visited to last week. Even though I was masked and wearing gloves and so were all the employees, with all precautions taken, there was a chance of exposure. 
Odds of infection are slim. No symptoms. But. That gives you pause, and you start seeking and reading all kinds of information. Self quarantine is the only choice for me and Susan to not potentially expose others, until I can be tested about 9-10 days later. In the meantime, it plays with my mind and "what ifs."  I remembered those words from the first day of the journal.
At first I was going to tell only my wife and children, being private, but a couple of other actions had to be explained to others. 
This  gave me more reason to keep writing. I was going to write today about the journal anyway, but now couldn't without writing this. 
FYI, though I'll probably add more later, today's journal entry began:
"7:30. 62 degrees. Self-quarantine! Journal now two months old--April 1 I wrote that...."

Saturday, May 30, 2020

Miles to go

"Miles to go before I sleep," 11 x 14 300 lb. d'Arches cold press paper
'Tis a season, a year, of uncertainty, of an indistinct future, of tracks of the past disappearing in windblown snow.
In the midst of pandemic, and political and civil crisis, I somehow think of the line in Robert Frosts poem, "Stopping by woods on a snowy evening."
"The woods are lovely, dark and deep,
 But I have promises to keep
And miles to go before I sleep,
And miles to go before I sleep."
Our woods are not particularly lovely at the present,
More dark and deep.
And promises are indistinct,
And there are miles to go before I sleep. 
This watercolor captures my mood.

Friday, May 29, 2020

Red, white and blue (not so much) and black of tragedy --opinion

"Red, White and blue, (Not so much), 5 x 7 watercolor, 140 lb cold press paper
Blatant racism besmirches the American flag, this week, earlier this year, in the recent past, and throughout our history.
The colors of the American flag, red, white and blue, are supposed to represent courage, purity and justice. 
They don't, as the homicide (not murder--that's a legal term determined by a conviction) proved by the death of another African-American male by a blue clad white police officer. This has repeatedly happened in the last few months. 
No courage, no purity, no justice.
Riots have erupted in cities. The president ( he doesn't deserve to have that title capitalized)  has called for killing American citizens.
The country is in turmoil from two viruses...one biologic, the other more deadly, blatant racism repeatedly and violently exercised by that president's violent, fear-mongering, insulting tweets.
It's not new...riots erupted after the murder of Martin Luther King Jr. in 1968  in the midst of another national tragedy, Vietnam. Two years later, four protesting students at Kent State were killed in a protest by National Guard soldiers, the same outfit tRump threatened Minnesotan protesters with. At least President Nixon knew the tragedy, saying it was the worst day of his presidency.
(I believe tRump for the first time...trying to cover up, he said he didn't know the history of the "looting, shooting" phrase. Of course not, he's ignorant of history and the Constitution.)
I don't condone looting, but as Martin Luther King Jr. said, riot is the language of the unheard.
Regardless, I'm ashamed of all that happened in my country, and have nothing much original to offer. I know 95 percent of the police wearing blue are not racists, are well trained, mostly underpaid people who get little respect.
The flag, and America, and those who have faithfully served her in the armed forces, has been dishonored.
Here's my take on the red, white and blue: red for blood and courage, blue, drowned out by the black of death and tragedy--not race--and white...purity fading.