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These are the times that try men's souls. The summer soldier and the sunshine patriot will, in this crisis, shrink from the service of their country; but he that stands it now, deserves the love and thanks of man and woman. Tyranny, like hell, is not easily conquered; yet we have this consolation with us, that the harder the conflict, the more glorious the triumph. What we obtain too cheap, we esteem too lightly: it is dearness only that gives every thing its value. Heaven knows how to put a proper price upon its goods; and it would be strange indeed if so celestial an article as freedom should not be highly rated. -- Thomas Paine
Each column is a year, and that last column is 2009.
Notice how stable it was for years. Mid-2007, it started to move upward in a serious way as all of those homes went under water for the super-risky products being offered.
When I worked at Wells Fargo, I asked the verbotten question: "What happens if Fannie goes out of business?" I was laughed at. (Still laughing, Joe?)
The problem with Fannie (and Freddie): there are no free-market alternatives. That's what happens when you kill the free-market. There is no mechanism for corrective action. And this failed government enterprise posing as a "business" just keeps expanding its book of business.
So back when I worked as a strategy consultant to Wells Fargo, I urged them to begin to develop a private alternative to Fannie. I told them that they were no different than a one-crop farmer. No one took this seriously.
Farmer, meet the corn worm.
There are two ways out of this for banks:
Develop and invest in a free-market alternative.
Let your kids pay all of this debt off when the government - i.e. taxpayers - just soaks all of this up.
I consider that latter to be hugely immoral, but I know that doesn't seem to bother some folks.
I read that Atlanta might elect a new mayor who describes herself as a "'purple' fiscal conservative."
I like that description. That describes me pretty well. I strongly support gay marriage, I am devoutly capitalist, I believe in individual freedom and limited government, and I'm definitely a fiscal conservative.
Tamara and I woke up today and voted. It was a city council election. Only one candidate came to our house, a guy named Brian Rickert, who espouses lower property taxes.
I bought a book not too long ago - Get Out the Vote - and it listed all of the methods politicians use to increase voter turnout.
Long story short, the most effective method for getting out the vote is: the door-to-door visit.
Mailers, robo-calling, TV campaign ads - all of these take a big backseat to the door-to-door campaign.
The bigger the district, the more volunteers you need - because a politician can't physically visit every house. But volunteers can.
The guy running against Rickert? Well, I never heard from him at all. I expect Rickert to win. As a matter of due diligence, I went out to the other guy's web site and checked him out. He too favors lower property taxes, but he tried to engage in some negative campaigning, I discovered. So Tamara and I gave the "A" for effort to Rickert, the guy who bothered to come to our door and traded a few email with me.
I like to remind people at times that the best way to help somebody might be to let them skin their knees.
Back during the summer, John McHugh - a little-known congressman from upstate New York - voted for the Democrat Cap and Trade bill. He was nominated and later sworn in to become Barack Obama's Secretary of the Army this past September.
By becoming the Army Sec, he left a vacancy that had to be filled, and the Republicans of New York's 23rd District chose a tax-loving liberal in the person of Dede Scozzafava to be his replacement to represent the Republicans; at least until conservatives around the nation got wind of it.
At this point in this election night, it appears that Constitution Party candidate Doug Hoffman, a quiet accountant who believes in freedom and limited government, will lose to Democrat Bill Owens, for whom the former "Republican" candidate, Ms. Scozzafava, stumped.
I think the best outcome has happened, should Hoffman loses by a shred. Nancy Pelosi already has her majority; a win by Hoffman wouldn't erase her majority or substantially change anything.
But what it will do is to demonstrate to the leaders of the Republican party that nominating RINO's is a loser strategy. If Hoffman wins, they narrowly miss skinning their knees.
If Hoffman loses, their knees stay skinned for quite a while. They lost a seat that they didn't have to lose. The activists stay mad about it, and are therefore not complacent. And Newtie? His time is pretty much up within the ranks of the Republican party.
It started out as a RINO district. I won't be surprised much if Democrat Owens wins. RINO's are, after all, Democrats wearing a Republican jersey. What's the difference? Since they voted one into office with McHugh, Owens isn't much of a stretch.
In the event of a loss, the leaders of the Republican have to live with their unnecessary loss for a year before the next election.
"Mom, I skinned my knee." "Were you doing something you weren't supposed to?" "Yeah..." "Well, then don't do that and you won't get hurt."
Killing others in the name of any God or prophet or religion is wrong. It's a form of genocide, of ethnic cleansing. It's clear prejudice. It's not in self-defense. It's an open act of offense to purge the earth of people who suffer the great offense of believing differently than the murderer believes.
One of the greatest recorded acts of this kind of genocide deliberately sought after the men, women, and children and slaughtered every last one. And a well-recognized religion of peace has no problem with this. In fact, it celebrates the guy who did this.
Numbers 31 in the Old Testament tells of Moses, giving the order to kill the Midianites.
"Kill every male among the little ones, and kill every woman that hath known man by lying with him. But all the women children, that have not known a man by lying with him, keep alive for yourselves."
I don't know one Christian who is offended by that order from Moses. Not one.
So it's okay when Moses did it - because God told him it was okay and Moses and God were tight like that. But Muslims? To listen to some people yesterday, they were about ready for internment camps over the incident at Ft. Hood.
I've already stated my position: any act of killing in the name of God or a prophet or a religion is wrong. If what's written in the bible is true, then Moses was an murderous asshole - just like the guy at Ft. Hood.
Christians like to forget that their god is "the Lord of Hosts." That used to mean something to people, but I'll bet that most folks don't know what that phrase means any more. It means: "The Lord of Armies." The Christian god is a military god, who according to the bible waged a bloody campaign against the Midianites by the hand of Moses and the Israelites. If you believe that the bible is the word of God, there you go.
To a Christian, is that an atrocity?
If it's not because your faith dictates that you must accept it as the will of God, then surely you understand how a Muslim can believe the Qur'an and its dictates - some of which can be interpreted to murder infidels. I mean, true believers act on their faith, right?
"Well yeah, but that was different..." will be the reply of devout Christians. "Muslims don't know the one true God. God told Moses to do that. God didn't talk to Muhammad."
Yes, of course. What a fundamental difference, to be sure.
Christians come from a bloody faith and they justify, rather than repudiate, the despicable acts that spawned their faith because anything less would require them to either question their faith or to equate that element of their faith with the horrific religious fundamentalist acts done today. Just because it was done thousands of years ago doesn't make it any less wrong. It is the height of hypocrisy to allow yourself to accept a murder done in God's name in one instance and not allow someone else to accept murder done in God's name in another.
Unless of course, you know, God tells you that it's okay.
Now that Nancy pushed her national healthcare plan through the House of Representatives yesterday, people need to understand: a vote for any Democrat to take seat in Congress is a vote for Nancy Pelosi driving forward with her socialist agenda.
So if you like the government being able to fine you for not having health insurance, then vote Democrat. If you think that's wrong, don't vote Democrat.
It's that simple. Because the Democrats in the House of Representatives voted her into her position as Speaker of the House, the only way to remove her from that position is to give the Republicans control of the chamber.
A fellow Army doctor who studied with Hasan, Val Finell, told ABC News, "We would frequently say he was a Muslim first and an American second. And that came out in just about everything he did at the University."
If that's supposed to be an indication that this guy was trouble, what do we do with Christians who profess their citizenship to be in heaven, and not in America?
Religious fundamentalists tend to be people who don't like or respect individual freedom. America is all about individual freedom. If you have a problem with individual freedom, then you can have your citizenship elsewhere, that's fine, but don't claim to be an American citizen.
I had the good fortune of being in Augusta, Georgia, when the Tea Party Express rolled through town. Here are some pictures I captured of these great Americans gathering and working to restore liberty to our country.
This is, like, the third time I've started this post. Tough subject, and something with which I'm really wrestling...
My whole family is abuzz about the soldiers killed at Ft. Hood, the murderer and the press' reaction to him, and the lack of government awareness of how close this guy was to out-and-out loony with his "faith."
And then there's the Islamic issue. Or is Islam the only issue?
My son called me tonight and said that he wants to know what the Qur'an really says. I think I'll get him this book.
I've done a lot of thinking about faith and killing - what it's really all about.
In any society, there are those who make the decisions, those who protect the decision-makers, and those who just live in the society.
If I'm angry at the decisions made, wouldn't it make sense to target the decision-makers? Or those who protect the decision-makers?
Instead, we get people like Nidal Hasan (the Ft. Hood terrorist), John Allen Muhammad (one of the DC snipers), and the 9/11 hijackers who target random people who just happen to live in the society. They weren't going after the decision-makers, or those immediately around the decision-makers. They chose the innocent. They targeted their victims indiscriminately.
All of the people I listed above did so because they believed their faith, Islam, urged them to do so.
Abortion clinic bombers and abortion doctor killers also do it because they believe their faith prompts them to do so, but they target those involved in the deed - not just random people. The people at the World Trade Center were targets of opportunity, not decision-makers.
Christians don't kill those who believe differently than they do. Abortion clinic killers kill those who are actively killing, and justify their action as a preservative and protective measure. They're killing the killers. They're not out to convert anyone to Christianity through murder. They don't kill you because you're not a Christian.
Islamic killers target non-Muslims in a non-Muslim land. You're guilty and worthy of death because you don't think like they do. Hasan believed that Muslims in our nation's military should be able to file for conscientious objector status when the enemy is Islamic. He was a Muslim first and foremost, and being an American was a distant second. While some Christians are a Christian first, and an American second, I don't see any Christians in the military who refuse to kill other Christians, or who target non-Christians just because they're not Christian.
America was founded on the premise of maximizing and preserving individual freedom. If you don't believe in freedom, you're in opposition to the very premise of America.
Freedom of religion - my right to determine my own faith - is central to the reason this nation began. Christians who assert that America is a Christian nation and work to force it to be a Christian nation stand in opposition to any freedom of religion. The way they interpret that is not a freedom of choice of personal religion, but a freedom to practice Christianity. I recently asked a very devout Christian, who believes that this is a Christian nation, where I, the non-Christian, belong in America, if America is a Christian nation. She shrugged.
This planet needs a haven where freedom is maximized and preserved. A haven where laws are based on the preservation of individual liberty. A haven where I can be a Christian or a Muslim or a Jew or an atheist, and people respect my right to choose my own faith and the laws of the nation don't have a religious basis. A haven where I choose my own vocation, keep what I earn through my work, and the government is limited. A haven where I can determine the direction of my own life, so long as I don't step on the liberties of others.
Is that America?
I believe that America was founded to be that haven, but it's not that haven today, and never will be according to some Christians and some Muslims.
Faith is waning in America. I reckon that the urgency of religionists to enforce their faith by pushing it on others is part of the reason for that decline. People innately crave freedom of religion. There's a reason it's part of the First Amendment.
Any person who doesn't respect freedom of religion sends others the clear signal that they're not welcome in this country. That's mighty offensive.
You can kill me for not believing like you do, or you can push your religious agenda into our nation's laws. Neither respects my freedom of religion. Neither wins converts.
I'm coming to believe that respecting the individual freedom of others is the highest moral there is. If I can disagree with someone and not work to strip their liberties through force or through legislation, that's the greatest respect and honor I can show them.
Casey does an excellent job at his blog, and his post on The Case Against Universal Health Care rocks. So I'm just gonna point to what he said and introduce you to his site, if you haven't been there before.
ETC: And to help his point along, the Boston Globe gives some facts regarding the stimulus "saved or created" jobs numbers cited by the Obama administration:
"There were no jobs created. It was just shuffling around of the funds."
Government-run enterprises fail. That's just the truth. Anybody else who wants to believe otherwise doesn't have the facts at their disposal or they refuse to look at the facts. Either way, they don't look smart.
Love your kids? Care about their future? Don't vote for socialist politicians.
Over 15 years ago, I realized that the hardest thing in life is to see things as they really are. How we see ourselves, our work, our family, our life... seeing those truly - as they really are - is incredibly difficult to do without bias and wishful thinking.
One of these days, I'll write a big post on starting a business. In fact, I'll likely write a book. I'll start it right after the day that I lay catatonic on the grass in a forest beneath a deep blue sky with my head resting on my wife's leg - which will be the day after things are going so swimmingly that the business is just fine without me for a day.
In a couple of days, I'll get my copy of an agreement we just signed with a professional sales company out of Atlanta, which is eager to sell 247Toolset. One of the questions I answered today, asked by Sanjay, was this: "What's the maximum number of portals you can create in a week?"
My favorite quote about business: "Risk is jumping off the cliff and building your wings on the way down."
I own a 2000 Dodge Caravan. I've had vans my whole life. My first vehicle was a 1970 VW Minibus.
The picture above is one of our dog, Mojo, resting on his big pillow in the void of the backseat. I removed two of the seats before our trip and having that room for the dogs and our stuff - including my bike - makes for a far more comfortable trip.
We've taken the van across the country maybe 15 times, with various configurations of kids, seats, stuff, and dogs.
I'm somewhere near the end of the road for this van, and I was thinking about getting a truck, but this trip brings me back to a van for all of its versatility, convenience, and comfort.
While visiting many stores and gas stations on our excursion to the south, I was reminded of something I noticed while I lived in Charlotte, North Carolina. Inconsistently - depending on the person - a southern accent can render a single-syllable word multi-syllabic.
My name, for example, can go from a one-syllable word (Brett) to two syllables (Buh-rett) to even three syllables (Buh-ray-ett).
I'm not sure what the trigger for that is, but it's fascinating to observe. My wife, Tamara, is from Augusta, Georgia, and is a one-syllable southerner. Food Networks' Paula Deen, who is from Savannah, Georgia, is a multi-syllabic southerner.
Tamara: Whisk a dash of ginger in there. Paula: Whee-yusk a day-ush of gin-juh in they-er.
If you've never noticed this before, you are now forever cursed to hear this inflection in some southerners.
A little over a year ago, I left Wells Fargo. It was a no-brainer decision - despite a lot of initiatives and ideas that I proposed, Wells wouldn't move forward on any of it. So I could have remained as an expert thumb-twiddler, or I could have moved on. I chose the latter.
Since that time, my life has gone in strange new directions. I became a spokesperson for LG and was flown out to LA to film a 3-minute spot promoting their cell phones. I've started a new company. I'm creating a very complex web site for a local firm. I became an outspoken advocate for freedom and helped organize the local tea parties. And I find that I'm being used more and more as a strategy consultant, which is the position I'd held at Wells.
I'm not being paid for my work as a strategy consultant. At least not yet. What I'm learning is that there are people out there, bold and daring and eager to figure out their place in life and business, who benefit from my view of their position and ambitions. I met for a long time with one of those people today. Had lunch together. He asked me, "What do you want from all of this?" I told him that if my advice and directive held merit and worked toward profit, I trusted that he would be fair with me. We'd figure that out later - let's focus now on executing the plan.
It was a couple of weeks ago that I was driving through rural Georgia. Tamara was resting quietly in the passenger seat next to me, and I had spent the previous 100 or so miles considering this man's business and his goals. He'd been looking for a better model for profitability, and he and his partner welcomed my help. We never discussed rate or money. I did it because I like these guys and because it was an interesting puzzle. These two men were trying something no one had ever really done before.
Somewhere near Griffin, Georgia, I figured it out. Over the next day, I wrestled with the various logistics of my solution, and then I called the man's partner and pitched it to him. I wrote a 4-page white paper, further clarifying the model, and got his buy-in. Today, I laid it out for the man himself. He loved it. The model is crazy and unobvious and brash, but promising - just like what they're trying to do.
Recently, I met another guy, and he too does something no one else really does. I had dinner with him a few days ago and pitched a different twist on what he does. He took it home to his wife and they are now excitedly working with me to hone the idea. If this works, it might change the direction of his life.
Neither idea I offered costs any money to implement.
I don't think innovation requires big risk and money, usually. Time? Yes, of course. But the best ideas are those that come from new ways of doing what's already being done. It's a re-flavoring, a re-mixing, a re-turning.
This Saturday, Tamara and I will go to dinner with a man and his wife and discuss their store that they own here in Des Moines. He approached me after reading my strategy / innovation web site and told me right there that just from reading that, he wanted to write me a check. I asked him to wait until we discuss it all from the perspective of his family's business, but he's brimming with enthusiasm for innovation and greater profitability.
I have no clue how this will all turn out, but it's fascinating. And it reminds me of something I learned long ago...
It's about helping others, believing in them to achieve their dreams. At the end of the day, being a part of that journey is worth every step. Being paid for my time and ideas right now is not important. Joining people in their life's adventure is. If my work with them helps them succeed in a greater way, then a reward for me will work itself out and I'll be compensated for the value I helped to bring.
In the meantime, what a privilege to be able to stand with these brave people while they pour their souls into a dream they have...
When I was seventeen, I drove to my drummer's house. I don't know why I went there or what I had wanted to do with him, but he complained that he had to rake the yard. The yard was big and messy with autumn leaves.
So I offered to help him.
"My parents aren't going to pay you. You know that, right?" "Dude, it doesn't matter. Let's just get it done. We can hang out that way."
Bewildered, he accepted my help and we spent the next five hours raking his yard - and laughing our asses off.
It's important to roll up our sleeves and jump in with others. Life is a hell of a lot more interesting and fun that way.
I'm here at the Making of America seminar with somewhere over 100 other folks. It's a day-long Constitutional history class. Pretty cool. (The picture is of people coming in to take their seat.)
To my left as I sit here is Casey Head and to my right is Iowa's next 3rd District congressman, Dave Funk.
ETC: The seminar is almost over, and I have to say that the learning I've had about the Constitution in the last 6 hours far exceeds anything I learned in all of public school.
The historical Democratic origins of the Constitution - from Publius to John Locke to Moses to many others - we're covering so much ground. The deep discussions between the Founders about why they made the decisions that they did. (I've learned, for example, that Alexander Hamilton was an ass.) And it's easy to see how far we have come from the wisdom of the Constitution.
As I said in the past months, Obama's numbers were plummeting and he is now starting to tank. Mainstream America can see what many of us saw long ago: he's a socialist and an ivory tower neophyte. We knew he'd be ineffective on the world stage. We knew he would drive the economy downward. Why did we know that? His fundamentals are all askew. He's a socialist. All of his friends are socialist. And socialism never works. Not once in history has it ever worked. It opposes human nature and freedom.
I believe that his "strongly disapprove" numbers will eventually top 50%.
The historical figure Obama most resembles is not Nixon or Carter, but Wile E. Coyote. Nothing Obama does works as he thinks it ought to. But that doesn't stop him from imagining himself to be a super genius - and never will.
The big question is how long it takes his voters and supporters to realize that by voting for him, they're not the super geniuses they thought they were.
That's starting to happen because, well, bankruptcy is never a good look and while you can ignore the math, the math won't ignore you.
The coolest thing in the world is waking up to my dog barking at the world outside my bedroom door at 6:20 AM - and discovering that her reason is one of my adult kids, unexpectedly arriving from St. Paul, Minnesota, to spend Thanksgiving with us.
It's great to see Nick :)
By far, the tastiest Thanksgiving I've ever had. Tamara cooked cranberries into some chicken broth and merged that with apples, cornbread, and walnuts for the stuffing. It came out a deep purple, as you can see in the picture.
The turkey was rubbed with thyme, salt, pepper, garlic, onion, and other spices and everyone around the table agreed that the turkey was amazing.
And then there's the baked pear with honeyed cream cheese and graham crackers...
Climategate - which is the release of inner-circle emails from the Climate Research Unit - gains steam. The media doesn't want to cover it. But some readers know about it anyway, as the link shows.
Anthropogenic Global Warming (AGW) is the issue here. The questions:
Is the earth warming?
Is man responsible for the warming of the earth?
Would warming harm us?
If so, can we take measures to reverse it?
To get to the bottom of all that, various research teams from around the globe collect data, analyze it, and then present their conclusions. One of these is the Climate Research Unit, "a component of the University of East Anglia and one of the leading institutions concerned with the study of natural and anthropogenic climate change." Someone hacked into their systems and grabbed 3,000 emails and documents from their servers and then posted them online. The documents aren't flattering.
The main line lifted from the emails is this from CRU's Phil Jones:
I've just completed Mike's Nature trick of adding in the real temps to each series for the last 20 years (ie from 1981 onwards) and from 1961 for Keith's to hide the decline.
Are they telling the truth or fudging the numbers? And where do scientists fall on this issue? Here's advice from climatologist and climate science skeptic Dr. Roy Spencer:
Hopefully, the scientist is more interested in discovering how nature really works, rather than twisting the data to support some other agenda. It took me years to develop the discipline to question every research result I got. It is really easy to be wrong in this business, and very difficult to be right.
Skepticism really is at the core of scientific progress. I'm willing to admit that I could be wrong about all my views on manmade global warming. Can the IPCC scientists admit the same thing?
Year after year, the evidence keeps mounting that most climate research now being funded is for the purpose of supporting the IPCC's politics, not to find out how nature works. The 'data spin' is increasingly difficult to ignore or to explain away as just sloppy science. If it walks like a duck, and quacks like a duck...
Science is about a pursuit of the truth. Yes? If so, why won't the CRU release its data for peer review and confirmation?
"The fact is that we can't account for the lack of warming at the moment" - sent by Kevin Trenberth of the National Center for Atmospheric Research.
"If they ever hear there is a Freedom of Information Act now in the U.K., I think I'll delete the file rather than send to anyone." - Phil Jones, head of Climate Research Unit at the University of East Anglia in England
Don't want to show me your data? Until all of the data can be put on the table and it's verified, we can't even begin a discussion. Meanwhile, I'm left to a single conclusion:
It's all bullshit.
Here are the answers to the questions I asked:
Is the earth warming? A) Maybe, but it's been cooling lately, and the earth has always gone through cycles of warming and cooling.
Is man responsible for the warming of the earth? A) Nobody knows.
Would warming harm us? A) If the Ice Age didn't kill us, why would a warming trend? Warming trends in the past didn't eradicate life from the planet.
If so, can we take measures to reverse it? A) Moot point since the jury is out on the rest of the questions, but that won't stop politicians from trying to maximize their political ambitions through manufactured crisis.
Ever since "Perception is reality" started to take hold, facts seem to have become subjective. Which is a tragedy. People get offended when others will confront them with facts, because doing so tells these folks that they're wrong if their perceptions don't align with the facts.
What does it say about a person when they lack a bias for the exposure of facts?
The root of anger is when a person's expectations don't come to pass.
Nobody gets angry when things go as planned. If Mom expects the bed to be made in the morning, and the kids do it, Mom isn't angry - she's pleased. If they don't make the bed, she might get upset.
If you drive down the street with the intention of running your car into a telephone, you're probably not upset. After all, you expected it to happen. On the other hand, if a cat runs out into the street in front of you, and you swerve to miss it and crash into a telephone pole, you're likely mad - because that is so not what you had planned for the day.
Have I proven my premise? Let's assume that I have...
We expect others to be nice to us. In fact, we look for and reward thoughtfulness from others. That kind of consideration prevents things going south... if we act in a way that uses forethought and thinks of others, life generally goes better.
When we surprise people with self-centered actions, we hear things like this:
"Why aren't you walking with me?"
"Hey - give that back!"
"I've been waiting here for fifteen minutes... couldn't you have at least called to tell me that you would be late?"
The term we use for this kind of thoughtfulness is manners. Manners are like traffic laws for social interaction. Except that they're mostly unwritten (bonus points for you if you know who Emily Post is), almost universally unread, and never went through a democratic process before being enacted.
Somewhere along the line, consideration of others led to people believing that they have the right to not be offended. People believe that you have an obligation to not introduce your own interests as the sand in their ointment. Polite folk just don't do that sort of thing, you see.
One of the great problems in the US today is that people have dropped their natural and healthy self-interest. I believe that comes directly out of the drive for political correctness, which started with manners. You don't want to give more of your income to others? Why, someone might tell you, you're just rude and mean, selfish and uncivilized. Is it so wrong to actually think of others, they might ask?
Nobody has the right to tell me how to live my life. Expecting your definition of thoughtfulness from me without my consent is a usurpation of my liberty. Coercing your definition of thoughtfulness onto me without my consent is immoral. That in itself is rudeness.
There is a balance to be found between our own healthy self-interest and our consideration of others. Whatever balance can be found, it starts with recognizing the freedom of the other person to choose for themselves their own conduct and culture. If we don't, we seek to control them though expectation and resultant anger at violating our expectations.
So I'd like to suggest that the basis of all manners and civil discourse is the acceptance of individual liberty - a concept that would likely horrify any manners consultant out there - but nonetheless, I believe it is foundational . I say this because the justification for manners is peaceful coexistence, and until I allow people their natural right to determine their own life, there will be no peace in our coexistence.
At the request of my son, Tyler, I purchased a Netflix account. I can access the online Netflix library. My addiction: listening to documentaries while coding. Doesn't really require much viewing (a quick Alt-Tab at interesting points), and I'm totally digging the provocative dialogue in my head.
Currently: I'm listening to Carl Sagan's Cosmos series.
Earlier today: Penn Teller's Bullshit.
Amazing that I can tap such a library without limit for just $9 a month.
A young woman from England found my artwork and asked me some questions as part of an assignment she has for her school. Here is my reply:
1) What inspires you?
My first goal is whether it's visually interesting to me. I look for balance, movement, emotion... I don't worry much about colors. Anything can be any color, but I find that I haven't yet grasped temperature - cool colors vs. warm colors. So I also look for something that challenges my understanding of painting.
2) What materials do you work in?
Acrylics and watercolors. They don't stink up the house, as I don't have a studio. I did a test on many different brands of paint and found that Golden has the best consistency and body for acrylics. Paperwise, I like smooth surfaces, and I haven't found a gesso that really smooths out canvas, so I try to avoid canvas. Typically a board of some sort for surface, or a heavy vellum paper.
For watercolors, I steer toward Grumbacher.
3) My favorite piece... the only original still in my possession is Holiday Glow, as my wife won't let me sell it.
When I look at my paintings, I remember doing each one. I recall the moments of excitement with each one. And I have to tell you that at the start of each I'm convinced that I have an even shot at either screwing it up or getting it right. So once I jump off the cliff and get into it, I adjust as I go. The adjustments bring a-ha moments, and those are the moments I most enjoy. It might be a color combination, an edge, a texture - something that surprises me for how it works. So I don't know that I have a favorite painting, but rather favorite moments during each painting.
So I'll share with you my favorite story about a painting...
Two Candles was a very conscious effort. I went to the store and bought two candles, set them side by side, lit them, and walked away to let them melt a bit. When I returned in an hour, the heat of the shorter candle had melted the side of the taller candle and completely dissolved its side and the wax of the taller was mingling deeply with that of the shorter candle. I was horrified. But as I looked at it, I thought I would let them melt a bit more to see how it went.
In another hour, I returned to find the scene you find in the painting. The mingle of wax between the two felt very intimate to me. So I shut off all of the lights and took many pictures.
I've attached the photo on which the painting is based. As I was painting it, it was the first time I had painted flame, and I was struck by the purple / yellow elements of the heat and light. To this day, using purple, red, and yellow really connects with me and you can see that in sections of Holiday Glow in the lighted areas of the stone wall of the building.
What I learned from painting the candles is to trust my instincts and the process. Things often won't turn out as I anticipated, but I can trust my ability to go with the flow. When I do, the results can pleasantly surprise me. Which gets into why I paint - it helps make me a better person.
Writing that reply to her reminds me of how desperately I miss painting.
When Mike Huckabee was still in the running for the presidency, I looked at him hard and decided that his urgency for Governmental Christianity was ridiculous on its face. Back then, I quoted Mike:
"I didn't get into politics because I thought government had a better answer. I got into politics because I knew government didn't have the real answers, that the real answers lie in accepting Jesus Christ into our lives."
To this day, I still can't follow his logic. But nonetheless, Mike did get into politics and Mike did extend his Christianity into his governorship of Arkansas. He was into commuting the sentences of hard criminals. Mercy and forgiveness and all that.
Maurice Clemmons, the 37-year-old Tacoma man being sought for questioning in the killing of four Lakewood police officers this morning, has a long criminal record punctuated by violence, erratic behavior and concerns about his mental health.
Nine years ago, then-Arkansas Governor Mike Huckabee granted clemency to Clemmons, commuting his lengthy prison sentence over the protestations of prosecutors.
"This is the day I've been dreading for a long time," Larry Jegley, prosecuting attorney for Arkansas' Pulaski County said Sunday night when informed that Clemmons was being sought in connection to the killings.