"When dawn spreads its paintbrush on the plain, spilling purple... ," Sons of the Pioneers song from TV show "Wagon Train." Dawn on the mythic Santa Fe Trail, New Mexico, looking toward Raton from Cimarron. -- Clarkphoto. A curmudgeon's old-fashioned newspaper column, cross-breeding metaphors and journalism and art, for readers in 150 countries.

Thursday, August 30, 2012

Labor Day

"Paint something for Labor Day," said my wife.
What a farce... most of America does not honor real labor any more
Think about your job as a "white"color worker. You don't labor, you sit in front of a computer and hope it is not outsourced to India
Who "labors"? The Latinos and Asians and others who carry the blue collar dream of America--oil field workers, secretaries--hard work brings results.
Disagree? Who does the majority of the lawn work for the lazy Gringos?
So here is my painting...a laborer, probably of Mexican descent in the lettuce fields, or blacks in the cotton fields, or Asians working on railroads. No health care, no retirement, no cushion, only minimum or less wages--slave labor really.
Spoiled gringos like me don't care....we think we own the country, on the backs of those who really work. And some are doing their best to make sure they can't vote. Where are they represented in the Republican National Convention?
I don't like Labor Unions, but when I consider the abuses of those in power exploiting cheap labor, I understand...You have big business, and big government (now owned by big business), you need something to represent the real workers.
So this Labor Day, as you grill hamburgers or go to the lake and jet ski in your $2,000+ machine, remember those who have to work two or more jobs to survive, at 7-Eleven, or some fast food joint....trying to survive.
They Labor.

Wednesday, August 29, 2012

Are you my type?


Clark’s Guide to
Readable Typography for Blogs
(Or anything, for that matter)

1.         Serif—Easiest to read
2.         Sans Serif—harder to read the     smaller it is or the more of it there is
3.           Most body type should be about 12 point in size
4.           Script is hard to read
5.           Italic is hard to read
6.         Only center type
          On Invitations,
            Or Titles, not
            On most  material
7.  ALL CAPS IS HARD TO READ
8.                  REVERSE TYPE 
        should be at a
9.  Minimum
10.             Screens can make type hard to read
Especially over sans serif
Or heavy and colored screens
11.               Weak colors disappear
12.               Colored type isn’t as effective
As black type, or dark type on a light background
13.      Don’t  Mix Lots of Type Faces
14.            Stick with a few
                  that are compatible

Friday, August 10, 2012

Hope

Out here there's the sky...Western Skies, one-man watercolor show, opening, Aug. 24, Beans&Leaves, Oklahoma City

Tuesday, August 7, 2012

Growing up in the long shadows of 'The Bomb'

Death at Nagasaki
These days mark the anniversary of the atomic bombs being dropped on Japan, a prelude to the end of World War II 67 years ago. I was home snug in my crib when thousands of similar aged children were incinerated in Hiroshima, Aug. 6, 1945, and Nagasaki, Aug. 9, 1945.
I won't join the debate over dropping those bombs, killing a quarter million civilians within four months, and perhaps saving thousands of American lives from an invasion. That will go on a long time. Let is pray that it won't ever happen again.
But when I grew up in grade school through high school in Albuquerque, N.M., ten to 15 years later, the long shadows of those mushroom-shaped clouds hung over us. They still do..
We lived on Sandia Base, close to some of the scientific labs involved in nuclear activity, next to an airbase with Strategic Air Command bombers,  and only 60 miles south of Los Alamos, where those bombs were perfected. Our enemy wasn't Japan, but the Soviet Union, which had stolen and developed its own atomic and hydrogen bobs, plus Intercontinental Ballistic Missiles (ICBMs), capable of hitting Albuquerque in about 30 minutes of launch time.
It affected our lives every day. Our parents had two cases of canned food stored under the kitchen sink in case we had to evaluate to the nearby mountains on the east of town. The entire base went through evaluation practice, driving to empty mesa land nearby to be escorted in an orderly manner to the supposed safety  of the mountains. Albuquerque only had about 200,000 people then, but there was literally only one road to the mountains, old US 66 coming through Tijeras canyon. I thought even then that there was no way the entire town could get evaluated in 30 minutes. I'd seen photos of allied planes strafing jammed retreating Nazi armament in WWII along a single road in North Africa.
Then we were shown grainy black and white films of  the bombs blowing away test structures  and people. But still we practiced getting down under our Desks and covering our heads. That didn't make sense to me either, but we all did.
In junior high our textbooks were filled with information on how much better America and capitalism was than the USSR  and communism. This followed the defection and brainwashing to Americans by communists in the Korean War in 1950, and the Communists of Mao Tse-tung defeating Chang Kai Shek who retreated to Formosa.  It's the same time that McCarthyism in the latest "Red Scare" became a national witch hunt for supposed "Commies."
We knew we had reason to be afraid, because of Russia's isolation of Berlin, the split of Germany and Churchill's "Iron Curtain" speech. We'd seen what Russia did to protesters in Hungary in 1956, and their infiltration of African countries. Europe was divided, with tanks massed on both sides.
You cannot imagine the fear in 1959 when Russia launched the first satellite--we were all vulnerable.
The shadow of those bombs really accounts for use ending up in Vietnam to prevent the spread of communism, and our continuing isolation of Cuba, which fell to Castro in the early 60s. Kennedy and Johnson  and then Nixon were following the national mindset of fear. I can remember high school debate where "detente" between the US and USSR was a controversial subject. With Russia getting ready to put missiles in Cuba, 90 miles south of us, what could we think. Khrushchev banging his shoe at the U.N., and threatening to bury us fit right in. The building of the Berlin Wall only cemented that fear through the '60s, and led to accusing hippies and war protesters as infiltrated by communists.
With the perspective of years, I react to much of the fear I see in America today after 911 against another enemy we don't understand. How else but fear do you recommend putting duct tape on your windows? That's as effective as getting under your desk or evacuating an entire city. Yet the long shadows of the bombs still linger, as we debate options of dealing with Iran and its nuclear development, and bandied fearful political name calling of "Socialist."
That's one  perspective of growing up in the shadows of nuclear bombs.
Hiroshima

Sunday, August 5, 2012

All aboard to stress freedom, Part 3

Forest Park Railroad
A week ago, we'd just boarded the Amtrak Heartland Flyer in Fort Worth and settled in for a five and a half hour trip back to Oklahoma City...no hassle, no traffic, no heat, and no hurry.
Two story sculpture for Booker T. Washington
We left behind Fort Worth's great museums--including the Modern Art Museum , which has an entrance fee, and the downtown Sid Richardson museum of Russells and Remingtons, and no fee. Amon Carter and Kimbell out near the Modern Art Museum, don't have fees either, but we didn't visit them. There are other museums, but you could make an entire trip just out of them, and we weren't in a hurry or on a schedule. We enjoyed the flights of fancy and imagination in the Modern museum, and had a great lunch there as well.
Trying to get the ladder in the picture
To me, Fort Worth's architecture is also art, including the Bass Performance Hall downtown, a two story Barnes and Noble with a two story statue of a bronc rider in it, the historic Hilton hotel (the former Texas Hotel), lots of art deco buildings, the front of the Fort Worth Star Telegram, and even the Forest Park Railroad. If we'd had time and it wasn't so hot, we'd have probably visited the scenic and refreshing Botanic Gardens, just across the road from the train.
The last evening was spent after dinner at the cool basement Skat jazz lab, right on Sundance Square, with some great live music.
Riding the little train was a highlight of fun and no hurry, about 30 minutes for $3.00, acting and feeling like kids.
Bass Performance Hall

video

By the time we pulled into Oklahoma City, refreshed by Roy Kelsey's liquid refreshment, we got to see the lighted scissor tail sculpture spanning the new crosstown Interstate for the first time at night.

Saturday, August 4, 2012

All aboard to stress freedom, part 2

Traveling someplace you don't have to drive or rent a car has become a new passion of mine, ever since two trips to Europe. Sure, we don't have their mass transit here, but it is possible. We've done it in San Francisco, Seattle, and once again, in Fort Worth. Between buses, free trollies, and cabs, life is much simpler and cheaper. And traveling with the Kelseys adds humor and interesting conversations as well, since they picked us up and drove us all to the Amtrak station in downtown OKC. Parking in the Cox garage is only $6 a day.
The four of us at H3 restaurant in the Stockyards, for great ribs,
steaks and a chicken fry to die for...our first evening meal.
The other benefit of traveling with the Kelseys is that Roy takes photos of everything. I take lots of photos...now almost exclusively with my iPhone. But Roy has a small digital camera and he took more than 400 photos on this trip. So the photos you see may be his, or mine. The one pix I didn't take, and should have, was a photo of Roy taking photos. I was sort of the tour guide since I'd been there before (taking students down for a credit course called "Cowboy Journalism," and with Susan, and with brother Jerry), and while the bus schedule caused us some problems, the food was excellent and other sights worth a return.
The flag of The Republic is ever present in Texas
Places to eat...Go to the Stockyards north of downtown--cab or bus, ease through the lobby of the Stockyards Hotel for great art, then through the side door to the H3 bar, with a buffalo butt coming out of the wall (home of Buffalo Butt beer). You can sit on a saddle at the bar if you wish, and flirt with the female bartenders in their hats and boots. And you can talk through the doors into the next room, the restaurant where the food's being cooked on the grill--great smells, and the buffalo head is mounted on the wall opposite its butt on the other side. Chandeliers of deer antlers. Longhorn heads and other wildlife mounted on the walls. Great ribs, steaks, and my fav chicken fry.
Jill, Susan and I in front of old water tower at roundtable
in the stockyards at the Grapevine Railroad.
Tour the stockyards for sure...lots of gift shops, a depot for the Grapevine railroad, the incomparable White elephant bar--a collection of more than 1,000 white ceramic elephants from around the world, plus hundreds of real cowboy hats attached to the ceiling with the names of their owners...the real west and the poetry of the names. Live western music most nights  and a small dance floor. And there's a twice a day "cattle drive" down the street with real cowboys walking real longhorns a few blocks, till those very well fed, pampered animals get back to their stalls. It's touristy, but a top draw if you haven't seen it. It's also home to the gigantic "Billy Bob's," the worlds largest western honky-tonk with multiple dance floors and bars--worth seeing, at night, but sort of a warehouse withspurs.
Susan and Jill at Riata
The next evening at downtown Riata Restaurant...named after the ranch in "Giant," with appropriate  Elisabeth Taylor and James Jean mementoes. Because of the heat, we didn't eat on the roof this time, but I highly recommend the quail and cheese grits appetizer.
Kelseys on Riata's roof


If you're not in for western food, there's a killer sushi restaurant downtown, Piranha Sushi, and lots of Mexican restaurants a short cab ride away from downtown. There's also a phenomenal hamburger at Jakes, two blocks north of the hotel. But don't think "Cowtown" is all about the west. You won't believe the museums and other attractions to help keep stress away. That's to come.
The lighting in Riata is "romantic" and you  old folks will need reading glasses and an iPhone flashlight to read the menus, though the restaurant will provide small flashlights and reading glasses.

Friday, August 3, 2012

All aboard to stress freedom, part 1

Tired of stress and traffic? The cure is a weekend trip aboard Amtrak's Heartland Flyer from Oklahoma City to Fort Worth with friends. It begins early, parking in the Cox convention center across the street from the depot, and walking across the street and up on the platform to the waiting silver cars and locomotive before  the train leaves the old Santa Fe station downtown at 8:25 a.m.
Jill, Susan and I waiting to board
Any trip to Fort Worth is personal for me, having gone through first grade there, but this was with Roy
and Jill Kelsey. Roy's a train buff, like me, and I found out he'd never ridden a train before, and we were celebrating Jill's retirement from UCO.
love going places where I don't have to rent a car, or drive... there's less to worry about, less stress, and more more time to enjoy the sights. Fort Worth is one of those places. Plus, there's no hassling TSA, body scans and having to worry about shuttles from remote airports. It's also cheap--$32 round trip. No baggage fees. You put your baggage in a storage area as you get on, and then climb stairs up  to the seats. Your train deposits you right downtown at what is also the super modern and clean central bus station, two easy walking blocks from a hotel.
The Kelseys
It may not be the most scenic railroad trip in America, but you will see things on this 418-mile trip you never see from a car--including the Washita River "canyon" through the Arbuckles, plus a lot of rural countryside. And you've got a lot of time to look out the windows, to chat, to think, to enjoy friends. On Fridays and Sundays the train is packed, picking up and letting people off at regular stops at Norman, Purcell, Pauls Valley, Ardmore and Gainesville.
The conductor.
The train staff are courteous and fun, joking and easy-going. You can get up and move around from car to car, go to the cafe car which is more of a snack bar for beverages and snacks and souvenirs, or bring you own. The bathrooms are clean and lots bigger than on aircraft. There's lots of foot room, wider aisles, and no seat belts. The seats are well upholstered, comfortable, and have foot and leg rests. You can view the countryside, talk with friends, think, read, or doze, because the ride is really smooth.
The Washita River canyon in the Arbuckles


Susan and Jill 
You get between 12:30 and 1:30, get your baggage, and walk up a small hill to the historic Texas Hotel, remodeled by Hilton, the same folks who now run the Skirvin in OKC. Check in is easy, and lunch is a three-block walk away up red brick Main Street to the Corner Bakery.
Your correspondent travels light

Thursday, August 2, 2012

Wednesday, August 1, 2012

Mortality's face in August

When I turned around, I saw him lying on his back on the floor, his hand on his forehead.
A few minutes earlier I'd walked into Hobby Lobby to have two gift watercolors framed for grandchildren, and he'd been sitting in a chair beside the frame counter. I didn't pay any attention, figuring he was waiting on someone. I did hear him say something about his wife to one of the employees. I turned away, and then turned back to see him on the floor.
His wife arrived, and asked how he felt....he said something about the floor feeling cool. She asked what he wanted to do, and a couple of employees came up to ask about him. Finally, I asked if they wanted to call an ambulance. His wife asked him, but he didn't say much.
I called 911.
The operator got the info, contacted EMSA, as I told them what I knew. They started asking questions, with the ambulance on the way...pain, awake, age? I told them late 50s, and he said "66." A store employee trained as an EMT was talking to him and taking his pulse when the ambulance crew and firemen arrived.
His wife answered some questions, tried to call her daughter. The EMTs hooked up an IV, took an ekg, and did some other stuff, talking to him all the while, while someone else brought in a gurney. Apparently he didn't have  a heart attack but his bp was low. His wife, near tears, finally got their daughter and by that time they'd decided to take him to VA, rather than the heart hospital.
I walked over and patted her on the back, and told her he was in good hands, right where he needed to be. Before I could talk away, she hugged me.
5x7 watercolor
By that time one employee had finished my frames, and thanked me for calling 911. I told him that I knew if I was ever on the floor, I hoped someone would call an ambulance. As they wheeled him out the front door, I was checking out...thankful I'd come in that time, for several reasons, especially since I'm older than him.
Mortality stared me in the face earlier today too, as I sat in Starbucks, reading the New York Times, scanning my blog. Another man came in, neatly trimmed white mustache, about my age, need at table for his computer. I motioned him over and introduced myself after he sat down. We spent 30 minutes talking about everything--my teaching, his pharmacy, insurance, children, travel, young people, the state of the country, and more, including his wife surviving breast cancer the same year Blue Cross, in cahoots with big chains, robbed him of about $20,000 in income in an unjust audit .
"I'd rather some thief had come in and just taken it," he said. He is also close to my age, and wishes he could find something different. As he walked out the door to go to work, I hoped we'd get to visit again.
5x7 watercolor
Later, I took the two paintings to Pony Express to be wrapped and shipped, and got the same great service from the owners as usual, including conversations about children, and grand kids, spiced with humor and questions about UCO and journalism. Nothing like giving something to children and grandchildren in the face of mortality and love.
Then I went to Steve's Rib to play chess with John Lawton, a retired optometrist I've played with for 13 or so years now. He's a student of the game, and I just play. He usually wins. His conversations are about art and living and aging, having recovered a year ago, at age 80, from a close call after, at Susan's insistence, that I take him to the ER.
After a good prime rib sandwich, and ice tea, he wiped me off the board in the first game.  But an hour later, playing black, I outlasted him, advancing a pawn to a Queen, enabled to say "Checkmate." That term is a translation from Persian, where the game began centuries ago. It's a translation of "Shah mat,"--"the king is dead." More mortality in the fittingly termed "end game."
Home in the 113-degree heat of the first day of August to air conditioning, I notice the backyard birds--doves huddle on the ground in the shade, woodpeckers with their beaks open. Wrens and robins sipping out of the birdbath. Squirrels near the cool base of the tree.
For the second time today, I turn on the backyard sprinkler, to cool things off back there, to stave off mortality for other creatures.
It's a good day to be alive.