"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.

"When Americans weren't spoiled"

"When you're alone" 5 x 7 300 lb d'Arches cold press paper
I have little patience with these spoiled, profane, narrow-minded and selfish brats who think social distancing, masks and other precautions for the pandemic are an infringement upon their liberties.
I'm not critical of the thousands who have lost their jobs and are near disaster financially. They do need rescuing, and jobs.
Responsible companies are making every effort to help that happen, but the crisis is far from over, both biologically, and financially. We're headed for another depression.
What we need is responsibility, from the top down.
There was a time when most Americans were not so spoiled.
Pioneer days, Depression days, were not perfect, but a vast majority of Americans in a largely rural country, were used to social distancing, since the nearest farm or ranch house might be miles away. And when winter set in, you were really isolated.
Growing up in the West and living on the Great Plains, I'm used to such far distances, and remote farmsteads.
These thoughts were also prompted by reading Willa Cather's My Antonia, about the pioneer life on the Nebraska plains. 
They were tough people who were used to working alone, or with families, but who also helped and cared for their neighbors. 
Being tough and responsible was a key to survival, which didn't leave any room for being spoiled. On the other hand, our urban "culture"....
This watercolor captures that original "social distancing."




Roads to imagination

"Road to nowhere," 5 x 7 300 lb. d'Arches cold press paper
The back roads, the wide open spaces, journeys of imagination.
When I'm cooped up, as in not being able to travel, suffering most from a "New Mexico attack," I find both an antidote and an infection from people I follow on social media in specific interest areas.
I get daily photos and some blogs on New Mexico, and also photos on Scotland. They feed me, and make me hungry. they also inspire me.
William Swanwick's terrific "Road to nowhere."
Such it was with a black and white Instagram photo by William Swanwick, @swanwick_w,  this week, titled "Road to Nowhere." 
This is not the first time one of his photos has provoked a painting. I painted "Purple Dawn" from one of his in January. Purple Dawn
Today's isn't as good as the first, but it was in some ways more fun. Since it was a black and white photo, I could be even more creative, with the colors. It was a road to imagination.
So here it is, a painting manifesting my urge to get on those unmapped back roads, no fences, far horizons, and dramatic skies.

Thursday, May 28, 2020

The colors of challenges

"Ice cave 1," 5 x 7 300 lb d'Arches cold press papaer

"Ice Cave 2," 5 x 7 140 lb Fabriano Artistico cold press aper
"Can you get these colors," Terry, essentially asked my cousin Rosaleen Salvo in Florida this week. 
She sent a photo of an ice cave beneath a glacier. I've tried painting ice bergs before, with no luck, but...
I had been stuck, but the chance to play with color helped me get started. The first day I just played with some Peacock Blue, some turquoise, some green and a touch or two more of other blues. I also Googled a lot of photos of ice caves, looking for ideas for a composition.
Finally today, I just went for it, painting quickly, blending colors, hoping for transparency and light to catch the magic luminosity of those caves.
The first one was a little too uptight, and the second one much quicker.
I'm not sure I've captured them yet, but I'm close, and I got to have fun with my favorite colors...blues. Which do you prefer?
Thanks for the challenge, cousin. I'll try again.

Monday, May 25, 2020

Symbols, and stories, of sacrifice, today

When I prowl old cemeteries, I'm always surprised by the untold stories I find there, especially at the veterans' graves,  here in Edmond, and elsewhere. On this Memorial Day, think about the flags decorating their graves of American veterans throughout this country.  
So it was this year two weeks ago when I drove up to my Dad's grave in the oldest part of Fairlawn Cemetery at Comanche, Oklahoma, and saw something I'd never seen before, though I make the trip every year to plant flowers.
Several graves were decorated with small Confederate flags, but not the polluted one waved by the redneck racists of today.
It was the final national flag of the Confederacy, the "blood stained banner," featuring the square battle flag in the canton corner, white, and a red stripe at end. This was the flag adopted during the last two years of the Civil War. 
Union vet's grave in Oakwood, Edmond
If it hadn't been for the flag, I would never have discovered this grave. Unlike most Union veterans graves  which are easy to spot with their uniform shape, Confederate graves are random, and rarely decorated.
I've written before about the Union graves at Oakwood Cemetery in Edmond at the end of 15th Street just before Lake Arcadia, where many veterans are buried, including Civil War vets who came to Indian Territory to settle: Memorial Day flags at Oakwood
I walked over to the one nearest my dad's grave. There was a simple gravestone, with a single phrase under the person's name and dates: "Confederate soldier." He died in 1903. I've often wondered about those Southerners who survived the war, what they felt having been defeated, how they adapted, what stories they told. 
Someone had done a lot of genealogy research. As I walked around the cemetery to each of the flags I saw, most of them did not mention them as veterans. Two more did however, and these listed their Army units, which made it easier to find information on their service, thanks to the Internet.
Such it is with Union veterans, if their graves list their state and military units.
Memorial Day, first called Decoration Day, was founded in 1868 by General James Garfield to honor the Union soldiers who died in the war. After WWI, the name became Memorial Day to honor American veterans of all wars.
Although Southerners tried to establish a similar day, the dates vary from state to state, and decorating those graves is haphazard, which made my visit to Comanche more interesting.
The two other Confederate graves with identification were a solder from Tennessee and one from Texas. I looked up their combat records. More stories.
Jesse K. McMasters, Pvt., Tennessee Infantry. He was fortunate to survive the brutal war. Out of 850 men enlisted in 1861, he was probably captured at Fort Donaldson with 528. Later exchanged, he fought at Chickamauga where the regiment lost 46 percent of 361 soldiers in 1863. In December, 1864 he must have been one of only 12 mustering. Final surrender was April 26, 1865. When did he come to Indian Territory, and how? 
George W. Lewis, Capt. 20th Texas infantry. He lived to almost 100, and his volunteer unit saw little action except in the battle of Galveston in 1863, and  one of the last to surrender, May 26, 1865 at New Orleans. 
It was composed mainly of middle-aged men, and charged with protecting Galveston and the Sabine River. 
Again, I don't know when he came to Indian Territory, but like my grandparents and great grandparents buried nearby, he probably forded the Red River in a wagon into what was commonly referred to as "The Nation." (Indian Nation). Here is the flag his unit carried, an adaptation of the original national flag, the real "Stars and Bars."
The Oakwood Cemetery is a well cared for territorial cemetery with active participants, of several families. I drove out there this weekend and they had a Memorial Day service. 
Earlier I'd taken a photo of this veterans grave, and there's a story there too, with descendants, I'm assuming, replacing the original gravestone.
J.J. Henager, 39th Iowa Infantry. No dates, but obviously family cares. His unit had 1064 men at one time or another, with six officers and 58 enlisted men killed, and two officers and 134 men dying from disease. The unit was part of Sherman's march to the sea, and after the war, took part in the Grand Review march in Washington. How did he get here? 
Remember these Americans today, and the terrible cost of war. Two more photos to make that point, and the reason for today. One of unknown Union soldiers' graves at the National Cemetery at Gettysburg, and another of the Soldiers Rest, Confederate cemetery at Vicksburg, where many are also unknown.


Postscript 1. If the Civil War veteran's grave lists Tennessee, Missouri or Arkansas as home, you have to double check, because solders from these states fought on both sides.
Postscript 2. The reason the Confederate battle flag was adopted was because the Stars and Bars was so similar to the Stars and Stripes, confusion resulted in battle at a distance. Many Southerners didn't like the Stars and Bars anyway because it hinted at strong central government which they opposed. After the war the battle flag became a symbol of racism, thanks to the Klu Klux Klan, which continues, justifiable so, to this day.

Sunday, May 24, 2020

Southwest Dawn

"Southwest Dawn," 14 1/2" x 21 1/2", 300 lb. d'Arches cold press paper
Out where I grew up, you can almost see forever. The American Southwest is a land of far horizons and vistas, of every changing colors and light...where humans are small.
I've tried capturing that spirit many times, but only on a small scale, not quite fitting the vastness of the dramatic landscape. 
I'm not really set up at home to paint  large paintings, but that is also an excuse, because they intimidate me and I get up tight rather than letting the freedom of looseness that makes watercolor so much fun. 
So today, after studies, and sketches, and spreading out a table to paint on, and shutting the door to keep the cats out, I tried again.
"Out here is the sky," is my mantra, because in the West and Great Plains it adds to the vastness, the drama, the color of the Southwest, and affects my painting. 
My palette today
I'm stumped on a title, even with a small Navajo hogan that I've featured before, and I love painting dawn and sunset subjects because they include so much color...color we especially need in these months of pandemic pandemonium and political craziness. 
This is a half sheet...roughly 15" by 22", and it required a big palette. I used a 14" by 18"  porcelain butcher's tray to get plenty of color ahead of time, with a fairly limited palette of color, as you can see.

Friday, May 22, 2020

Blessings uncounted, milestones

"Congratulations, Granddad," said my daughter Dallas Bell, 18 years ago, calling at night to announce the birth of she and Todd's first child...Erin Ann Bell, a milestone of blessings. I got to see her a few months later at their home in Durham, N.C.
Tonight, I'll be able to watch her walk across the stage at Canyon High School, Texas,  in a pre-recorded virtual graduation, another milestone of blessings.
I've bragged before on her and will some more, but just let me say that this wonderful young woman will be attending Texas A&M University this fall, in pre-engineering.
So here is a photo her mother took recently,  one of Granddad babysitting long ago, plus the two sides of her graduation announcement.
So thankful and proud I'm "bustin' my buttons."


Thursday, May 21, 2020

Edmond Sun execution gets international, national attention

This is my fourth editorial on the execution of the Edmond Sun.
Corporate parent cnhi abruptly executed Edmond's oldest business this month, blaming the virus for the action, but that was just an excuse for something probably planned for some time. 
If it had cared about the community, it would have tried to sell it to concerned citizens. No chance. It needed a scapegoat to soften the demands for corporate profit at the expense of community and people.  
It also was not a solitary act. It killed nine other of its newspapers, some in Iowa, Alabama and elsewhere, same lame excuse, also including other  smoke screen "mergers,"
revealing the corporate PR speak behind the action. Nobody in Edmond wants to read about the "merged" Norman Transcript.  
There's no doubt the virus has been a death knell for some struggling newspapers, and a challenge for many. In fact, at least 15 other  community papers around the country have met the same fate, most owned by corporations.  
You can read about it in the story by the respected Poynter Institute, with the first issue of the Edmond Sun on their web page. Here's the link:  25 newsrooms gone, and counting, Though my headline is more accurate than theirs in our case... A different virus killed the Edmond Sun.
In the meantime, my editorials were picked up and have gone international in the May issue of the newsletter of the International Society of Weekly Newspaper Editors.
Its Executive Director, Dr. Chad Stebbins, of Missouri Southern State University in Joplin called and asked to run them. It is an international publication, with board members in Canada, UK, Australia and the U.S. I'm proud to be included in their issue on dealing with the virus.
The plight of local newspapers, that actually cover local news by attending city council, school boards, county commissioners and more, is essential to democracy, which means the loss of the Edmond Sun and others is a direct attack on our freedoms based on us as informed citizens.
About the only good thing to come out of this barrage of executions is an increased focus on the need for local journalism. Some experts are even calling for public newspapers--I'm not sure I agree with that, but the article is below, or non-profit groups, such as those trying to save The Baltimore Sun
How important is this in America, and especially in a booming city of 100,000? 
As my friend and colleague, Dr. Mark Hanebutt of the UCO Department of Mass Communication says about the dangers of a death of a newspaper, "It's not a taco stand that goes out of business."
Thus the national and international attention and concern about even the Edmond Sun.
+++
Here's the article on public newspapers:
May 18, 2020 at 5:00 a.m. CDT

Perspective
The answer to the media industry’s woes? Publicly owned newspapers.
Newspapers must be for the people. It’s worth investing our tax dollars in them.
By Victor Pickard
Victor Pickard is an associate professor at the University of Pennsylvania’s Annenberg School for Communication where he co-directs the Media, Inequality & Change Center. He is the author of the recent book "Democracy Without Journalism?"

As the economic fallout from the coronavirus further decimates financially struggling small-town and city newspapers — still Americans’ main source for original local journalism — a desperate search is underway for alternative models. Analysts are looking around the world and back through history for examples of news media that don’t depend on advertising revenue — a collapsing business model that is unlikely to ever return. Ideas range from starting donor-funded nonprofit organizations to repurposing public broadcasting systems. But one intriguing experiment from American history has been almost entirely forgotten: the municipal newspaper.

During the Progressive era, public outrage grew over commercial excesses such as yellow journalism and propaganda — the “clickbait” and “fake news” of the early 20th century. A nonprofit, municipal-owned newspaper seemed like an idea whose time had come. George H. Dunlop, a “good government” progressive and former Hollywood mayor, conducted a successful petition, and Los Angeles became a test case for this experiment.

In a December 1911 vote, a majority supported the proposal to establish a taxpayer-funded paper, and the Los Angeles Municipal News launched in April 1912. With a government-guaranteed annual subsidy of $36,000 (worth nearly $1 million today), the city helped finance the distribution of up to 60,000 copies. To ensure accountability, the mayor appointed a commission of three citizen volunteers to govern the paper. They served four-year terms but were subject to recall by voters at any time. Dunlop, the newspaper’s original architect, was chosen as one of the commissioners.

The newspaper sought to be nonpartisan and democratic by guaranteeing an equal amount of weekly column space to any political party that received more than 3 percent of the vote, including the Democratic, Republican, Socialist and Socialist Labor parties. Newspaper carriers delivered the weekly paper, which was usually eight to 12 pages, free of charge to homes. People could also subscribe via mail for one penny.

The inaugural editorial of this “people’s newspaper” declared itself “the first municipal newspaper in the world … owned by the people of the community in which it is printed.” It was described as “created by the people, for the people, and built for them under their control. It is in this sense unique.” The newspaper’s masthead read, simply and boldly: “A Newspaper Owned by the People.”

The newspaper’s editor and its 10 staffers covered local happenings such as government operations, the proceedings of various agencies and public school events. To maintain political neutrality, the paper provided equal space to arguments for or against specific city ordinances proposed to voters. Although the paper’s emphasis was on high-quality, fact-based information about civic issues and responsibilities, reporters also covered popular culture, including music, fashion and new products coming into the market.

The paper offered free classified and help-wanted ads, as well as other important information, but it banned ads camouflaged as news stories — what we would call “native advertising” today. However, it did accept commercial ads from local businesses. This revenue helped defray costs but didn’t generate enough money for the paper’s expansion as originally hoped.

Nonetheless, Dunlop and his fellow reformers believed that public newspapers offered the last best hope for democracy, reflecting the growing conviction among social critics that a commercial press could never rise above profit pressures and class allegiances to serve democratic imperatives.

Given the national scourge of sensationalistic and unreliable news, press reformers across the country watched the Los Angeles experiment closely. One article published in La Follette’s weekly magazine noted the public’s “growing realization” that “the commercialization of the great daily newspapers of the country presents one of the most serious problems connected with the movement toward democracy.” Therefore, it read, “the career of this newspaper owned by the taxpayers will be watched with interest everywhere.”

Despite such initial fanfare and high hopes from the local community and beyond, the experiment was ultimately short-lived. Feeling threatened by the rise of a popular public alternative, local commercial newspapers, including the Los Angeles Times, banded together to oppose the initiative, charging that the paper presented unfair competition in the marketplace and was an illegitimate expenditure of public money. This opposition may have combined with some public complaints that the paper’s distribution, especially early on, was not always reliable.

When the question of public funding for the newspaper appeared on the ballot again in 1913 — written in a confusing, ambiguous way, according to some people — voters rejected it in a low-turnout election. Many supporters believed the paper fell victim to a misinformation campaign fueled by commercial publishers’ opposition. The editor blamed an “antagonism, carefully and consistently fostered by the private press and its representatives” that impeded progress and discouraged erstwhile supporters.

One post-mortem report described the paper as a “successful experiment” brought down by “active determined opposition” from the city’s local business community. The article concluded that more such newspapers were needed to fight political corruption with “civic service” and “impartial information” similar to that provided by schools and libraries.

Toward the end of its final run, the paper announced, at the top of its front page, “THE MUNICIPAL NEWSPAPER IDEA CANNOT BE KILLED.” The paper urged reformers in other cities to continue agitating for public newspapers dedicated to providing diverse views on government policies and local affairs. Dunlop hoped the idea — that citizens deserved a public-service newspaper that wasn’t simply the “private property of some millionaire” — would live on.

With the triumph of the commercial newspaper, this nonprofit experiment has receded into the past, forgotten by all save for a smattering of scholars over the years. Meanwhile, structural alternatives to profit-driven news outlets in the United States have remained relatively underfunded and pushed to the margins over the past century. Nonetheless, a publicly owned municipal newspaper that informs a community about local affairs remains a viable alternative to the dying commercial model.

Indeed, with local journalism’s importance to democracy more evident and more at risk than ever before, it may be time to reconsider this model. Local news outlets cover stories and offer community-level information — potentially lifesaving during a global pandemic — that national outlets will never provide. Study after study shows that losing local journalism doesn’t just come with political costs such as decreased voting and civic engagement, municipalities also pay significant economic costs when they lack a community news outlet that uncovers corruption and waste.

Instead of building something from scratch, municipalities could expand existing city information sites, build on public infrastructure or outright purchase their local paper. Given cities’ budget shortfalls, a federally funded network of municipal newspapers might be more feasible. With the imminent collapse of many local news outlets — what’s been called a “media extinction event” — today’s journalism crisis presents a rare opportunity to introduce a “public option” to towns and cities across the country. The municipal newspaper is an idea whose time has returned.

Sunday, May 17, 2020

The green leaves of summer in a season of death

"The Green Leaves of Summer," 8 x 10 140 lb. cold press paper
Summer is only a month away, by the calendar, but in this spring season of pandemic pandemonium, it seems closer, as the days lengthen, the air gets warmer, and especially as the world turns treen.
A time of planting, of reaping, of loving, of living...something we yearn more for everyday....hope, home, sanity amid the gloom, and the virus of insanity and anger and  hatred and craziness that has mutated from the biologic virus...and just as deadly to the human fabric of spirit and civilization.
Yes, I'm reminded of the need for color as an antidote to all of this, and especially in this spring, as the trees have filled out, the wheat ripening, the lawns turned lush, of a certain song.
"The Green Leaves of Summer" was the theme song for the old move The Alamo, but it catches the spirit of being alive in a season of death:
"The green leaves of Summer are callin' me home.
'Twas so good to be young then, in a season of plenty,..."

So today's watercolor.

Saturday, May 16, 2020

Misty Magic

"Morning Mist, Oklahoma Spring," 11 x 14 300 lb. d'Arches cold press paper
Driving through the countryside this week,  on a damp day, I was search for subjects for paintings. I  could see the mist settling in over the hillsides, fuzzing the edges of the landscape, of the fences, of the green trees and the ripening wheat.
Yet there was color and drama, perhaps increased by the enchantment of the mist in the distance. I didn't find anything specific, but in spite of the gray, cloudy day, in gray cloudy pandemic pandemonium, I wanted to paint the mist.
Thus today's watercolor, on the edge of a spring Oklahoma wheat field, before the rising sun burns off the magic of the mist.
Color? There is color where you find it, where you imagine it, because we need it.
Misty Magic, the largest I've painting in a while, and one I'm happy enough with to frame. 

Friday, May 15, 2020

Stormy weather, and thoughts

"Sunset Storm on the Santa Fe Trail," 5 x 10 no-brush watercolor, 140 lb cold press paper
Stormy weather. Globally, an unsettled metaphor for this pandemic pandemonium.
Here in Oklahoma, we're also barraged with daily storm warnings, unsettled weather, adding to unsettled, and for some people,  obvious stormy thoughts.
As a child of the Southwest and Great Plains though, I love watching the ever-changing skies, and think often of the travelers on the Old Santa Fe Trail, crossing endless prairies, headed toward purplish blue mountains and the end of the trail at the plaza in El Villa Real de la Santa Fe de San Francisco de Asis. 
They weathered Indian attacks, drought and most often perhaps, storms from the vast skies and unpredictable weather.
Thus today's little "no-brush" watercolor, near the end of the trail, with the Sangre de Cristo mountains on the horizon, at the end of another day, with a sunset storm coming in over the prairies.

Tuesday, May 12, 2020

The colors of Oklahoma spring

"Southern Oklahoma Springtime," 8 x 10 watercolor, 140 lb. cold press paper
Driving into southern Oklahoma in spring is always an adventure in color for me. The farther south you get, the more green, the more color.
Every Mothers' Day, I see this as I drive down to the Waurika Cemetery to plant flowers at my Mom's grave.
I drive alone, in silence, eyes and ears and imagination open to the landscape, to the colors, to the memories of when we lived in that area.
Long ago, I learned that. Having lived in the northern midwest, in Iowa, you pay more attention to the seasons than here, and appreciate the changes. When we'd drive south to visit family in spring of those years, you could see the landscape green up before your eyes, the father south you went.
You just have to look, to enjoy the rural views, the wide open spaces. The trip to Mom's grave takes time for me to adjust to, so it's been three days since I painted.
But today it came, almost spontaneously. A bright sunshiny day, meant more color just when I needed it. I remember the green fields, the full trees, the hay bales, and especially the wildflowers along the roadsides. And of course, the skies are alive with clouds, and colors too.
Today is a gloomy pandemic day, and that means we need more color than ever. Thus today's landscape, opening my senses to the colors of creation.

Mother's Day coffee, and flowers

Flowers for Mom
I sat down on the grass and had a cup of coffee with my Mother Sunday.
After making my annual Mothers' Day pilgrimage to see her, planting real flowers on her grave stone, washing it off, I got out my thermos, poured a cup, and we talked.
For as long as I knew her, she had always loved coffee, and now that's she's been dead 40 years, it just seemed the natural thing to do.
We talked about my brother and I,  about her grandkids all grown up now, by name, and about her great-grandchildren, who she never got to meet.
The hot coffee was more delicious than ever in the warm sunshine. The faint memories of having coffee with her came back. I wish I'd spent more time drinking coffee with her though.
I've lost track of how many years I've brought flowers to her grave in the Waurika, Oklahoma, cemetery, 120 miles from my home, and it occurred to me  that there will come a time when I'm no longer able to make that trip. 
So I told her that this fall, God willing, I'm going to come down and plant some daffodil bulbs that will come up every spring, after I'm gone. 
But when I come back, we'll have another cup of coffee.

Saturday, May 9, 2020

Magic, happens, in creation, even at a snail's pace.

"Magic," 5 x 7 140 lb cold press paper
Magic happens, when we need it most, in inspiration, in life.
Especially in pandemic pandemonium and madness, it is sometimes difficult to find it, or to be inspired to try to bring color in painting to this world. I had been at a loss on what to paint today, my daily challenge.
The muse waits on magic, and it comes from unexpected places, as it did today for me.
Outside on the walk I found two tiny snails, so delicate and intricate. In wonder, I photographed them, posted them, labeling them "The miracle of life."
I'm surprised I didn't name them, and I worried the sun would get them, but they went back to their homes. I think they might be "Bippity bop," and "Boo."
Then my poet friend from Pennsylvania, Kay Lawson Gilbert commented: " To me, snails are magical. I imagine fairies ride on their backs. πŸŒπŸƒπŸ‘ΈπŸ»" (One of her poems "Meditation" is on the right sidebar of this blog, paired with my painting above it. More magic.)
Wow. Inspiration, and magic, as if touched by a wand. So I had to try today's watercolor.
It's an exercise in having fun, because I can use whatever colors I want, and there are no rules (as appropriate) for painting fairies...since they're magic, they can look anyway I see them. 
All painting should be this much fun. Thank you Kay!

Darkness Descends on Edmond

"Darkness of ignorance descends" as The Edmond Sun sets.
This is the fourth of my opinions on the importance of The Edmond Sun
The execution of The Edmond Sun means a darkness of ignorance is settling in on Edmond citizens, just as surely as the setting sun brings night to every day.
Democracy, freedom,  only lives in light, in the light of citizens being informed about their communities, and that light of accurate information only comes from a free press, unbeholden to the powers that be.
It is not enough for free people to live on public relations press releases from governments--cities, school boards, universities, and their branches, from the self-serving politicians. Those entities will provide only the information they want citizens to know.
Thus shutting down The Edmond Sun is more than just a historic, cultural and economic loss for Edmond. It harms an essential organ of the community's life and well being.
Where is a news staff dedicated to letting you know what really happened at city council, at the utility rates, at the zoning commission, at the school board, at public safety news, at crime events, at what politicians are really doing, at election coverage, in school sports and events, in the lives and deaths of citizens, in business openings and closings, in coverage of health issues like the pandemic? 
That's not implying corruption, but noting that a press covering a community makes corruption less likely. Light defeats darkness. It's no accident we keep porch lights, and business area lights, on at night to deter crime.
Nor is a newspaper--even a digital hybrid--the only source of information--we get much of it on social media, and other places. But the only place you can get detailed, reliable (not unchecked self-serving social media opinion) information free from conflicts of interest in our community comes from a news entity like a newspaper.  
And without that information, we are literally ignorant. Edmond is in the dark...in a descending  darkness of ignorance. 

Thursday, May 7, 2020

Mother's Day Flowers

"For Mom," Mother's Day Card, 5 x 7 watercolor card, inspired by a Linda Riddle painting
Bring your mother flowers this week.
I will this Sunday, driving down to the Waurika, OK, cemetery, as I have for many years, to plant real flowers on her grave.
Forty years ago she died this summer, just two months after I'd taken her to Scott White in Temple, Texas, and they found nothing wrong. She spent the last month of her life in the Duncan hospital, most of it in a coma.
I've written about this before, though it's been a couple of years.
My annual journey is my tradition, to wash the grave stone, a chance to talk to her, to remember, to reflect, to plant real flowers. I know she's not there, but it doesn't matter. It's a reunion. 
This year seems more important than ever, for some reason. Especially now, in the midst of pandemic craziness, I want to focus on love and kindness, and beauty, and she helps me. That's why there are flowers, flowers she deserves. And thus today's little watercolor card.
Bring your mother flowers this week.
Mother's Day Reunion

Tuesday, May 5, 2020

Executioner's Song: Saving the Sun? Too late, but?

"Too late," thoughts on the execution of the Edmond sun
"The Sun" has set in Edmond. But.
Third of my opinion pieces and art about the execution of The Edmond Sun.
Corporate parent, cnhi, executed it this week, "merging" it with the Norman Transcript.
The company, which bought many newspapers 20 years ago, investing Alabama teachers retirement in then profitable properties (they never considered them NEWSpapers), has since been divesting -killing-the weak ones off.
cnhi--I refuse to capitalize it, paid about $11 million for the Norman Transcript years ago--if my memory is correct. It has just cut its publication days, and laid off more people.  (For comparison, consider that Gatehouse only paid about $11.5 million to buy The Oklahoman a little over a year ago, reflecting how much the value of newspapers has plunged, also a travesty since local investors never had a chance to save local, and community, control).
Thus, cnhi, burdened by debt and poor investment planning (aren't we glad that OTRS...Oklahoma Teachers, didn't invest  in such a plan), is trying the cut its losses, and in the meantime, cutting communities.
Besides Edmond, cnhi has done the same to about 10 other newspapers, I've learned.
We are not alone, but there might be hope...witness what is happening in Baltimore, where people are trying to turn the legendary Baltimore Sun into a nonprofit, and thus save it. Here's the Link: Baltimore Rallies
Too late to save the Edmond Sun, but there might be alternatives. It happened in my town, Waurika, with local investors.

The Beauties of the beasts

"Beauty and Beast," 11 x 14 300 lb d'Arches cold press paper
Thunderstorms are schizophrenic, beauties and beasts.
Yesterday's storms,  filling our skies with dramatic clouds, also  brought so much hail damage to parts of Oklahoma.
One of yesterday's inspirations
But I never fail to go take photos of them, and then try to paint them. I've not done many recently, because in watercolor they're sometimes difficult to make them look alive and real.
Today I had to try, on the promise to myself that I'd not paint from a photo, but from an image in my head. I'm not trying to duplicate a photo. And I painted on very damp heavy paper. 
I'm not particularly happy with this entire painting, though I am pleased with the unintended "fuzziness" impression, but at least I attempted it, and learned.
Thunderheads are also beauties and beasts to try to paint.

Monday, May 4, 2020

On the executioner's chopping block

This post and today's art are my opinion.
"Names are news." 
That was my guiding principle when I owned a community newspaper, because names, people, individuals  are the heart and soul of a community.
Yes, I wanted stories, and news, and scoops, but still, all of those were about people.

"No names, no news."
I chose the word "Executed" carefully in my last post about the death of the local paper, The Edmond Sun. Then other people chimed in about the official corporate speak announcement that failed to even mention condolences and gratitude to the abruptly unemployed staff. As one OKC journalist told me, "merging" with the Norman Transcript was "a stunt that won't work."
I've known for a while that the Sun's printing plant, that prints many other papers, including  UCO's student newspaper,  The Vista, was the real money maker, as the paper struggled to survive. But I know, and others do too, that the paper could have made it if it put community, and people first.  
Having stewed on this over the weekend, I couldn't help but think of the medieval executioner getting ready to behead those out of favor with the rulers. To do the job, he had to not think of the victims as people, but just doing his job so he could keep his. Nice and impersonal. That's why The Edmond Sun is no more...it wasn't people, or community, it was just a job that wasn't profitable enough.
For the record, I believe 11 people joined Edmond's unemployed ranks Friday, in one fell swoop.
I only knew four of them, but that doesn't matter. They were all furloughed without pay, and with 30 days of partial health insurance coverage. They are applying for unemployment, but being furloughed here has no promise of being rehired.
Of the 11, five were in news, two in ads, and four in the office. I won't mention all the names, but three I knew more than just as acquaintances included  Oklahoma Journalism Hall of Fame member and award-winning journalist, James Coburn who had worked at the Sun since 1986. 
Also among the casualties that I know are my friend Editor Mark Codner, and sports editor Aaron Albertson, and Kari Tompkins who handled digital and projects.
Executing The Sun is a disaster for Edmond, whether you subscribed or not, especially with no one left to cover local government or high school sports.  Who will the Norman Transcript have to cover Edmond?  
For Edmond, "No names, no news."
But for each of those "furloughed," it's more than a disaster. It's personal, because they're names, they're people. They at least deserved to be thanked for their service.
So, here's a salute to each of you for your dedication through the years.  You deserved better, and certainly more respect.