Put away the silverware!
Lock the dog in the closet!
Douse the party flames!
Kill the fatted calf!
Roll up the sidewalks!
Stop the fun IMMEDIATELY!
Labor Day is coming!
The last hurrah of the summer. The final gasp of heat, sun, and relaxation.
Hold it - are we school kids? Don't we work all year long? Weren't we working this summer anyway?
Some of the arcane traditions that go along with Labor Day make it a weird holiday. I once lived at an apartment where they closed the pool every year on Labor Day. It didn't matter if it was fifty degrees or a hundred degrees, the cover went on, and the summer was over. I hate when that happens. As Andrea says, "Lid's down. Lost the Key."
Or - you can't wear white shoes after Labor Day. I love this video from the film "Serial Mom" - I hope you enjoy it as well. "You can't wear white shoes after labor day."
To me, Labor Day is the time when you put away childish things and focus on the real work of living as if living isn't working anyway. As for me, I want to bring back those ..."lazy, hazy, crazy days of summer. You'll wish that summer could always be here."
Why should that be a celebration? Why should we say hurrah to the cessation of fun - to give up the light?
Do not go gentle into that good night, ...; Rage, rage against the dying of the light - Dylan Thomas.
If you want to affect the world, please change the arbitrary rules by which we live - whatever they are.
There is a constant debate in this house concerning the number of official holidays existing in England and the United States. This discussion ends here. Yes, I lost.
The scores are in and it looks like England drew the short straw.
United States England
It got me thinking that it might be good take a look at holidays in both countries. You can choose your own or take them all. It's up to you. Well - not really - it's kind of up to your boss, isn't it? Retired people have all those days off. Wouldn't that be a hoot!
In the United States, with a couple of exceptions, U.S. national holidays target things we want to remember. They happen about once a month. Mostly, they're a result of horrible things we want to remember so they never happen again.
In England, workers have days off that commemorate religious events during the year. Mostly, they surround Church of England religious events. They're called "Bank Holidays" here. Here's a recap list for this year:
England and United States
Monday, 1 January
New Year's Day
This is arguably the best time to invade any country as most everybody has a hangover or creaks out of bed up late or both. It should be called "Potential Country Invasion Day" or "Potential War Day." You can treat it as a day of optimism and hope or you can just say good riddance to the year that was.
Monday, January 15
Martin Luther King, Jr. Day
Very cool guy. I'm glad Martin has his own day. He deserves his day, but it also reminds us how horrible we used to be to one another. It's an excellent time to remember how far we've come and how far we have to go in how we treat each other.
Monday, February 19
I thought this had been changed to Presidents Day because Abe gave up his birthday to Martin, and, of course, Martin deserves his day. We celebrate George Washington who led the troops in the Revolutionary War and Abraham Lincoln who led the Civil War. Okay -perhaps some good came out of those conflicts. I suppose we celebrate the fact that we don't want to fight those wars again. George and Abe are heavy hitters in history, and I reckon they deserve the day.
Friday, 30 March
Isn't every Friday good? Well, except for Friday the 13th maybe - It should just be called Friday and we should do it every week. Cheers to the four day work week! Hip, Hip, Hooray! Drinks all around.
Monday, 2 April
We don't do Easter in the United States - it might offend somebody so if you can't please everybody - please nobody. There is a separation of church and state in the United States, but it doesn't stop the president from hosting an Easter Egg hunt or saying God Bless America. In England, the Queen is head of the church and what she says goes. Its just a name and well isn't Easter on a Sunday anyway. Don't we always get Sunday off? This one isn't about war, but it's about this guy who was horribly beaten, stuck on a cross, then, came back to life. Oh my - it would be nice to have Easter Monday off in the States, but well we already have ten holidays.
Monday, 7 May
Early May Bank Holiday
I like this - no reason - just cause it's early May - I think that pesky pagan May Pole has something to do with it. It does have something to do with May Day which is really the 1st of May. May Day was originally oriented around pagan practices, and there's usually singing, dancing, cake and much merriment to be had. I suppose there's tea, scones, and whiskey as well. Oh well - I guess "needs must."
United States - Monday, May 28
Memorial Day - Yup - remembering people who died in a war, the families the wars ripped apart, the broken and battered human remnants of war. This, we should not forget.
England - Monday, 28 May
Spring bank holiday - Yay! Spring
United States - Wednesday, July 4
Independence Day - Yup - Fill your cup with stars and stripes we get to remember the war. Actually, July 4th was when the Declaration of Independence was signed. What ensued from that document was a war. We remember that bold step that lunged us toward independence. This is the declaration that launched a nation. I got some folks to celebrate the 4th of July in England once, but I guess they just thought it was a good time to get rid of those pesky colonials. Me, I'm just happy we all get along again. Except for that language thing. We have differing thoughts about that one. "Two nations divided by a common language."
Monday, 27 August
Summer Bank Holiday
No labor today cause it is summer outside. Well - summer started on 21 June (in the US at least, in England it starts on May 1). Okay, we'll call it End of Summer Bank Holiday. But summer doesn't officially end until September 21st. I guess it's just time to close the pools and start putting all those white shoes away.
Monday, September 3
Remembering the labor conflict - social conflict - not a war - but - well people were angry with each other. President Cleveland sent in troops to quash a demonstration where a couple of people got killed. That action made folks angry. Because people got killed and it was an election year Grover Cleveland declared there would be a Labor Day. He lost the election anyway - Good going, Grover.
Monday, October 8
Remembering an adventurer. An Italian guy who conned three ships and a bucket of doubloons from the King and Queen of Spain. Ferdinand and Isabella had a big DIY project in Granada since they acquired a massive palace from the folks who built it. To renovate, they needed more gold and silver to kick people out of the castle and put some polish on the fixer-upper - War & Slaughter.
Monday, November 12
This is remembering those who fight the wars. I, personally, like to reflect on what these people do. They step into harm's way, so we don't have to.
Thursday, November 22
Remembering that wonderful time when the Pilgrims (displaced people from England) celebrated their good fortune with their benefactors (the native folk). This lead eventually to the carnage of the displacement of the people who showed up in North America first.
England and United States
Tuesday, December 25
Remembering someone who was born in a stable. The king, at the time, promptly decided that all children in Bethlehem under one year old had to die. Carnage ensued. An angel warned this intrepid young traveler. He escaped to Egypt, thereby surviving to die on a cross under Pontius Pilot. Then there was the Inquisition, the crusades and, well, mainly - war, genocide, and a little baby. Ahhh.
Wednesday, 26 December
Not a US holiday because, in the U.S., we don't use boxes. We're just those radical upstarts. Most people in the U.S. take this day off anyway. "In England, it was a custom for tradesmen to collect "Christmas boxes" of money or presents on the first weekday after Christmas as thanks for good service throughout the year." It seems like all business stops from the week before Christmas through New Year's day. Most people are in a bit of a food coma on this day and probably couldn't work if they wanted to. Nevertheless, I love Boxing Day because it's a really, really cool name for a day.
We should celebrate our labors, and we should take time off, and we should remember the horrible things that happened in history, so we just don't do them again.
Until next week, I wish you peace.
I brought all my painting gear with me. All I really had time for was to draw a couple of sketches in the Derbyshire Dales. The sketch to the left I did while contemplating the Dales with a nice cold beverage in the garden. Just over the fence - peace, and tranquility.
You see, last week we got to spend some time walking with friends the Dales. That involved transporting both ourselves and some of our belongings from point A (Stevenage in Hertfordshire) to point B (Ashbourne in Derbyshire). We packed up the car and were off to our little getaway in the country. We thought it would take about two and a half hours to drive the 125 miles, give or take the inevitable wrong turn or two.
Our trip started out as planned, but quickly turned into alternate routes, map gazing, and some arguing with the SatNav about directions and the quickest route.
Where is this silly machine taking me this way?
Was that a left turn or a right turn? (your side/my side)
What the hell do they mean - "slight left turn"?
Get off the curb!!
Was that close or what?
Who the hell built these roads?
Why did we choose to drive during rush hour?
Hold it, it's not rush hour!
Why are we on the M1 to begin with?
Shouldn't we have taken the A1?
It would have been faster, wouldn't it?
Geez, I can't wait to get out of this car and have a beer.
At one point we were playing dueling directions (android vs apple) - who will get us there faster? Was it the American Apple GoogleMaps (American accent) or the English Android GoogleMaps (English accent). I think the real honest to goodness paper map won the day.
Five hours later, with no remaining nerves or whits, we arrived at our destination. It was a trial.
The road and I have, of late, had a trying relationship. I suppose it's not the roads as much as the situations they create. Some of it has to do with road works, potholes, and roads so narrow you'd have trouble passing one starved boney horse past another going in the other direction. There are pull-offs, lay byes, and unsigned passages but my real grievance is with the people.
Sure, I have the occasional brain fart and do the wrong thing. Honestly, I think some people on the road make it a point to make life difficult for others toing and froing on the same patch of public earth.
I have some pet peeves about drivers and other idiots. This situation was just one of those that brought flashbacks and not the cool colors and shapes of the 60s and 70s. They are much more unnerving.
Because I was thinking about it, I thought I would bring up some suggestions for these caustic concrete cretins that make my life so difficult on what was supposed to be a long and relaxing drive.
Just a little rant (Don't worry - all suggestions attempt to maintain a PG rating).
Oh yeah, one last thing - don't read your emails/texts at 70 miles an hour. You deserve what happens to you but others don't so put the phone away!
Thank you - Until next week, I wish you peace. I'll try to grab a bit too.
I was pleased to visit Buxton this week. Buxton was the site of a Roman Spa way back when the Romans roamed this Green And Pleasant Land. Buxton has a hot spring that produces more than a million liters of mineral water at 27 degrees C (80.6 F) every day. That's lots of warm water.
The waters there are supposed to have restorative qualities. My old bones could use some restorative. Nevertheless, it is a pretty town with a lot of attractions.
We enjoyed stopping at the Pavillion and Gardens next to the Opera House. The Gallery in the Gardenshouses the work of 40 local artists. I love local artists.
One artist that stood out for me on this visit was David Hoodith. David moved to the Peak District in 1995 and currently lives in New Mills. He's a self-taught artist who paints the dramatic Peak District landscapes and cityscapes. His loose style is pleasing and invites you in and holds you.
Art starts a conversation. Sometimes the conversation goes well and sometimes it goes the other way.
The conversation might start like this.
"Wow, that's incredible."
Sometimes like this.
"What kind of monstrosity is that?!?!?!?!"
Sometimes it could be, "You know, I was in Rockport, have you ever been there?"
Sometimes - "Was a dog sick on that canvas?"
"I was in Macy's and I needed something to go over my couch so I got this. I think it's pretty cool"
Every piece of art has a story. Every work of art in your home has a story attached to it. The story is usually personal.
A piece of art tells others who we are.
It could be where you got it. It could be that butterflies mean something to you. It could be the artist was a friend or the colors are beautiful. It could mean any number of things.
My art story this week includes a trip to the Royal Academy Summer Exhibition.
The rooms were crowded. There was some unintended jostling going on. I'm not good around crowds. I can get uncomfortable and irritable when I'm closed in with a bunch of people, but I didn't blow a gasket or run out screaming and whining like a child. This time.
It was interesting to listen to the comments from people on the floor. Some of the work was interesting and some of the work was fabulous Some of the work was just not worth the time it took to make it.
There seems to be no end to the opinions people hold and many times they're happy to share those opinions with a complete stranger.
"I'd never have that in my house."
"That's the most horrid thing, why would they select that?"
"Where did they get the idea for that?"
"I can't believe someone bought that?"
"Really, that sold for ₤22,000! I can't believe it."
No one will like everything and I have my opinions as well.
There were some large works that looked like they should be hanging in a soulless atrium, selected by a committee, and approved by the board. They were well executed but looked like they lacked any investment or inspiration from the artist. Some were creepy and some were downright horrible.
Some were just funny. This year, there was a skinny pink panther laced through some strange structure. It was huge - over six feet long. I really didn't get it, but I can appreciate it nonetheless. It made me smile and I liked it. I could hear the theme song playing in the background.
Some were smaller and more intimate portraits. A couple caught my eye. They were about 8" x 10" and though they were hung amongst a hundred other paintings stood out to me.
They were titled MOH 8 AND MOH9. These were obviously, at least obvious to me, portraits of United States Marine recipients of the Medal of Honor (MOH) recipients. The MOH is the highest decoration possible within the ranks of the military service in the United States. The paintings gave me pause to think and reflect on them and their sacrifice. A few goosebumps were involved too.
Executing something well is important to me. Some of the entries were incredibly detailed and intricate like this marvelous forest scene made entirely of wire.
Some of the artists in the show displayed no effort and looked like they were just slapped down, trampled, twisted up, run through a trash compactor, and then hung. Their effort and investment were minimal/dismal.
I don't like criticizing an artists work because maybe I just don't get it. It could be someone else will. Perhaps I think if I criticize someone else's work it leaves mine work up for criticism as well.
I do enjoy going to these shows even though I know I won't like a lot of the stuff there. To me, it is an explosion of creativity and different opinions. It helps me see new possibilities.
I'll be back to see the good, the bad, and the ugly.
Go see some art. Visit a gallery. Start a conversation. Lord knows we could use a bit more conversation today.
So, without mentioning Tracy Emin's horrible contributions, I will leave it all alone. But... someone will always find her interesting for some reason or other. Ack!
The painting I've included today, at the top of this section, was submitted by me to the show a few years ago but was not selected. I like it. It's hanging in my house. It has its own story. :-) I'll keep trying.
Until next week, I wish you peace.
The artist I've chosen to present this week works on a grand scale. DAAS' murals can cover the entire side of a building or even a huge city water tank. The massive scale, the color, and feel of his work make it truly remarkable. It just gives me a good feeling.
For this otter mural, he researched the area to determine what image would work best for the area. The following is a video of the Otter Project in Winston-Salem NC. The whole process is intriguing. I find how he uses reference marks painted on the water tank to draw the mural is really interesting.
I love the creative way that he abstracts his subjects into a cubist style. His paintings are immediately recognizable as his own. His work is certainly unique in scale, diversity, and style.
DAAS is currently based in Japan but his work can be found around the globe. From a panda or an elephant in Kathmandu, Nepal, an Otter in Winston-Salem, NC, a wall of birds in St Petersburg, FL, to Astronauts in Osaka, Japan.
You might want to stop by DAAS' website to take a peek at is other work as well. I love the smaller (relative) work as well. Check out what he calls his "indoor paintings" on his website including this very impressive falcon.
I look forward to visiting one of his murals. I think that will go on to my bucket list!
I love his work and I hope you do too. You can find his work in a number of places online including:
This a painting I did of St. Nicholas Church in Stevenage. The current building as you see sits proudly atop the hill across some fabulous rambling fields. The tower itself dates back to 1100 AD and an ancient stone font with a medieval carved wooden cover.
In 2012, my father came to visit us in England. He was 84 at the time. We took him on many walks around Forster Country which surrounds St. Nicholas Church. One day, on our walk, we stopped in to visit the church. The Rector of St Nicholas Church, Dave Brown, came out and gave us a great tour of the building. He showed us some fantastic little Latin graffiti on the center columns of the church. I can't remember what it said though. It was probably something like "Dave Was Here".
The church survived the plague and escaped the Blitz (a nasty piece of work sponsored by Herr Hitler). I don't know of many Hitlers in Germany (not that I know many people in Germany). Did all of the Hitlers corporately change their name to something else. Maybe Hitler was an Austrian name. Anyway - he was, as we all know dreadful. I would certainly change my name if it was Hitler.
My dad was blown away by how old the church was and how friendly the Rector was when he basically gave us a private tour. It was one of the highlights of his visit.
Back to Forster Country...
Way back in 1883 through the summer of 1893, a fella called Edward Morgan Forster, known as Morgan to those close to him, more popularly known today as E.M. Forster, lived in a little place off the Weston Road close to Stevenage in Hertfordshire. His early family home, called Rooks Nest House, was the model he used for the home described in his novel as Howard’s End. Other works you might know include, Where Angels Fear To Tread, The Longest Journey, and A Passage To India.
We still often walk the fields and farms around Rooks Nest House. The house, which sits atop four and a half acres of land, was recently put on the block for 1.5 million pounds. The decision to sell was probably prompted by the uninvited encroachment onto their spectacular pastoral views. You see, The Stevenage Borough Council has approved the development of an inordinate number of homes to replace this lovely greenbelt area. It will surely decimate this tranquil and peaceful setting. I’m sorry to see the fields and farms succumb to our wanton exploding population.
Forster was unhappy with the expansion of New Stevenage when it occurred. He said, “it would fall out of the blue sky like a meteorite upon the ancient and delicate scenery of Hertfordshire” (Hertfordshire Life, 12 August 2010). New people started pouring into the new town in 1952 and the population has steadily climbed since that time.
I’m sure Mr. Forster would be equally opposed to this encroachment on to Forster Country today. He may, I imagine, like his name removed from the abomination it could become.
Though the plan was passed in 2017, the development plan has been placed on hold for the time being. The local MP, Steven McPartland, asked to have the plan put on hold. It means no development can currently proceed. It is not a permanent fix but it means there still might be a glimmer of hope that this amazing greenbelt can be saved.
I will enjoy the walks while I can though. It is beautiful.
I love this place and I thought you might like to see it before you hear the engines of the bulldozers grind to life.
I will keep my fingers crossed.
Until next week I wish you peace.
This week's artist sends me back to my childhood. It sends me back to my teenage years at least when I was taking a cartooning class at Woodside High School. The instructor's name was Paul Buck. Some of you from Woodside might remember Mr. Buck and the art department.
The artist I want to highlight today is Al Hirschfeld. Hirschfeld drew caricatures and his style is quite unique. I was enthralled in my teen years.
When we were at the play last week at the Noel Coward Theatre I saw a Hirschfeld drawing of Noel Coward on the wall. It brought me back to my teen years.
Hirschfeld would "hide" his daughter's name in most of his drawings. He used to put a number to the right of his signature to indicate how many times his daughters name, NINA, showed up in capital letters in the drawing. If there was no number NINA usually only showed up once or perhaps the drawing was done before she was born.
One of the things you strive for as an artist is a unique style. Something that is your own. As Srini Rao might say Unmistakable. When you are the only one you have no competition. Herschfeld exemplifies that unique style. He was one of a kind.
Hirshfeld's drawings were published in a number of publications including the New York Herald Tribune, The New York Times, and others.
Though he is well known for his black and white drawings he also produced many full-color caricatures that were quite unique as well.
If you feel you'd like to take a trip down memory lane, back to an iconic artist of the 20th century, you could do worse than checking out Al Hirschfeld. He's not on Facebook or Instagram or any
You can find his work at The Hirschfeld Foundation website or you could just search his name in your favorite search engine.
He was truly the caricaturist to the stars and I want to thank him for this pleasant flash from the past.
Life has changed so much since I was an ankle biter.
I have to keep adapting to new things. I guess the minute you stop adapting you start down the long miserable path to slothful decrepitude. Don't wanna go there.
I'm not a digital native by any stretch of the imagination. There were no personal computers when I was growing up and I learned to type on a Remmington manual typewriter. I’ve had to learn plenty of different systems since I first poked my toe in the digital waters. I've worked with an IBM Selectric, a CPT 8000, a Wang, an IBM PC Jr, WordStar, Word Perfect, Word, Lotus, Excel, Pages and many more.
Technology has produced many changes in the way we live our lives. A change in technology needs a change in approach. Let's take shopping for instance.
Some retail dinosaurs that didn't see the technology comet slinging on across the sky. They're struggling to survive.
Macy's is floundering. JC Penney's stock price has plummeted. Sears, once a retail giant, is closing stores and burning through cash trying to adapt to how people shop today.
We buy much more online now. I've become more comfortable buying things online now than I have been. I'm getting there. I'd not call myself an early adopter but we do more that involves the internet every day. We buy everything from clothes, furniture, groceries and, for me painting supplies all off the inter-web or as some of our friends call it T’internet.
We stream television programs online and we get to skip commercials. To me, watching advertisements is like dragging your bare knuckles over a sharp cheese grater then asking for some lemon and salt to soothe your wounds. Can I hit my finger with a hammer again, please?!
Technology has changed our lives in many ways.
Some changes are good. Some of them aren't so good.
I used to get the random spammy letter through the letterbox (chain mail, advertisements, investment fraud). Now, I can't tell you how many times I’ve inherited millions of dollars from some kindly old lady who calls me endearing terms like, my love, my dearest one and on and on.
The Artificial Intelligence (AI) creeping into our lives too. It can be helpful but to me, it's truly creepy. AI giveth with one hand (Alexa, what's the weather today? Raining, look outside you blithering idiot!), and AI taketh with the other (Sorry, Scott, we no longer need your services, we've got an app for that now). I've heard Alexa listens to you even when she's not engaged.
The internet has disintermediated galleries as the main venue to buy and sell art. There are many people out there making quite a good living without having gallery representation. Having your work physically available to view and buy is good, but the internet has really opened up fantastic ways to sell artwork. Saatchi Art, eBay, Etsy, Redbubble, Society 6, and DeviantArt are all great places to display and sell your work. And there are more.
I plan on opening a shop to sell my original artwork. Unfortunately, I think I need a good kick in the pants to do that. Anybody got a boot?
Life feels so much different today than it did when I was growing up.
Overall, I am so happy with my life, I could jump out of my skin and dance a jig. I'd need to be out of my skin, because, in my skin, I neither have the coordination nor do I have the rhythm to perform such a jig.
I think of where I've been and the opportunities and challenges ahead and find it daunting but exciting too.
I'm enjoying the English countryside. I painted this a little while back. It reminds me of our lovely walks here.
Until next week, I wish you peace.