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Republican Right Wing…..You Don’t Need No Education!

  • Posted on February 22, 2011 at 2:49 pm

Just let Pink Floyd play while you read my post!

Those right wing pundits must not have been coddled enough by their school teachers.  Let’s take Rush Limbaugh who couldn’t seemingly tackle college and dropped out after two semesters.  Glenn Beck’s post high school education consisted of taking a theology class at Yale that he ended up dropping.  Were they worried about mind control or were they just not that good at schooling?  Why am I bothering with this?  I’m bothering with this because these are the two big guys that push the right wing media agenda.  I even have family members that listen to their bullshit and truthfully these two guys don’t know much about anything!

Even Wisconsin’s Governor Scott Walker couldn’t quite “cut” getting that little old college degree.  He dropped out!  My sister loves the statement, “To know something is to know nothing, and to know nothing is to know something.”  It really says a lot.  These guys don’t know much about anything, but they all know how to manipulate their audiences and make tons of money doing it.  These guys have nothing in common with the average working “Joe” but many of those average working “Joes” think these guys know what’s going on with everything from politics to religion.  I include Governor Walker in on all of this because he is so over the top with the right wing agenda, that he supports pharmacist not filling prescriptions for contraceptives because of religious or moral grounds.

Well, Rush and Glenn both have come from troubled personal lives.  They both wrap themselves in religious metaphors and both have been married more than once, Rush too many times to bother counting!

In my opinion, Glenn Beck is simply dishonest as this video shows:

Rush always tends to add “fuel to the fire” with his outrageous “OxyCotin” laced tirades.  Here is Rush saying teachers feel entitled to be “freeloaders”.

Here again is Glenn Beck feeding his special form of “hatred” to his fellow countrymen.

From my point of view, there are bad guys all around that have done much to destroy private sector unions and the right for people to belong to any union.  Now the right ring of the Republican Party is going after the public sector unions.  Even President Obama has done much damage to the teacher’s unions.  Here in Michigan we have signed onto legislation that ties evaluations to student test scores that really is rather senseless.  This opinion piece is well worth reading and basically says what I’ve been thinking about.

So what can you do?  I think everyone needs to get educated about the subject matter as eventually the bargaining rights of all Americans could be in jeopardy.  We, the working people of America, need to stand together or everyone will lose all bargaining rights.

So, stand together or FALL together!

If you do nothing else today, read this bit and definitely watch the Jon Stewart video placed here from last night!  By the way the “liberal’ pundit, Jon Stewart, has a college degree!  Imagine that!

I will leave you with this last bit from Paul Krugman:

You don’t have to love unions, you don’t have to believe that their policy positions are always right, to recognize that they’re among the few influential players in our political system representing the interests of middle- and working-class Americans, as opposed to the wealthy. Indeed, if America has become more oligarchic and less democratic over the last 30 years — which it has — that’s to an important extent due to the decline of private-sector unions.

And now Mr. Walker and his backers are trying to get rid of public-sector unions, too.

There’s a bitter irony here. The fiscal crisis in Wisconsin, as in other states, was largely caused by the increasing power of America’s oligarchy. After all, it was superwealthy players, not the general public, who pushed for financial deregulation and thereby set the stage for the economic crisis of 2008-9, a crisis whose aftermath is the main reason for the current budget crunch. And now the political right is trying to exploit that very crisis, using it to remove one of the few remaining checks on oligarchic influence.

So will the attack on unions succeed? I don’t know. But anyone who cares about retaining government of the people by the people should hope that it doesn’t.

I just had to come back in here and post Rachel Maddow’s video.  It is long but so thorough.  It is a “must see” video! You must watch the whole thing and by the way Rachel is a Standford grad.

The Fake World of Military Spending

  • Posted on January 30, 2011 at 2:46 pm

I’ve heard of Scranton, Pennsylvania before.  On the show “The Office”!  I also remember Joe Biden talking about Scranton as being his birth place when he was running for the VP office.  Here is an enterprising young man creating fake military equipment for our government to use in military training exercises.  The amazing thing is how much it costs and when his business began.  This article is interesting.  It sounds like, a rags to riches story.  Here is a grocery store guy that some how gets this big military contract for “fake” equipment.  He’s not even producing real products.  That is clever!

The business is not for the general public.  They basically sell to government and to “Hollywood”.  What I’m curious about is how they got all these contracts and the start up money.  It’s obvious that they have filled some kind of unique niche that centers on fighting terrorism.

This article showcases the company and I came across it and found it interesting and thought many of you might as well.

This is some of what I find interesting about this article:

“There’s only a handful of companies in the country that deal with what we deal with,” said Mr. Rozzi, 31, of Clarks Summit. “We’re growing 600 to 800 percent a year. Last year, we did $6 million in sales.”

Spending on Defense Department orders in the Scranton/Wilkes-Barre/Hazleton metro area grew by 9 percent in fiscal 2009 to $499 million, according to recent U.S. Census Bureau data that is the most current information available on defense contract spending.

“We need to ride the high of the defense spending for now,” said Teri Ooms, director of the Institute for Public Policy and Economic Development, a Wilkes-Barre-based think tank. “It’s good for us to have the diversification where we have some of these companies.”

There is more here:

Inert Products, though, has experienced explosive growth during its brief existence.

Mr. Rozzi, a former grocery store manager, started the company alone in 2007 as an outgrowth of his hobby making materials for pyrotechnics training.

After Mr. Rozzi began fashioning mock mines and artillery projectiles from homemade casting materials, Inert Products bought a building in West Scranton that formerly housed a food distributor and paint shop. The company now has 10 employees and most of its products are manufactured in Ohio, though some dummy explosives, like blasting caps and dynamite, are made in Scranton.

So the company employs ten people.  I have to figure most of them are probably family members.  I’m just guessing here as I have brothers that are in business and they take care of family first.

This story can be inspirational if you look at it from the point of view of a little guy creating a product and making a living off it.  Or, it can be another story about the craziness of our military spending.  This line alone tells you how insane our country is about military spending.

“The U.S. Department of Defense spends more on training each year than some other countries spend on their entire military budget,” he said.

Yes, I know you can all say we are a big country.  Of course I have visions of weekend warriors dressing up and playing paintball with gusto.  Is this what President Obama was speaking of when he was talking about reinvention?  I see we can reinvent guns into fake guns, etc.  When the Pentagon spends more than 22 billion dollars on fake equipment and training, which is more than the annual budget of the state of Arkansas, you have wonder what’s up with that.

Another curiosity is the growth in military spending.

.  The picture here to me is warped.  We are a militaristic country.  Everything we do is beginning to revolve around the military.  Even our first lady, Michelle Obama has mentioned the lack of fitness in our youth as being a national security issue.

We are not building a nation.  We are building a military industrial complex.  Our job is to defend the world from terrorists. We are the mercenaries that run around the world invading countries, assisting in régime change and spreading our “vision” around the world to make it safe for big business whether it be oil, nickel, big Pharma or Coke.  We have reinvented ourselves.  We are the few, the proud, the chosen ones to save the world from itself!  Yet, we may not be able to save ourselves from ourselves!

We need to listen to President Eisenhower as he talks about the disastrous rise of misplaced power.

Here is another picture of our federal budget.  Defense spending is out of control!

It Takes a Whole Village to Raise a Child

  • Posted on September 14, 2010 at 8:27 pm
Global Children

We each must do all we can to help our children reach their full potential.

Today President Obama gave an education speech to the children of America.  Our Superintendent, Rob Olsen, required that we have our students watch the speech.  The speech was well received by the students in my sixth grade art class.  We had a discussion after the speech and I truly believe the students liked what they heard.  However, one girl did moan when the president said that they must do their homework.  Listening to the speech I remembered a quote from an African Proverb:  “It takes a whole village to raise a child”.  Of course, Hillary Clinton also made this point in her book, “It Takes a Village.”

It does take a village to raise a child especially today with all of the economic upheaval many families are facing.  All of us, not just teachers and students, need to step up and make sure our children are getting whatever they need to grow into productive, happy adults.  At Sturgis Middle School, where I teach, all the staff really works hard to create a “family” atmosphere with the students.  It has been my experience that our staff of teachers, administrators and support staff all care deeply about the welfare of our students.  It isn’t just about raising scores on a test even though we all put forth much effort to create a positive testing environment.  Many teachers and staff have worked hard to make sure students get what they need when their physical or emotional needs aren’t met.  In fact our mission statement ensures that all of us get what we need to be the best that we can be.  “Sturgis Middle School is dedicated to the academic, emotional and social development of each individual.”  We have always felt that all of us need to be a part of the mission statement.  Teachers need to continually develop their craft just as students hone in on their academic abilities.  We encourage each other whether we are teachers, administrators or support staff to aim high in whatever we are doing in our lives!

When the president spoke today I think it was a very positive speech for students to hear.  They hear these same things from their teachers, family and other important people in their lives but I think there was something special about a president encouraging my students to do their best.  President Obama talked about possibilities.  He told students to stay focused on education.  He said, “Nobody gets to write your destiny but you!”  He also said, “The farther you go in school, the farther you go in life.”  My students took much of what he said to heart.  I asked the students why they think the president said it is more important now than ever before to get a good education.  This prompted much discussion about jobs going to China and such.  However, one resourceful young boy said, “We must get educated so we can take care of the pollution and carbon emissions.”  I thought for his age this was a substantial response as well as very thoughtful.  I told him how President Clinton had told my son’s graduation class from the University of Michigan about the same thing.  President Clinton implied that his generation messed up the world and my son’s generation would have to fix the pollution and such.

President Obama went on to tell the students to show up on time, pay attention in class, do their homework, and that excellence is essential for success.  He reminded them that they couldn’t just sit around waiting for luck to happen and that hard work can make the difference.  He told them that excelling isn’t about being smarter, it’s about working harder than anyone else.  He also encouraged them to encourage each other and to be proud of each other’s successes.  He encouraged them to fulfill the promise to be the best that they can be.  He told them life is precious and filled with diversity but we all should recognize ourselves in each other.  These were all inspiring words for my students.  He closed by mentioning a little girl’s letter from Georgia.  He quoted her letter by saying, “I try to achieve my dreams and help others to do the same.”

That final quote from the girl from Georgia says it all.  We must all step up and help our children and each other achieve our dreams.  We can’t give up and nor should our children when faced with adversity.  We must march on and create a life that is fulfilling and complete.  Our children should be encouraged to be the best they can be and we as adults must help them accomplish their goals.  If you don’t have a child or you are not a teacher, think about mentoring a child, assisting a coach, volunteering at a school or anything else that supports our children.  If you cannot be present then give your support through charitable organizations that help children get the clothes, heat and other essentials that they need.  We must all remember that education is not just taught by a teacher with a degree.  We can all help in the education of our youth by remembering that it does indeed take a village to raise a child!

Cheeseburger Festival in Caseville, Michigan

  • Posted on August 19, 2010 at 11:34 am

Every small town has some kind of festival designed to get people into town to promote the businesses.  Caseville, Michigan is no exception with their Cheeseburger Festival.  The festival runs ten days long and it’s all about cheeseburgers, music, street venders, and fun water sports.  I was visiting my sister and her family.  They decided to head up to the festival so we went.  However, we did not participate in any of the events.  We walked up and down the streets and saw many vendors with bright colored supplies.  It reminded me of a very small Shipshewana flea market.  There were plenty of food places frying cheeseburgers on grills and you could smell that greasy smell throughout the town.  We did go to the local Cheeseburger Museum which was not about cheeseburgers at all but similar to most small town museums with old things donated from the local people from tools, to war paraphernalia, an assortment of ceramic plates and even someone’s wedding dress.

Going to little festivals like this brings in all kinds of characters.  It’s more fun to see some of the people and the things they bring to the festival that I find more interesting.  I loved the tie dyed appearing Volkswagen bug.  If I was in college I’d love have a vehicle that looked like that!  It looks like something you would take to the beach with a couple of surf boards plopped on top.  While Caseville has a beautiful beach we didn’t go to the beach.   I could see Lake Huron as I peaked by the homes as we were leaving to go back to Marlette.  There were plenty of motorcycle riders and they seem to have their own rules for the road.  I photographed one bike with a helmet on it that said, “My other toy is a dick.”  I think it takes a “special” kind of person to wear something like that!  It certainly wouldn’t be anyone I happen to know.  Of course you could buy some “cheesy” looking t-shirts to celebrate the festival even though the festival over all is set up for fun with family.

We ended the afternoon by stopping by “Shaggy J’s” Eatery & Pub in Pigeon, Michigan.  My brother Pete treated us all to lunch.  The only one that liked their meal was me as I had the Parmesan salad.  It was pretty good.  However, the rest of the lunches were pretty questionable.  We all had problems with the onion curls that were more like onion salt mixed with thin, curly strips of batter and deep fat fried than anything remotely related to a real onion!  None of us liked it.  It looked like a large plate of calamari when they brought it out but its taste was fairly indescribable.  We tried the fried dill pickle which is essentially a dill pickle put in batter and fried.  It was an easy way to take five calories and turn them into one hundred and fifty.  It reminded me of when I lived in Oklahoma in the eighties when everything was deep fat fried from okra to zucchini.  The service was also confusing as the young woman tended to make her own substitutes for items such as sweet tea rather than discussing it with the client.

At the end of the day we all had fun and it was great seeing my sister Nancy, her family and my brother, Pete, who was down visiting all the way from Juneau, Alaska.  Every small town has festivals to get people to visit.  We all should participate and go to these events.  With the economy so deeply in the tank this is one “stimulus” spending that can be fun for all involved!

My Nightmare

  • Posted on July 27, 2010 at 10:05 am

I keep having a reoccurring thought about the up and coming governor’s election.  It truly is my nightmare scenario.  I’ll get to that in a minute.  First of all, you must know that I think Speaker Andy Dillon and Attorney General Mike Cox were separated at birth.  I think they look alike, talk alike, and even though one is supposed to be a Democrat, they both are essentially Republicans.  So, in my mind, someone must have been adopted out or something as there is no way they can be so much alike and not be related.  My mind knows they aren’t each other’s doppelganger but my heart tells me they could be.  So my nightmare scenario is that both of them will win their respective primaries and the state of Michigan will end up with no real choice for a governor!  Egad, can’t people see what I see?

If these are my choices in the November election, I don’t know what I will do!  I have always voted.  Do I leave the top of the ticket blank?  Are there any third candidates I can vote for?  I can’t possibly vote for Andy Dillon.  He’s costing me a special “tax” of 3% more money that I must pay into my retirement.  I’d like to smack him every time I get an email from him telling how he stuck it to me.  Okay, he doesn’t put it quite that way but he wants everyone else to know how he’s going to get every piece of meat off me he can because I’m a public school TEACHER!  Oops, I said a dirty word!  I don’t know when the legislative body decided to set teachers in their gun sites but I know I’m a prime target.  When I was a kid, everyone loved teachers. Today I feel like there’s a target on my back, so I’m getting worried about the primary that’s coming up.  I’ve decided that I will beg every person I know to vote for Virg Bernero.  So, here I am asking for your vote for Virg.  No, really begging for your vote for Virg!

Virg Bernero is married to a teacher so he has to at least “get” teachers and understand how important education is.  I saw him at the MEA rally in June and I like the fact that he’s out there trying to “fight” for change.  Andy Dillon tries to paint Virg Bernero as an “angry” man.  I say, “Who isn’t angry in Michigan and if you aren’t angry, why aren’t you?”  I want someone willing to fight for our state and try to get it back on track.  I don’t want someone I can’t trust to do the right thing and.  Andy lost my trust when he picked my pocket and asked me how I liked it.  He scares me with his forced smile and smarmy hair and I really find it hard to understand why he thinks it’s productive to shut down government instead of working to fix the budget!  I also can’t get beyond the fact that he wants to tinker with my health care and isn’t really focusing on the real issues.

The issues of course are JOBS!  If we can get jobs back in Michigan, it will solve many of our problems.  I would like you to check out Virg at his website.

If you aren’t sure who you want to vote for, please humor me and choose Virg.  If you are voting in the Democratic primary he really is the only Democrat running.  It will make me happy and isn’t that just what you would like to do…make me happy?  Just think about it.  I wouldn’t have to live my nightmare scenario.  I would be hopeful for Michigan’s future.  It would keep hope alive and I wouldn’t have to spend the next two months in turmoil over the November election.  My primary vote was stolen once in the 2008 primary.  I think I at least deserve to have this vote counted for the person I choose and maybe some of your votes as well!  Come on make my day and vote for Virg Bernero!

The Boogeyman Politics

  • Posted on July 23, 2010 at 2:47 pm

In our country we cling to the idea that one day we might be rich.  We should all just stop dreaming that fantasy and realize that very few will actually become “rich”.  You can buy all the lottery tickets you can stuff in your pants and you will still lose.  One ticket will take it all.  Are you really feeling that lucky today?  It’s time to let those that have unspeakable wealth step up and save this country.  I, for one, have no trouble taxing the wealthy.  It’s time we got the rest of the country to realize that there is no shame in a truly graduated income tax.  It’s also time to take care of those people that are struggling to make ends meet.  This can be accomplished if we set our priorities straight as a nation.

I am tired of the boogey men that we continually chase as a nation.  For years we were afraid of the “communists”.  They were the boogeyman and we had to hide under our desks at school because they were coming to get us.  Since the world trade towers were destroyed and a couple thousand people were murdered on September 11th, 2001 we have feared the terrorists.  They have been, for the last nine years, the new boogeyman.  As President Bush said many times, “We are fighting them over there so we don’t have to fight them here.”  Franklin Delano Roosevelt famously said, “The only thing to fear is fear itself.”  However, politicians have kept us in a constant state of fear for most of my life.  This fear is used to control how we think and essentially how we vote.  It determines how we view the world and whether we trust our neighbor, both those next door or those who border our countries.  In the past couple of years we have been led to believe that we are all closeted “racists”.  This, I believe, is another form of control over our thoughts and especially our actions.  The boogeyman is the fear of racism.  Since President Obama began his run for the Whitehouse, it has been difficult to separate the fact from the fiction in terms of the racial divide in this country.  While I know there are racists that think they are better than another race, I believe there are far more people that don’t really care about the issue of race.  I have said a thousand times, “Poor is poor. It has no color.”  It is time we bonded together as a nation and realized that much of our fear is man made, created by an establishment of politicians that must find a way to control its masses.  Racism is the new boogeyman.  If we don’t think exactly as predetermined, as we are told we should, we will be labeled a racist.  I really think this is all to control us.

This week we heard the ridiculous saga of Shirley Sherrod.  This woman was taken out of context and we spent the week once again defined by racism.  During this time much else was happening.  Congress finally passed the unemployment extension.  However, they did not include the tier 5 people in this extension.  These are people that have been unemployed for more than 99 weeks.

There is no real sympathy for these people other than platitudes of praise for their on going strength in adversity.  We also didn’t hear much about this sad statistic.

The suicide rates in the military are on the rise.  How can our country be at war continuously for the past nine years and not expect this breakdown in morale?  While we are busy contemplating the ridiculous story about Shirley being a racist this is going on.

It seems that we must cut funds for education and every other thing in this country so we can continue to spend money on these two wars.  The troop surge in Afghanistan is costing our nation and our children.  Just today I saw the news that Western Michigan University is upping their tuition by 7%.  While this is all happening did you notice this week when Hillary Clinton went to give aid to Pakistan?

The point of all of this is if we are kept busy with the current boogeyman, we will be kept out of the loop of what is really happening in our country.  We must stop fearing the boogeyman and force our country to step up and do the right thing by its citizens.  So, yes, if this means more taxes for the rich and wealthy to help pay for these things that must be done, then I am all for it.  If politicians truly can’t find a way to extract our soldiers from these two wars, then let the rich pay for it.  If politicians can’t find a way to fund health care, then let the rich pay for it.  If politicians can’t find ways to fund our schools, then let the rich pay for it.  If the rich pay enough, maybe we will get out of the wars.  If the rich pay enough, maybe they will work harder to open some factories here so they can benefit from some special tax break and hire more workers.  I’m all for taxing the rich because the rich will make sure some things get done when they feel the pinch that the rest of us feel on a daily basis.  I’m tired of hearing about yet another rich person’s wedding before I hear about real news.  Aren’t you? Today we are bombarded with the Clinton wedding garbage.  Who really cares?  Not me.  I want real news and I want the wealthy to step up and save our country.  I think if you start to have some sympathy for the wealthy, just check out what these athletes get paid and think about your own hard earned paycheck.

Do we really need to see the wealthy and yet another of their many weddings?

This comes from the “Who Rules America” website.

In terms of types of financial wealth, the top one percent of households have 38.3% of all privately held stock, 60.6% of financial securities, and 62.4% of business equity. The top 10% have 80% to 90% of stocks, bonds, trust funds, and business equity, and over 75% of non-home real estate. Since financial wealth is what counts as far as the control of income-producing assets, we can say that just 10% of the people own the United States of America.

If you still have sympathy and feel that you can trust the political system check out this article and think about how these people vote for their own best interests.

It is time for the wealthy to step up and help our country climb out of this recession, get out of these wars, fix our infrastructure and take care of our economic problems.  Let’s stop fearing the political created boogeyman and start working together for logical solutions to our many problems.  Let’s stop putting the rich on a pedestal by watching their weddings, lifestyle, games, movies and start living our life elevated by being educated to what is really going on in this country and what we might be able to do to set things right.  FDR said, “The only thing to fear is fear itself.”  The truth is the only thing to fear is an inactive electorate that is uneducated and over stimulated with the lust for wealth and afraid of the current boogeyman.

I just had to add this list of the richest members of Congress….both Dems and Repubs:


  • Posted on July 22, 2010 at 3:52 pm

This July 11th on a beautiful Sunday my friend, Ellen, and I went to the St. Joseph Art Fair.  I know it’s a tough show to get into, so I wanted to see what it was like since I had never attended this show as an exhibitor.  I drove about an hour and a half to see what it is all about.  I wasn’t disappointed.  Every artist brought something different to the show with their unique selection of art.

When we first got there it was a bit difficult to find parking as parking was limited and it was compounded by the many exhibitors’ vehicles.  We paid ten dollars to park in a commercial lot.  As we walked down to the art show we were greeted by many cheerfully painted dogs!

Moving on to the show we came upon a wide selection of two and three dimensional artwork.  Ellen and I both made several purchases through out the day and had many interesting conversations with artists that came from all over the United States.  I want to showcase a few of the artists here today.

One of the first artists’ artwork we came across was Michelle Mardis.  Her artwork is reminiscent of Andy Warhol with its pop art colors of large portraits of animals. I really enjoyed her large piece titled “Fetch”.

She wasn’t at the show at the time we went through as she wasn’t feeling well.  It is interesting to note that these art shows go on through all kinds of weather and even if the artist isn’t feeling well.  Just like in “show biz”, the show must go on!  There is quite an investment involved with doing an art show.  There is the entry fee, travel, the cost to produce and even display the art at the show.  This is why every artist designs their own booth to best showcase their style of artwork.  Some people attend art shows for something to do as entertainment.  I advise people to attend art shows and purchase from these artists as this, for many of them, is their sole source of employment.  Their art is not only their life but their livelihood.  You wouldn’t go to a movie without expecting to spend some money for your entertainment so it should also be with these art shows.  Many people spend the day perusing the exhibits and eating the food but may not ever think to buy from these fine artists.  However, if people don’t buy many of those traveling the longer distances will not be inclined to return to the show another year.

Many of the artists at the show were obviously influenced by the art of famous artists.  While Mardi must have been drawn to the art of Andy Warhol, Penny French-Deal was obviously influenced by the art of the Impressionists and especially “Monet”. Ellen and I had stopped to have a quick lunch and upon walking back to the exhibits we were drawn in by a picture of two cows.  They were meticulously painted but when we got up close to them, the brushstrokes were really loose and large.  Her art was some what blurry upon close inspection.  There was a softness to it that revealed some inner feelings from the artist.

Another artist, Larry Smith, obviously favored the art of Vincent Van Gogh. I bought a print from him and he told me much information about Van Gogh and the artwork that I purchased.  He obviously knew a lot about Vincent’s art and greatly admired it.  In his own artwork he used complementary colors such as red and green next to each other to create the vibrant effect of movement.  I genuinely enjoyed Larry’s personality and the obvious joy instilled in his art.

I ran across a potter that really impressed me with his cut out piercing work.  While it may seem very simple to most people as it is simple in color with its white, pearly surface, it is masterfully carved and pierced.  The work is porcelain fired at cone 10 which is around 2300 degrees Fahrenheit.  Artwork fired to this level has to be flawless.  In order to create a porcelain bowl pierced on the edge such as this is truly a masterful skill.  I’ve worked with porcelain for years.  If a large bowl has so much as a small hairline crack, its flaw will be huge after a cone 10 firing.  This bowl was priced at $1200.  I didn’t find that shocking because I figured he lost many bowls to create this one unique piece of art. Unfortunately, I can’t seem to find a card from this artist, so I don’t know his name.

Another clay artist, Scott Causey, has very unique sculptural artwork.  He won the non-functional clay award at this show.  He makes these large pieces out of very colorful glazes.  They can be frogs, salamanders and even monkeys.  He makes them and then bisque fires them and then breaks them apart.  He does this so he can glaze the different parts at different temperatures to get the special effects.  Some of his glazes are luster glazes that give off a pearly, iridescent quality.

When I went to his website he is very proud of the fact that Al Gore has a piece of his artwork.  The story about how Al got the frog is here.

I bought a mug from two potters because they are working with cone 6 glazes and their work was well made and conceived.  I am interested in maybe lowering my reduction gas firing temperature to save the time and cost of firing to cone 10.  These guys called themselves the “Pottery Boys” and they live in Illinois.

Some of the artwork was silly and whimsical and just plain fun.  This art was artwork created to just inspire people with fun sayings and happy colors.  Some of the artists that fall under this category are Susan Kline, Anne Leuck Feldhaus, Holly Sue Foss, and Patricia Statzer.  I had so much fun reading the sayings and looking at the colors in these booths.

Another inspirational artist I met was Tres Taylor from Alabama.  He paints on tar paper.  Ellen recognized the material as it is common roofing material.  She said they used to put it on the windows when she was a kid to keep out the cold.  Tres is a man that embraced his artistic side later in life and rejected his previous occupation as a biochemist.  His story is so interesting.  His artwork reminded me of Modigliani with its elongated features for the people.  There are also hints of Paul Klee and even Picasso in his shapes and faces.  His work is probably considered a sophisticated form of primitive art.  You can check out more of his artwork at his website. I highly suggest reading this article and viewing his installation artwork.

It is just amazing in its concept and story as well as the many children that he has obviously touched through this installation process through art.

It was fun talking to Tres.  I would be thrilled if my students could have the opportunity to work with him and see his installation artwork.

Another artist that I really enjoyed is Pat Custer Denison. Her artwork is created with ceramic tile and wood.  She is a painter and printmaker that studied at the University of Michigan.  She lives in Honor, Michigan so I’m hoping to stop by her studio when I visit the Traverse City, Maple City area.  Many artists live, as I used to, up in the Grand Traverse area.  It’s a great place to produce art as you are surrounded by all the beauty Michigan has to offer.  Her artwork is very fun and whimsical.  Some of the pieces are quite large.  She inserts commercial clay tiles into large cut out wood shapes.  Her artwork tends to have many colorful characters that seem to tell a story upon close inspection.  She screen prints some of the design on the clay tiles to reproduce the image more than once.  I found this process interesting as I have never silk screened on any of my artwork.  I have seen this done in books but have never actually met an artist using this method.

Two of the artists work in very traditional materials that I feel are almost like a lost art.  The first is Jane Bowers who creates “Pysanky” eggs.  These are the very colorful and skillfully designed eggs that are reminiscent of Easter but are so much more involved than a typical Easter egg.  Making pysanky has always been a part of her life as this tradition was passed down through her Ukrainian family for many generations.  On a trip to the Ukraine she had the honor of presenting one of her eggs to President Leonid Kuchma.  Jane was so open with me about how to create these eggs.  She wanted to help me as a teacher to pass on the beauty of this tradition.  I loved talking with Jane and many of the artists as they were all so open to me when they found out that I am a middle school art teacher.  Artists are great teachers and generally want to share their knowledge as long as you aren’t some “copy cat artist” just trying to steal their designs.

The other artist working in a highly traditional almost “lost” type art is Brian T. Keller.  Brian works with traditional egg tempera.  He mixes his own paints much like Van Dyke or other great artists of the past did.  This involves getting commercial pigments and using egg yokes.  Of course he doesn’t have to grind the pigments like the artists of the past might have done but this was still amazing to me as there are so many different types of art materials and paints that could be used today.  He works in a very highly detailed fashion.  Just looking at the detail in his wood grain floors is truly amazing.  Brian is highly skilled.  I just loved his artwork.  He told me that the he works in layers and that the egg tempera dries quickly.

As you can see by all that I’ve shared with you today I truly enjoyed this art exhibit not just for the art but for the many intriguing conversations I had with the artists.  It was fun going to an art show as a viewer and not a participant.  I loved hearing about the different stories each of these artists had in the story of their own art.  Only two artists didn’t want to be photographed.  The rest were happy to indulge me with the many pictures I took.  I ended the day being inspired by these wonderful people.  They are all gifted with amazing talents and they were more than willing to share their time and knowledge with me.  I ended up buying small pieces from several of the artists I spoke with as did Ellen.  We had a great day and we lucked out with beautiful weather.  I would definitely love to go back to St. Joseph again for this art show and to see the wonderful city nestled on the shores of Lake Michigan.  I will end by sharing some additional pictures from many other fine artists.  If you haven’t been to an art show lately get out there and meet some artists.  The Ann Arbor Art Street Fair is going on right now.  It’s a four day event so you still have plenty of time to visit through Saturday.

Sir Rusty Braveheart, My Faithful Friend

  • Posted on April 4, 2010 at 10:00 pm

Rusty and Josh

Rusty, My Faithful Friend

This past year has been very difficult for me.  My wonderful pet, Rusty, lost his battle with cancer on December 2nd.  My whole year was consumed with trying to help him get better only to discover that it just wasn’t going to happen.  After spending much money and devoting my whole life to helping Rusty my efforts just weren’t enough to save him.  I thought I was going to prove those doctors wrong and that Rusty really didn’t have cancer at all.  He just needed to cleanse and purify his liver.  I cooked for Rusty because I was so worried about what was really in his dog food that might have made him so sick.  I became obsessive and I wouldn’t go anywhere because I couldn’t leave Rusty with anybody else.  By the end of the summer Rusty started to get terrible nose bleeds.  If you haven’t seen a dog with a nose bleed, it is tough to take.  The dog will sneeze and your place ends up looking like a crime scene.  I still haven’t gotten all of the blood out of my car from the times when I had to take Rusty to the vet to stop the bleeding.  I thought if a cop stopped me when all that blood was in the car, he would be wondering where the body was buried.

Rusty really was my son, Josh’s pet.  He only became my pet when Josh went to college.  Rusty was devoted to me like no animal has ever been before.  He followed me everywhere and I treated him like he was truly human because to me he was.  Losing Rusty was like losing a cherished friend.  I would have done anything I could to save Rusty and I did everything I could think of to help him get better.  Rusty died on December 2nd.  I came home from school knowing that this could be his last day.  He had a tough time the day before.  When I got home I could see how hard he was laboring and frankly I remembered my father’s death vividly at this time.  My sister and I were with dad when he had his last breath.  I will never forget how difficult it was for us to be both praying for dad to recover and praying for a peaceful death.  We really knew dad was going and there was no coming back by his labored breathing.  Rusty was struggling and had lost control of his bodily functions as he wasn’t able to get up.  I knew I couldn’t make him struggle any longer.  I got some help to get him into the car and I took him to the vet’s office.  I was so sad having to say goodbye to my treasured friend but I knew he wouldn’t suffer any longer and that was all I was thinking about.

I have wanted to share my thoughts on Rusty but it has taken this long to feel comfortable with doing this.  Rusty wasn’t loved by everyone as he scared the hell out of delivery men, especially UPS guys in their brown uniforms.  I’d put Rusty on the stairs and shut the door.  They always wanted me to make sure the door was secure.  Rusty was a little crazy when I would go to work.  I never really knew what I might find when I got home.  Rusty could either dig up the covers on my bed or kill my sofa.  It was the worse case of separation anxiety I have ever heard of.  I think this comes with the Aussie breed as I have talked to other people about this issue.  For me Rusty was more important than my sofa.  I’d just put some duct tape on the cushion and buy a new slip cover.  I know that sounds crazy too but if you could only have known Rusty and talked with him like I did, you would understand.  You see I would ask Rusty, in a normal tone of voice, if he wanted to go outside, eat or whatever and he always knew what I was talking about.  It was pretty strange but this is one of the reasons I loved Rusty so much!  Rusty was a smart dog but he never was clever like my niece’s dog.  Jackie’s dog, Darby, interacts with the animals on television.  Rusty would just sit there and never even notice animals or anything else on television but Darby always notices and reacts to them.

Separation Anxiety

Rusty used to stay with me when I worked in my studio.  He’d lie beside me while I painted or threw on the wheel.  He was content just to be with me.  It was always a comfort having Rusty near by.  Sometimes I’d trip over him because he’d be right under my feet but I always knew I could count on Rusty for being a faithful companion.  He was always there looking for pets or a treat from me.  He also loved playing with his many toys.  I knew he was really ill when he stopped playing with those toys.  Once in awhile we’d still have a tug of war with a toy though and he’d happily take it away from me and feel like he had “won” our game.  Little did he know that I always let him win!  Rusty was a beautiful dog with soft, silky hair.  I loved petting him and looking into his big brown eyes.  He had a strong personality but most of all he was loyal to a fault.  He would never have an “accident” in the house.  Rusty would “hold” it until he could get out.  So when he hit his last day and couldn’t move and was losing his control I knew how hard that was on him and I knew what I had to do to help him.  However, painful it was for me I knew Rusty was more upset about leaving me than anything else as we were best of friends.  I know Rusty loved me and was faithful to me.  He was never disloyal to me.  He was always there when I was both happy and sad.  He sensed all I needed from my loyal friend.  If I was feeling sad I’d get a cold nose rubbing against my hand or leg.  If I was happy about something he’d always get excited too.  Rusty was my loyal friend and I will love and remember him forever.   Rest in peace my faithful friend.

If They Sell It, We Will Buy It

  • Posted on March 27, 2010 at 10:38 pm

Do we really need another product like this in our lives?

More useless products that cost more than they're worth!

Why are there so many useless items in the world?  We are surrounded by things we just have to have only to find out that once we use them the novelty is all worn off.  I was watching a commercial for an egg cracker.  Yes, I said an egg cracker.  I never thought cracking eggs was particularly hard.  I can even crack an egg one handed so why would I need this device? Remember “Field of Dreams” and the moment when you heard the whisper, “If you build it, they will come.”  I think we have grown into a society that will buy anything if it is marketed correctly.  If you market it, we will buy it, even if it is a pile of crap!

Back when I was doing art shows I did the Ann Arbor Art Fair.  People would stand for hours in line waiting to buy a metal sculpture on a stick to put in their gardens that was supposedly made by one person.  Of course I questioned this after seeing the first thousand or so of these stick items walk by my booth.  The Ann Arbor Art Guild surely wouldn’t let some mass produced Chinese junk into the art show would they?  My son and I used to joke about putting “shit” on a stick and selling it.  We would dream up all kinds of clay blobs to put on a stick but I never got around to producing those art “pieces”.  We weren’t the only street artists whining about the “taste” of some people that would buy anything and call it “art”.

In the seventies the big rage was the “pet rock”.  That guy made a million bucks selling “rocks” as pets and “we” bought them!  Another product, that I absolutely detest, is the extremely ugly “Croc” shoe.  I know those shoes have sold like crazy and they are beyond ugly.  I went into a Hallmark store a few years ago and they were selling their “version”.  I was thinking out loud and said, “Oh, my God, those are ugly.”  I actually thought I was “thinking” it and not saying it but the sales clerk assured me that they are so comfortable.  She couldn’t convince me though as I walked out of the store without the ugly shoes.

Another product that I’ve noticed advertised on T.V. recently seems kind of “X” rated to me.

It’s a shake weight used to get in shape and lose weight.  To me it just looks a bit too much like a vibrator.  When I see the ad it makes me laugh instead of taking it seriously.  I don’t know if everyone is going to run out and buy one but someone thought they would make money on it.  Over the years there have been many products that we have bought and then had buyer’s remorse a week later.  Some have bought the weight loss product with accompanying books, etc. that sits in their closet.  Some have purchased unusual exercise machines because they were convinced by the ad that they would really use them.  Others have bought everything from those strange “Chia” pets to those “Ginsu” knives knowing that they just couldn’t live without them.

What is there about us humans that make us so prone to buying these “junk” products?  Are we looking for a quick fix to all of our problems or are we just plain gullible?  I don’t know but I do know that I have my share of useless products that I have purchased over the years thinking I couldn’t live without them.  Today it’s the EZ Cracker egg machine which I will not buy.  Tomorrow it will be something else we just can’t live without.  I think we buy to satisfy a need for completion.  We will be completed when we “fill” our lives up with so much useless crap there isn’t room for anything else.  My home is full of crap but there aren’t many people there to share the crap.  I’ll end up carting my crap off to the Goodwill store and wait for the next irresistible product to come my way.  Oh, I’ll resist the temptation for awhile but in time those old feelings of “needing” some stupid product will creep its way back into my life and I’ll buy something stupid once again.  Advertisers have really got a gimmick going when they can sell everything from a pet rock to “Sham Wow”.  The products may be stupid but the people buying them are stupider!

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