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Tuesday, September 2, 2014

Widowed Bijous

My poor widowed sparkler
Michael Lichtenstein at Arts League of Lowell.
Michael Lichtenstein
It never fails. I buy a sweet bauble, usually a pair of earrings, a memento of my visit to  somewhere new (or new-ish) and then I lose one. Often enough, the earring goes fugitive on the very first wearing.


This little, singleton beauty (the mate may have done its runner while I was triking about yesterday) is by Stefanie Wolf of Stefanie Wolf Designs.

 I imagine I could buy a replacement but I’m more inclined to add this lonely bijou to the necklace I’m creating. Yes, it’s a chain holding all the widows of pairs I’ve inadvertently and unfortunately broken up.

Mega sigh.

As it turns out, she’s a Martha’s Vineyard artist, not a Lowellian.

Perhaps I should make a wee Vineyard trip, eh?

When I got to Lowell last Friday, my buddy Gene recommended that, in addition to the museums I was headed for, I take in The Brush Art Gallery and Studios and the Arts League of Lowell. Both joints had a LOT of great work on display though the Brush seemed a bit more cohesive. That is, the League’s show had amateurs as well as pros whereas the Brush artists were all pro level.
Jay Hungate

A website quibble — while the League has a ton of members listed with links at each person's name, precious few of those lead to clear examples of the artist’s work. More often than not this is what I found:
Visual Arts

Write a bit about who you are.
Write about your art.
Chrissy Theo Hungate
You know, I get it. This is a member run org — there’s not some paid gallery worker bee who runs around collecting JPGs, bios and URLs to post at each person’s name link. So it’s up to each artist to post. And most have not or so it seems. What this translates into is this — a visitor (me fer example) wants to look at what everyone does, wants to peruse and possibly find paintings or sculptures to purchase (OK, not me. I just wanna goggle). After clicking through half a dozen names and finding nada, I’m disinclined to stick around.


For those who’ve at least posted a brief statement and their web address — good on ya but ADD A PIC! I need a hook, something to snag me into clicking on your URL.

Generally speaking, us visual artist types are pretentious as all fuck when it comes to stringing the old lexemes together. I’ve fallen in love with wild ceramic sculptor's work only to take three serious steps back after reading what they have to say about their creative process.

So then, ADD A DAMNED PIC. You're a visual artist NOT a writer so give me a solid visual reason to be interested in your work!

One woman had a photo up of her cat. Mind you, I’m a sucker for cat snaps (duh) but the first medium she claims is clay. Yup, no sculpture or pottery on display. Have an image that actually relates to your creations. K?
Chrissy Theo Hungate

I had better luck at the Brush site. The only person I clicked on without results was Chrissy Theo Hungate. I truly loved the work of hers that I saw and am really sorry there’s not a way to see more now from home.

Her husband/brother/cousin/unrelated-male-with-same-last-name, Jay Hungate also shows his work at the Brush but isn't listed on the website. LOVE his work but then, y’all know that I’m a sucker for gryphons and gargoyles. They’re like cats only...em...not.

Fabric artist/weaver Cynthia Hughs is at The Brush too. It took a tremendous amount of self control to keep myself from buying one of her scarves.

From June through September, every first Thursday of the month Lowell has, essentially, an open house. It's called, appropriately enough, Downtown Lowell First Thursdays and runs from five to nine PM.
Downtown Lowell First Thursdays is a coalition of museums, galleries, businesses, and the Lowell National Historical Park, united to offer a monthly evening of fun and culture downtown. In the tradition of "gallery nights" held in many arty cities, the idea is to encourage workers to linger, visitors to stay longer and residents to explore the many special happenings on First Thursday nights. Galleries will be open with performances, demonstrations and refreshments. Museums are offering free or discounted admissions and tours or other special features. Restaurants will have interesting art related specials, and businesses will participate too.
 The last one for the season is this week. Go, go, explore!

Monday, September 1, 2014

Pee Wee Brained Barbarians

Who is Erick Erickson?
I do not think Barack Obama is a closet sympathizer of muslim Jihadists bent on our destruction, but God help me I suddenly understand how some have arrived at that conclusion.
Why does he "understand" this now? Because Obama hasn’t unleashed the dogs of war against ISIS, Putin, Libya, North Korea or any other John McCain (AKA Grumpy Old Man and WORST judge of character EVER) sanctioned targets. Yet. War is apparently a panacea for these cheeto-headed warmongers.

So yeah, Erickson’s a bomb throwing, tiny dicked piece of freeze dried Tea Bagger excrement who, naturally in this Orwellian age, calls himself a Christian.

He fancies himself a reporter, an author, one of the established cognoscenti.

Upon being disengaged from CNN he had this to say:
I had to learn an art form too often missing these days in partisan talk — the art of conversation, particularly with those who might disagree with me. I had to learn to be friends with people who I disagreed with.
to which TBogg added, amongst other things:
and he learned that it is not considered ‘well mannered’ to call a retiring Supreme Court a “goat-fucking child molester“ Or being such an obvious racist. Or a misogynist.

So, really, Erick’s adventures at CNN are very similar to Dorothy’s adventures in Oz where lessons were learned … except in this case nobody gets a brain, or a heart, or courage. But Erick does get a new paycheck at Fox, so it’s not a total loss.
Yup, he’s a Fox “News” Asshole-Who-Skews-Reality-to-Hell-and-Back-and-Otherwise-Makes-Shit-Up — that’s the job title. Really. You can check their HR department manual. Honest!

Incredibly, he found a woman with either low enough self esteem or an avaricious enough temperament (maybe both!) to marry his homely, troglodytian self AND bear him a child.

Additionally he just does not give a fig about global warming. He doesn’t necessarily deny that it’s happening — he just doesn’t give a good goddamn.

The Green Miles presciently points out, in his post Erick Erickson: Screw Our Children, I Want Cheap Coal Now, that Mister Heart-Attack-Waiting-to-Happen Pundit Boy’s "Let the seas rise. Let the wind blow" and “We’re all going to die” grenades are of a piece with the rest of the GOP’s profound disregard for the planet and everyone on it who isn’t them.
Erickson may just be one blogger, but here he gets to the core motivations of today's Congressional Republican leadership — America isn't worth investing in.

Energy? Just give me what's cheapest today, if we need alternatives tomorrow, someone else can spend the money on it. Education? If my family needs that, I can pay to send my children to private school  , but I won't volunteer a dime in additional taxes to improve our community. The environment? I can buy home air filters and bottled water — if you can't, too bad for you & yours.

"We are all going to die," Erickson cynically concludes. "Just not today." And by then, it'll be up to our children and grandchildren to build massive hurricane barriers outside every East Coast city to keep out the rising seas and monster storms as the bill comes due for all that cheap coal, oil and fracked gas
So, apparently Erickson's cool with leaving a disastrous wreckage of a planet to his child. Or maybe he just figures the kid'll be sufficiently insulated from it all Market Unicorns that's why!

Short sighted, terminally selfish, greedheaded, pee wee brained, barbarian fuckwads!

Sunday, August 31, 2014

Suffragette City

The Mills Girls sculpture by Mico Kaufman is a memorial to the women who toiled long hours (13-14 every day!), who organized, who fought for change in the Lowell textile mills of the 1800s. The big bosses capitalized on the the young, poor, not politically connected, single women of the day.

I’ve always wondered — what would I have done, who would I have been in 1800s America? Would I have been a Yankee Jane Eyre, minding and attempting to educate a passel of rich people’s bairn?
In 1850 there were an estimated 21,000 governesses in England. Despite the negatives, there were more applicants than there were positions because the only alternatives were marriage, domestic service, prostitution or the poor-house
An advertisement from an 1845 edition of The Times shows that an offer of shelter was frequently the extent of compensation:
Wanted, a Governess, on Handsome Terms.
Governess -- a comfortable home, but without salary, is offered to any lady wishing for a situation as governess in a gentleman's family residing in the country, to instruct two little girls in music, drawing, and English; a thorough knowledge of the French language is required.
So the governess bit seems like it would’ve been a non-starter for me. I imagine, the mills is where I'd have been. Joy. Somehow I just can't see myself docilely putting up with 12-14 hour workdays in hot, crowded, rooms with dust clogged air and the deafening roar of the machines.

From the History Matters site:
A group of Boston capitalists built a major textile manufacturing center in Lowell, Massachusetts, in the second quarter of the 19th century. The first factories recruited women from rural New England as their labor force. These young women, far from home, lived in rows of boardinghouses adjacent to the growing number of mills. The industrial production of textiles was highly profitable,and the number of factories in Lowell and other mill towns increased. More mills led to overproduction, which led to a drop in prices and profits. Mill owners reduced wages and speeded up the pace of work. The young female operatives organized to protest these wage cuts in 1834 and 1836. Harriet Hanson Robinson was one of those factory operatives; she began work in Lowell at the age of ten, later becoming an author and advocate of women’s suffrage. In 1898 she published Loom and Spindle, a memoir of her Lowell experiences, where she recounted the strike of 1836.
You can actually read all of Loom and Spindle here.

In February of 1834 800 workers went on strike.
This first strike in Lowell is important not because it failed or succeeded, but simply because it took place. In an era in which women had to overcome opposition simply to work in the mills, it is remarkable that they would further overstep the accepted middle-class bounds of female propriety by participating in a public protest.
UNION! Women didn’t even have the right to vote yet but:
In 1834, when their bosses decided to cut their wages, the mill girls had enough: They organized and fought back. The mill girls "turned out"—in other words, went on strike—to protest.
The following year brought the Ten Hour Movement.
The women's Ten Hour Movement, like the earlier turn-outs, was based in part on the participants' sense of their own worth and dignity as daughters of freemen. At the same time, however, it also indicated the growth of a new consciousness. It reflected a mounting feeling of community among women operatives and a realization that their interests and those of their employers were not identical, that they had to rely on themselves and not on corporate benevolence to achieve a reduction in the hours of labor. One women, in an open letter to a state legislator, expressed this rejection of middle-class paternalism: "Bad as is the condition of so many women, it would be much worse if they had nothing but your boasted protection to rely upon; but they have at last learnt the lesson which a bitter experience teaches, that not to those who style themselves their "natural protectors" are they to look for the needful help, but to the strong and resolute of their own sex." Such an attitude, underlying the self-organizing of women in the 10-hour petition campaigns, was clearly the product of the industrial experience in Lowell.*

 Does this sound familiar? The House of Representative’s committee which was tasked with reviewing the women’s concerns, the petition and doing something about it responded thusly:
A law restricting the workday, the committee wrote, would negatively affect the competitiveness of the mills. It would also affect “the question of wages,” which the committee held should be set by the market, as negotiated between labor and capital. In Lowell, the committee said, “labor is on an equality with capital, and indeed controls it…Labor is intelligent enough to make its own bargains, and look out for its own interests without any interference from us.
 The committee concluded by expressing confidence that any abuses in the mills would remedy themselves, through “the progressive improvement in art and science, in a higher appreciation of man's destiny.”

'the fuck?

Were abuses corrected? The changes, the improvement were finally made 29 years later  but first the women who’d campaigned and fought had been replaced by immigrant labor.
By the 1920s, the New England textile industry began to shift South and many of Lowell's textile mills began to move or close. Although the South did not have rivers capable of providing the waterpower needed to run the early mills, the advent of steam-powered factories allowed companies to take advantage of the cheaper labor and transportation costs available there. Labor strikes in the North became more frequent, and severe ones like the 1912 Bread and Roses Strike in neighboring Lawrence were driving up costs for investors.
And from the South the mills moved even farther south, to Mexico and elsewhere, in order to find cheaper, meeker, more desperate workers willing to put up with abuse in order to feed themselves and their families.

*Go to the link to read all of Thomas Dublin's WOMEN, WORK, AND PROTEST IN THE EARLY LOWELL MILLS: "THE OPPRESSING HAND OF AVARICE WOULD ENSLAVE US" piece  it's worth it.
Suffragette City—David Bowie

Saturday, August 30, 2014

Another Art Heaven

The Mill Girls by Mico Kaufman
Every time I visit one of these artsy small-ish New England towns I wonder, how come I didn’t move here after college and my carnival years? A small town with SO MUCH art happening seems like it woulda been perfect for me.

Apart from the fact that Lowell, New Bedford, Salem and Brattleboro, Vermont weren’t all art mecca-y in 1980 (not by a long shot — more they were depressed and struggling), I would’ve needed a batch ‘o’ pals (or one anyway) to do this with (I've never really been much of a loner type). All the folks I knew then, who were doing the commune in rural Vermont/Oregon/New York thing, weren’t my cuppa, Kevin’d gone off with the Navy and, oh yeah, I didn’t have a car. That bit seemed sorta critical.

In any case, yesterday I visited Lowell again, for a few hours. Such a great place!

There’s the Arts League of Lowell, the Brush Art Gallery and Studios, the Whistler House Museum, the New England Quilt Museum and a bunch more joints that I have just GOT to visit

Before starting my mini art tour, my friend Gene (who lives and works in Lowell) and I went to lunch at the best place EVER — Life Alive. Tag line found on their site Vegetarian food even a meat lover can crave.

 I had The Goddess (Our famous Ginger Nama Shoyu Sauce nurturing carrots, beet, broccoli, dark greens, & tofu gracing short-grain brown rice) wrap with the Island Alive Smoothie. Gene had The Adventurer (Our Sesame Ginger Nama Sauce combines with a colorful mix of corn, beets, broccoli, dark greens, shredded cheddar, tofu & tamari almonds over quinoa & short grain brown rice).

Art at Life Alive
AMAZING! And filling. I ate too much and could’ve done with a nice nap afterward. Instead, I set off for the Whistler Museum.

From WGBHArts:
The Whistler House Museum of Art, the birthplace of the artist James McNeill Whistler, was established in 1908 as the permanent home of the Lowell Art Association, Inc. The Lowell Art Association, Inc. (est. 1878) owns and operates the museum as an historic site and art museum. Built in 1823, the Whistler House represents the richness of both Lowell’s history and it's art. The museum maintains its permanent collection of late 19th and early 20th century artwork, and organizes contemporary and historical fine arts exhibitions in the adjacent Parker Gallery. The Lowell Art Association and the Whistler House Museum of Art values and encourages the development of creativity and use of art in everyday life as part of its mission.
John Singer Sargent sketch
Sadly, I missed the contemporary quilt show that’s going on now. I didn’t catch what the museum attendant lady was saying — she pointed at this brill pic, made an its-that-away gesture and then moved on to other folks. Yeah, I could’ve stopped her and said “Hey, I don’t understand. Where can I see this particular work” but I was feeling a little overwhelmed (and logey from the fab, big lunch) AND I figured I’d just stumble over it. No. Oh well. Show’s up through late September, I can go back.

The joint has art classes for kids as well as adults, an artist in residence program, lectures, musical performances, and more.

The pieces that stood out to me weren’t by Whistler. There was a gorgeous sketch by John Singer Sargent, the sculpture of Whistler by Mico Kaufman (above left) in the adjacent park and a collection of sketches and small paintings by Arshile Gorky.

Oh yeah and I was particularly taken with this copper lined tub. Of course. Which reminds me, the restroom at Life Alive? It was one big-for-a-restaurant-loo room with a bathtub filled with cactus and other succulents and artworks covering the jewel tone painted walls. I could’ve dallied in there for hours! Sadly, my camera was back at the table.

Friday, August 29, 2014

Ghost Cat: NOW with Happy Update!

Jen, that awesome Feline Finder, located our boy earlier today. He was in an out of reach, out of the way cubby, in the the basement,  behind a rack of my old paintings.

We all figured, best let him hide out until he's chilled out.

Then, when I came home from my museum trip a few minutes ago, he came to the top of the basement stairs for dinner!

Everything's gonna be OOOOK now.

Except for the fact that Coco's all in a frenzy again about, ya know, our new addition. Poor Princess is feeling threatened and needs to poop in ALL the litter boxes because, of course, ALL poop receptacles belong to HER.

She'll need a lot of extra love and, probably, a mess of tuna BUT she'll get through this. Not sure that TAB and I will but her and Rocco'll be fine. Eventually.
61º Fahrenheit and rainy in Scotland today. Well, that’s in Edinburgh — won’t give me the forecast for Portree on the Isle of Skye or Stromness on the Orkney mainland. Bastids.

About the same for my pal Brenda in Dublin.

61º but sunny for Brian buddy in New South Wales.

Martin in London will have 71º and sun.

Della in Berlin gets 74º and rain.

Sunny and 88º for Giovanni’s drummer fratello, Raffaello in Galatina, down in the heel of Italy. Silvano, up north of Venice in Lancenigo will have 81º and sun.

And a brutal 95º with thunder showers for my Helen and fam who’re temporarily in Dallas.

Here in Valhalla it’ll be 71º sunny and, so far, no sign of Rocco. Our magnificent but mebbe a little crazy furry man zipped inside yesterday — I mentioned that. He seemed disinclined to go out. That is, there was no sitting at the door giving me the guilt look and no scratching at window screens. He ate, napped, happily accepted his skritches and pats and looked around.

Rocco on the windowsill
After going out to work and running errands, I took Coco upstairs for our usual little siesta. When we came downstairs, an hour later, he was gone.

Dove? Wohin? Où? And a rousing, WHERE THE FUCK DID HE GO?!

The Amazing Bob and I have explored our closets, behind and under furniture, we’ve scouted around our basement and the “secret” passageway between our cellar and Jen and Oni’s.


We’ve called for him both inside our wee cottage and out.

No sign of the poor boy.

I’m afraid he’s gotten himself trapped somewhere but where? There just aren’t that many places to hide or get stuck in this joint. All our window screens are intact so it seems unlikely that he got out.

Did he evaporate? Become smoke? Was there a Kitty Rapture and, well, Coco and Gus are still here so I guess not all cats go to heaven? Has he become a specter who will haunt my dreams?

Yeah, I’m more than a little worried. I leave for work soon and then an afternoon of museuming and lunch with an old friend up in Lowell. I’m gonna stick with this plan because it’s not gonna do me any good at all to stay home fussing and searching all the same places I’ve already looked in 12 damn times.

Cats — they make me 68 kinds of flourescent, fruit bat-feces deranged. And I can’t get enough of them.

Thursday, August 28, 2014

Walking for Animals

a guest post from Michael Horan
Have I ever asked you for anything? Besides votes?

I am now.

As you may know, curbing the systemic abuses rampant in our factory-farming system is a priority of mine. With some luck, I might even find it the focus of my legal career. It's that meaningful to me.
On Saturday, November 1st at 11am animal lovers from across the Greater Boston Area will be converging at the Aeronaut Brewery for a walk-a-thon to raise money for The Humane League, a 501c3 animal rights non-profit that saves hundreds of thousands of animals yearly from the confinement and cruelty of factory farms.
This organization, The Human League, does terrific work, and they check out.

Each year, THL rescues animals from situations of abuse and abandonment, performs hundreds of outreach events, and speaks to thousands of high school students about protecting animals.

So help a brother out. With whatever ya can. 
You can read more about The Humane League here and donate to the Michael's walk here. Click those linkies — you know you want to!

AND you can read about this past summer's rally at the Massachusetts State House where activists locked themselves into the human equivalent of a gestation crate for pigs, here.

Wanna read more? Check out this Rolling Stone piece: In the Belly of the Beast.


Princess Coco
Timid Warrior Boy
Rocco's inna house!

While groggily stumbling through the morning rituals:
  • turn on the outdoor light so that Rocco knows it's time for brekkie
  • pick up Coco and cuddle her bigly as I dish out her first Fancy Feast of the day
  • fix Rocco's plate while she's chowing down
  • step onto the porch to cosset and feed R and whoever else might be about
  • clean the litter box
  • put on a pot of caffeine, caffeine, caffeine
 and on and on and on —our scarred, timid, warrior boy slipped into the house all of his own volition.

Zzzzip and he was inside, freaked out and ready to head back out again but the screen door had already shut.

Coco was, and I expect still is, unhappy (she doesn't share well) but she's calmed down.Our man, after hiding in The Amazing Bob's study for a bit, came downstairs and took one of the window seats on the stairway landing. Coco took the other.

I've dispensed copious treats, pats and Good Boy/Girl encomiums.

Right now we've got ourselves some ducky detente. We'll see how long that lasts and/or Rocco stays en la casa.

Fingers crossed.

Wednesday, August 27, 2014


A friend of mine, his wife and their elementary school kiddle take a week or two each summer and go to a family camp. You know — summer camp for you, spouse AND kids.  I was unaware this sort of thing existed.

When I was a wee spawn I despised being sent off to camp with a blue/white passion. In the summers all I wanted was to take walks (by myself) and sit in my room (alone) reading. Spending time with a shit-ton of ankle biters, hopped up on fresh air and “bug juice,” making key chains woven from leather-ish laces was just about the last thing on the planet that I wanted. Plus, Jesus, Mary and Joseph, I had to change into my swim suit in front of everyone!

The horror, the horror!

**Understatement Alert**
I was not a bold, outgoing child.

We, my family, would go camping though. All six of us in one small-ish tent (to be fair, big enough wasn’t possible). It was what we did when we’d travel back east after moving to Western Pennsylvania and then Bloomington, Indiana. And it was awful.

We weren’t the most harmonious batch of rug rats. OK, that was mostly my brother and I. We weren’t each other’s biggest fan to say the very least.

In any case, my folks — Chuck and Lu — seemed to just LOVE this tenting about shit. My mother sewed us all sleeping bags. Yes, you read that right — mia madre created our sleep sacks! Daddy bought a Coleman stove and he and Mother would take turns cooking. I was a big fan of Pop’s efforts — Fried baloney sandwiches! Oleaginous frizzled eggs! Buttery pan warmed toast!

Yup, the old man didn’t get a lot of opportunity to break out his corrupting meal creations.

So then, camping wasn’t all bad.

As a young adult I did the tent-in-the-woods thing with friends. I figured “I’ll enjoy this now because I’m with my chums.” Ah...nope.

I slept on a futon for eons and that’s as close to cold, hard ground as I want to get. Ever. Bathroom, with flush toilets and hot showers, is across the grounds? No, that just won’t do. Pee/poop in the woods? Don’t make me laugh/cry/scream. Please!

The closest I’ll come to camping now is a B&B with the loo down the hall.

Having said that, I can see how, if you’ve a copacetic, gregarious clan, the family camp thing could be a lot of fun.

Not sure where my pals in Northern California go but I found a couple interesting places on line:

Berkeley Tuolumne Camp
The staff provides social, nature, and athletic programs for all ages, including hiking, nature studies, and multi-cultural crafts.
The Artist-in-Residence program features a different professional artist each week teaching classes such as ceramics, drawing or performing arts.
  • Supervised recreational programs all day.
  • Recreation activities include volleyball, basketball, badminton, horseshoes, ping pong, archery, and day/evening hiking.
  • A “Kiddie Camp” for children ages 2-6 is held 3 times daily.
  • Special children’s activities for ages 5-12 occur daily.
  • Explore beautiful forests and streams.
  • Private, cozy tent-cabins for your comfort.
  • Swimming and fishing in the Tuolumne River.
  • Warm days and cool nights.
The rates include three family-style meals daily in our beautiful Dining Hall.
Nearby attractions include Yosemite National Park, great day hiking trails in Stanislaus National Forest, gold rush towns of Sonora and Columbia, horseback riding, water-skiing, and Mono Lake.
I saw yoga noted somewhere on their site too!
Dunno if the place still exists though.
On August 25th, 2013, the massive Rim Fire ripped through the South Fork Tuolumne watershed and destroyed our beloved Berkeley Tuolumne Camp.
I hope they're able to rebuild. I really do.

Then there’s the Emandal Farm — a working farm but a chilled out, vaca place for families too.
Besides swimming, hiking, ping pong and such, campers can help out around the joint.
In 1908, Em and Al Byrnes opened up their home to friends who wished to get away from the hustle and bustle of city life. All the fruits and vegetables served were grown on the farm, as were the meat and eggs. Em baked all the bread. Since 1946, the Adams family has continued the tradition of country vacations with farm grown and home cooked meals. Today Tamara Adams, following in the footsteps of her in-laws, Clive and Jessie Adams, and her late husband, Clive Adams, Jr., operates Emandal’s Family Camp in the summer, Environmental Education for school groups in the spring, and hosts groups, workshops and other special events throughout the year.
 I can see the allure of this sort of thing. No really! Just not for me.