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Archive for 'Larger Forces at Work'


March 17, 2013 by , under Larger Forces at Work.



A good customer of mine recently purchased more 1952 Raymond Loewy “Service 2000″ dish ware. I’ve seen photos of his table settings. Creative and beautiful. I’m glad I can help. This guy deserves free rein and a budget to produce a book on table arrangements.

We all have our little niches of insight… AND blindness.

I don’t know how we get some of them… others I do.

I’m NOT talking about academic Education and Training (or lack of). It’s that OTHER stuff which seems to form from thin air… during times passing unnoticed. I put a lot of weight on Education – much of which is far from an institutional experience. Most of any life time is NOT spent in formal Education, yet many people accept the thought that “We LEARN in school, then REPEAT on the OUTSIDE what we learned while INSIDE. That’s that.”

Perhaps most parents understand the limits of that thought, but after my years of teaching I must say many, many parents DO hand over most of the responsibility of educating their children to various institutions. I’m NOT talking about any specific group like high or low income single parents, OR, specific institutions like public or private school or church. I AM talking about parents who give EXCESS weight to the institution over their own guidance of that unique child.




THAT isn’t education. It’s barely policing. But who am I to talk? I didn’t raise kids day in and day out for decades. But, I am an ex-child. I struggled with all the venues of education – school teachers, parents, other adults, the medias, the streets, peers… and depending upon the day, month and year, one source held significant power as EASILY as another.

Lately, I’ve considered the impact pop music had on me while a young teen. Sure, I had a brain, yet I also had my “heroes” – right or wrong, good or bad, real or fake – many in the music industry, with MOST of their effect from lyrics and publicized behaviors.

It’s laughable NOW, but it wasn’t then. My life and brain were smaller. My body was drowning in an overabundance of new juices. Through delivery girls like Joannie Sommers, Shelley Fabares, The Angels, The Shangri-Las, The Ronettes, The Crystals… ALL FEMALES!… I was instructed how girls wanted to be treated: with roughness, distance, uncertainty, and as a carnival prize and a second-class creature from another planet.  Girls had unreliable thoughts and moods, said “no” when they meant “yes,” and could be had by offering a few softly uttered words or unhealthy candies in a heart-shaped, flat red cardboard box.

By 8th grade, people told me I looked at least 18 years old. This was GREAT for me because I gained illegitimate access to all sorts of activities and behaviors with older people. I’d recently been uprooted from my entire life through a cross-country move, and was so lonely, so angry, and so sad and confused over this, I would’ve attached myself to a box of dynamite if it would’ve said friendly things. In fact, I sort of did just that.

While an 8th grader, my 9th grade steady girlfriend looked as much 18 as did I. (The more mature-appearing kids always find one another.) She was pretty, stylish, and already owned her adult figure of 40-28-38. Her mother was seldom home. Her father was alcoholic, missing a leg, and beat both females. I encouraged my girlfriend to run from this one-legged man when he’d go on a rampage. She left her bedroom window unlatched.  There I was at 14 learning about girls from her, her family, teen magazines, peer rumor, and musical heroes.

“This girl must be the ‘right’ girl/woman…” because she was not only good looking and “stacked”, she behaved the way I was being taught she should. I learned the more I mistreated her the more she’d warm up to me. If I hit her she’d tell me she loved me. And, SHE knew she had the “right” boy/man not only because I looked fashionable and was part of the In Crowd but because I too behaved as I should. MY actions proved to her I was emotional – thus, I LOVED her. Listen to the tunes of that era!  We were good students.

In the cross-country move, I’d lost much of significance in my life. In its place was a vague feeling – I had little for comparison – and I was uncomfortable with what I apparently expected to do for her and my relationship to “work”. I didn’t like the idea of growing up if THIS is what it meant! WHAT WAS NEXT???

Within the next year, we broke up (not due to any great wisdom on either of our parts), she dropped out of school, was becoming alcoholic, got married and began having babies. Eventually, one by one, each of her three husbands ended up in prison. She and I kept in touch (during her good, communicative spells) for 25 years but, sadly – slowly – I gave up on her. To this day it depresses me to think about it. I could no longer stand by someone who was a landmine. It was too difficult. I’d worried about her for a quarter century, I was never of any help, and it was time for me to go. I had to move on… and away.

It seems to take an entire lifetime to find and remove some of those early ideas installed in the backwater areas of our brains. Could our parents have helped protect us from these confusions if they’d just asked that one more question? … the kind of questions I would’ve (at the time) considered intrusive and none of their damned business?

“Where did you get those car parts?”

“……………from a friend.”

“Oh, okay.”





 (“Whew! This is gonna be easy…”)



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Manipulate THIS!

December 29, 2012 by , under Larger Forces at Work.



I am fascinated with what William Shirer writes in “The Rise and Fall of the Third Reich”.  With all of his research complete, he was able to lay out the steps necessary for Hitler to take power in a clear and predictable fashion. It is SO clear you can easily understand it as a step by step process. It is SO clear and conceptual you can see how the book would be of use to anyone – now – for good or evil. It is a TRUE PRIMER on how to USE individuals and systems of people for your own goals… whether they all work out in the end or not, of course…

All of us learn and file away what has worked for us when it comes to USING people. Action/reaction, test/result, mistake/success. Deciding to USE someone is always a conscious act, no matter how subtle. The “file” of data you carry with you is extremely complex, and surprisingly accessible. (I can feel some of you squirming already. “I don’t USE people!” you’re thinking… as you back up. Well, YES YOU DO, and I haven’t even begun to describe why I think some of it is a GOOD thing…so relax for now.)



“Using” basically means “manipulating”. Men know how to manipulate women, women do it to men, the older do it to the younger, and the younger to the older. The “weak” do it to the “strong”, the strong to the weak, one race to another, one religion to another, one political party to another, or a simple debate between friends over coffee is often a jousting of sorts. We “steer” one another towards or away from something we find of value, of use. We want their agreement, help, or absence. Huge studies have been done watching people throw signals into their environment they hope will cause the result they seek. Power, money, sex, peace, love, things, security, adoration…

For example, if you TEACH, but don’t understand the deeper reasons why your students are there in front of you, you will be a dull and unsuccessful educator. It’s not merely about information. It’s about connecting the listener TO the information by offering it as TOOLS they can use for larger, personal goals. We’ve all had both kinds of teachers. We all remember the best ones. What they taught is still somehow finding use in our lives. Some of us realize our best Teachers weren’t merely teaching a subject, but a way to Live. God bless the parents and school teachers and others in our lives who were willing to use their time and energy for the positive manipulation of our brains. Sure they manipulated us. They had to or we would have never outgrown our status quo. We all know people who are still back there – at 15, 18, 24, or 29… – who weren’t given (or didn’t accept) the TOOLS needed for moving forward. Teachers can only plant so many seeds in one hole.

So what the hell does THIS have to do with the Nazis? They were EVIL, NOT STUPID. They made daily, conscious choices to manipulate people for self-serving, terrible reasons – and they succeeded for over twenty years. That was plenty of time to damage much of humanity on the planet.

We are not Nazis, but we hold useable power in our daily lives. Each day we have the responsibility to be AWARE of our manipulations, and edit them to only those that help, not hurt, and add, not subtract, to the quality of life. It is NOT an easy job.

Manipulating without thinking is much easier.
Manipulating without a conscience is easiest and most dangerous.



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Hurricane Sandy – the Aftermath

October 30, 2012 by , under Larger Forces at Work.



Many of us feel incredibly lucky to have received little serious damage from this historic hurricane. Let us

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not forget those who paid the unlucky ultimate price, and the many more who will need months and years to rebuild what they have lost.

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October 22, 2012 by , under Larger Forces at Work, The Antiques, Design and Art World.

I have a friend who works with contractors repairing and rebuilding homes. Once in a while something interesting happens. Not often, but when it does, I hear about it.


A couple days ago he called to tell me they were ripping out the interior of a hundred year old house. Once the old fire place mantel was removed, they found the following BEHIND it, hidden IN the wall:

- A loaded “bb” pistol.
– A never opened (still sealed) pack of Lucky Strike cigarettes.

Part of my time is spent hunting not only THINGS but INFORMATION about things, and, if there’s no INFORMATION, I try to make reasonable guesses… i.e., I play Sherlock Holmes. It’s a good day when I learn something.

Okay, so first of all, THIS was “BOY’S stuff”. Very little doubt about that. Next, it was HIDDEN. NO doubt about that.


1. The boy of the house took his most treasured possessions and “buried” them in the house as a “time capsule”. He fantasized returning years later to uncover his favorite things, or, more likely,

2. the boy needed to hide these things, knowing he’d be in deep trouble over the mere ownership of cigarettes and a bb gun. (The issue of HOW he acquired these things could be a “shady” boy-story in itself, adding further need to his hiding them…)


I did some homework. I already knew Raymond Loewy, one of the most famous 20th century designers, redesigned the “LUCKY STRIKE”

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cigarette pack in the late 1930’s or early 40’s. I remembered seeing a picture of that design in one of my hundreds of books. So, I began the search. The information had to be in an older book of mine, because I’ve known this fact for years. After about 10 books, I found the information. He redesigned the package in 1940 but it was highly altered again in 1942 due to its use of bronze in the “gold” package ink – a material now being held back for the War effort. So, the boy’s pack was “pre-Loewy” – 1939/early 1940 at the latest. (The tax stamp sealing the pack, was not dated. THAT would’ve saved me an hour.)

Why would this matter to Sherlock? Why didn’t the boy ever return for his stash?

The Great Depression was still lingering in 1939/40. Money was tight, jobs were still scarce. By late 1941, the U.S. would be pulled into WWII with the attack on Pearl Harbor.

One of two things probably happened:

1) The father of this home was either offered an immediate job at a great distance, or called into the military. Either way, a sudden move to a new location or a much smaller home could have been the result, or,

2) The boy reached the age acceptable to the military, and HE went into the service himself… but never returned. Whether he moved on or was killed in action, there is no way for me to know – at least not without turning this into a second career.


From here, we pick our favorite explanation and let it become a story that soaks into the 72+ year old pack of smokes.

Works for me.


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Wrestling with My Self

October 11, 2012 by , under Larger Forces at Work.


Some January 23, 2003 thoughts returning from a journey way out in the Universe:

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My older stepdaughter and her husband now have a baby girl. I’m a Grandpa! ……………

Wait… Holy Smokes!! How can this be?!?

I mean MY Grandparents… okay… THEY were old. You look at old photos of them holding me as a baby, and they’ve got a touch of grayish hair started. Wait. I’m nearly all gray… Okay, but they were, hmm… what age were they by the time I was born? Lemme do that math here… Yeh, see, THEY were 48! …Wait. I’m nearly 53… Okay, but… Grandpa was old enough to have switched careers by then… oops, never mind. What it is IS that kids nowadays are having babies sooner! I mean… MY Mom and Dad were 25… and THEY’D tried to become pregnant for three years! More math = 22. Yikes.

Alright alright, but I’m still a Groovie Dude – you know, with the long hair and all – so that should count for something! I mean, when I was a teenager, I used to feel SO SORRY for those aging men who wore their hair like it was still the 1950’s, and here it was the new Beatle 1960’s!! I mean, how embarrassing for them that they’d be carrying such fashion relics on their heads, for, like… (more math here…) …….. FOUR years! …Oh crap. I’ve had the same hair deal going for THIRTY FIVE years!

I’m wrestling with myself – and LOSING!

Alright, then let’s note that I’m at PRIMO age to be in a role of, like, President or something. Wise & worldly, and ready to rule. I’m nearing 53. More math………….
John F. Kennedy was 34 when elected. Yeh, but……..uh………………………………………..


Dang. I give up.
Grampaw Ronn.
PS: Any jokes, and I’ll cutcha outa the Will, I swear!!!




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Each Cell

October 7, 2012 by , under Larger Forces at Work.



Yesterday, while at home, I gave more attention to the bird feeder – making sure the neighborhood birds had enough to eat. There were Robins, Cardinals, Blue Jays, Sparrows, Finches, and Mourning Doves (who wait on the ground for seed to fall from the messy birds hanging on the feeder above).

The smaller the bird, the “jumpier” or “flittier” it is. Makes sense. Darwinian Truth: The Bigger eat the Smaller, so the Smaller need to be on the lookout more of the time. None of these birds ever work in much of a Flock. If anything, they have Mates, and the Mates are always nearby. Pairs. Doves will group together once in awhile, like when there’s a cache of food, but for the most part, they’re not a bunch of Flockers… unlike the Starlings.

You seldom see Starlings out solo, or for that matter in flocks of less than ten bazillion. As much as I could dislike Starlings – they’re loud, they’re aggressive and chase away the other birds, they crap all over my car (!), and they’re relentless… they’re also as beautiful as all the others. Against the white snow, the males Starlings look like large, black amethyst jewels.

What struck me two days ago (and not for the first time) is how Starlings operate. They are individual Cells of a much larger Brain. A large, moving, living, squawking, amethyst Brain. They fly in this form – all turning left or dropping into a tree with a shared, simultaneous thought. They land in your yard as if by appointment, and, if you’ve ever noticed, will often recognize the artificial borders of “YOUR” property, staying either in or outside of those invisible lines. Fascinating.

Two days ago, they came to the front yard for our seed dispenser. They landed like an elementary school letting out for the first day of summer, and immediately bumped, yelled, and out-numbered the Doves below, and the Cardinals, Robins, and Finches above. They simply TOOK OVER. The Doves left last. Not that Doves are stubborn, they just seem less interested in the outside world. But, they too were hassled until finally giving up. Even the squirrels won’t mess with a bazillion Starlings. Oddly enough, this Flock of zillions was composed of all males but two. Two females. That was it. I counted!

Yesterday they returned. By cooperative brain, they not only decided that today was BACKyard day, but also “Bring the Girls” day. The brain was half female now, and the brain thought it was a good idea to do the backyard as a co-ed effort. I don’t know why they decide these things, but they ARE STRONG SURVIVORS and you simply have to accept that they KNOW what they are doing. Everything is done for the survival of the Brain. Each Cell does his or her part during that short life.


We, as human creatures, shed our old cells every seven years. There is no one reading this that isn’t now at least the THIRD complete replacement of their original self. On my next birthday, I will be close to my EIGHTH version. I will have left seven complete loads of cells spread over the earth, air, and waters of our planet – to join with other cells… swirling, flying, floating, flocking.

How distanced must we be from our Earth and out of our Bodies before we see OUR Place in OUR Brain?

There is only ONE thing I do not leave behind, and it is not held in a cell.



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Sworded Southern Soldiers

October 3, 2012 by , under Larger Forces at Work.


Written January 14, 2003:

There is a big debate going in Richmond Virginia these days: “Should we or should we not erect a statue of Abraham Lincoln?” People are getting upset. This is serious stuff. No, really.

You may remember my mentioning that “talk radio” in this region has two main subjects endlessly debated:

1. The Civil War: What do we call it, why did it happen, who really won, and, why do other people think it’s over?
2. Race Relations: Who caused the problem, stop the whining wouldja, and, quit all the hyphenating!

Okay, so now you get why there’s a debate over Abe. Were you to visit Richmond (the state capital), you’d find lovely old treed streets lined with majestic old brick homes and many of the intersections slowed with circular grass islands stuck right in their middles, spiked with marble monuments raising up bronzed, horsed, sworded Southern heroes of the “War of Northern Aggression” (The Civil War).

Richmond went through a similar earth-shaking debate a few years ago, when it was suggested that the talented, well-known, black tennis player, Arthur Ashe, get his own monument. He had recently died and this would be a good “gesture” to salve the

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populace still wrestling with the “War Between the States” (The Civil War).

If anything, these debates seem to spill more recycled fuel on the old fire than they do extinguish it. None the less, Metal Arthur was “yanked” back and forth until it was finally decided (after years of public arguing) that Arthur CANNOT be erected in one of the fine old grass and tree intersections along with our Southern warriors, but COULD stand outside a sports stadium, down a secondary road surrounded by old businesses, lower income housing, and empty urban buildings. I remember one radio discussion suggesting that this was a better idea because the statue would be closer to the people who would appreciate it. Him. The statue. Sports. Whatever. Just put it down there.

Abe can’t be shuffled so easily. He’s all about that History, the Military, being President, you know, not some leisure sport. But, face it Jeb, he WAS the Victor, so we have us a problem. You can’t just shove the Metal President next to a lumber yard (the wood chopper boy), or a local branch of a library (the studious young man), or a fire place supply company (reading by fire light), or a hair salon (keep the beard trimmed), or the city theater (attending a play). He’s High Profile, Bubba.

In one local letter to the editor, a writer likened this Abe-statue effort to putting up a statue of Bin Laden in New York City. He was serious. No, really.

None the less, Abe will require and get a top-notch intersection, with a large, marble erection aiming him high to our gaze, bushy growth encircling it, and perhaps even a traffic light to allow us more time for appropriate admiration and contemplation on the way to the 7-11 for a Mega Slurpee and pack of Kools. Heroes and other big shots DESERVE the HONOR of being placed in locations that for centuries to come will impede the mundane daily life style of common southern shlubs.

Amen, ya’ll.



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It’s all we really have…

October 1, 2012 by , under Larger Forces at Work, What Really Matters.


Overdosing on coffee this morning with a good friend, we discussed “Communication”. To me, Communication is actually “Comparison”.  This is a “vision” I’ve held for a long, long time.  This core belief guided my Thesis and, since my Thesis was an honest part of my Life, “comparison” is how I understand most everything.

Comparison is the mode within which we try to understand.  You speak, I speak, you respond, I respond… each of us describing OUR own world and then weighing it against the others’. We WORK our way TOWARDS one another…  It’s all we have.



It’s sometimes hard enough just to LIVE through each of our days. To OBSERVE them is added work. To CONSIDER them asks even more of us. CULLING OUT the reasonable thoughts are more work yet. To EXPRESS those select ideas to your SELF – further effort. And, to find the means of sharing them with ANOTHER – it is downright tough, and sometimes impossible.

Still, REACTING is only a start, not an end.

Call it “debate”, “chit chat”, “comparison”, or, if you insist, “communication”, I don’t care… but mere reaction is not enough.



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The Science of Disco

September 23, 2012 by , under Larger Forces at Work.




A good friend loaned to me a 4 cd set of… SSSshhhhuuuuuudddder… DISCO music. It’s been nearly 40 years since Disco began seeping into my worlds. It began in Europe while I lived there. EVERYTHING seemed slightly exotic to my just-arrived American eyes, but even then I suspected THIS was some sort of twisted reaction against the counter culture of the 60’s, and, was not a good omen. The year was 1973, and I was right.

By the time I’d moved back to the U.S., Disco had reached these shores. As someone who’d been a card-carrying recruit of the liberal left, and in the arts, and taken stands on any and all issues, Disco was the nadir of social concern, change, and evolution. It was the DEVOLVING of all “we’d” worked, fought, and died for during those years of self-righteous turmoil with which everyone on all sides struggled.

Disco was something to hate. In all its rhinestone tackiness it said “I’m tired of thinking about Viet Nam! I’M TIRED OF THINKING AT ALL!! LET’S JUST DANCE AND TAKE NEW DRUGS!!” It was NOT a generational difference – which would have made it much easier to understand and accept. We’d had plenty of practice in

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that vision already. Disco was taken up by PEERS, for god’s sake, PEERS !!!!

True, EVERYONE was burnt out by the mid-1970’s. No one escaped the stress of the 60’s unless they were killed protesting in the streets of America or the jungles of Viet Nam. Some people stopped marching or voting and moved up to Montana to build a cabin and make clothes from squirrel pelts. Some people went back to school while trying to find honorable ways into the system, with plans to work slowly and patiently for change. (The other ways hadn’t worked well enough, or, the price had been too high. It depended upon who you asked.)

If you went out dancing in discos all night – wearing your platform shoes and polyester clothes, awash in flashing light & pounding music with ignorable lyrics, and a nose full of coke – you didn’t have time to ponder any of that other shit. Feeling beautifully numb while sweating like a pig was enough.



For nearly 40 years, hearing that music has reminded me of desperate people trying to escape collapsed dreams. Only now – all these decades later – can I listen to some of it and enjoy a little of its simple-minded, rhythmic dopiness. Only some of it. And only sometimes.




A little. Some times.




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What exactly IS the “Past” anyhow?

September 11, 2012 by , under Larger Forces at Work, What Really Matters.




I just spent two hours with videos of the attacks on 9-11-01.  Instead of viewing the collection I own, this time I went to YouTube for footage I had not seen.

Why?  Never do I want to feel any aesthetic distance as I view this horrific day.

Never do I want to forget.

I sit here today full of anger and sadness. I want to cry for all the victims and their remaining families and friends – AND I want more payback.

On that day eleven years ago, I wanted SOMEONE to call up any and all military and civilian volunteers ready to hunt down and kill any surviving planner-murderers. I was ready. In my anger, I would have gone. Me… with my lousy back and asthma. Me… with a revolver. I was ready to say goodbye to my Wife. … Just give me the chance to eliminate anyone who could make another attempt at mass execution of our innocents. I wanted swift revenge. I was ready to hunt and die for it.

Under the circumstances, I would’ve probably hampered not helped… but such was my anger.

Instead, I watched, listened, waited, and hoped. And, for the first time in my life, I hung our flag outside with feelings of defiance, sadness, and unity.

That has not changed.


Yes, Life goes on. The tragedies do not stop, people are born and people die, and, in between, all people suffer through part of their lives… but I do not move on with a singularly forward vision. I’m always checking my rear view mirror no matter how heavy the traffic ahead of me. It’s just the way I am.

And you?

Now, I’m not referring only to 9-11-01. A lot of my time in life has been spent preparing the past and the present for the future. It is in my journals and sometimes in my art, it built my careers, my writing, my concern for family history…

Some of us seem to be here to give attention and testament to the transitions larger than our singularity. Most people seem to do this through creating children. I would think this Act of Family causes a large shift of focus away from the past, an intense focus on the present, and a quiet gaze on the future as you move forward with your young ones.

Time has never been so singularly directed for me. I slip and slide back and forth between the past and the future, with occasional pauses in the present. It takes beautiful weather, a good cup of coffee, or watching someone / something else in real life to slow or stop me within the moment.

But today is not like every other day.

Do you know what I mean?

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