anarchism, art, Europe, poetry, Rights, Spain, We The People, Writing

The Land Is Yours

Workers,  artists, the land is yours

Fascists have no claim on it

Farmers, mothers, the land is yours

Stalinists have no stake in it


The land feeds you, it shelters you

Capitalists will pillage it

The land conceived you, it birthed you

Priests will diseffect you from it


Swains, partisans, the land is yours

Fatalists have no love for it

Songstresses, bards, the land is yours

Puritans will sanitize it


The land inspires you, delights you

The abject will denigrate it

The land endows you, renews you

The callous will despoil it


The land is yours

Will you fight for it?



anarchism, art, Love, Nations, Politics, Spain, Uncategorized

The Cream of Aragon

Her farmers hands deep in the earth

gravid with hale prosperity

coaxing forth a flourishing worth

to furnish her community


her humble sweat a palliative

to dulcify her burning brow

her labor is the love she lives

and to her comrades she’ll endow


the sun will set before she’s done

but with evening comes release

a night of humor, dance, and fun

with the cream of the Argonese














art, Film, music

Art and Pain

Painting By Francis Bacon

Painting By Francis Bacon

I am a fan of N.W.A., and I am looking forward to seeing the bio pic about their career “Straight Outta Compton”. I think their music & poetry is some of the most revolutionary & genius of the past 50 years. I also think that Dr. Dre is a woman-beating piece of shit. Believe it or not, it is possible to appreciate the art of someone who is a more often than not a terrible person. We do it every day when we listen to a Phil Spector produced Beatles track or read a Norman Mailer manuscript (the former was convicted of murder and the later stabbed his 2nd wife). There is nothing hypocritical about that…what IS hypocritical, though, is pretending that the artists who produce the works we so enjoy and love are flawless, paragons of virtue. They are not. The never have been and they never will be. This is not a problem with rappers, or rock gods or misanthropic writers…this is a human problem. When we choose to go underneath the surface of the art that inspires us, we must be prepared to confront that sometimes distasteful, sometimes downright horrid behaviors, ideas, and fantasies of the people who create it. Great art can and does come from great pain, both experienced and inflicted. We owe it to ourselves and to those who were victimized by the gross human nature of our heroes to not sweep the facts under the rug. In that spirit I am posting a link to this excellent, heartbreaking, and very revealing interview with music journalist Dee Barnes, who was brutally beaten by Dr. Dre at a party after an interview she conducted with former N.W.A member Ice Cube. We can love the art, but hate and condemn what the artist has done to others. Again, this does not make us hypocrites, it in fact makes us human


Art Work: Old Man

Old Man

Title: “Old Man”, Medium: Black Sharpie on Acid Free Paper,

This work was drawn on the train from Chicago to Elburn, late February. My technique is to start with one random line, and then to work from there to see what emerges. I like to create free form portraits from scratch and to challenge my visual imagination. This work will be available on my store for purchase when I get it up and running!

art, review, TV

TV Review: Better Call Saul Season 1

Better Call Saul, Mondays 9pm Central on AMC

Better Call Saul, Mondays 9pm Central on AMC

I love everything about this show. Vince Gilligan & Peter Gould took what has long been a pitfall of TV entertainment (the useless and unneeded spinoff) and turned it into what may be the best show on TV. The entire 1st season has unfolded like a slightly off-kilter John Cheever story. The creators and writers have taken an uproarious, ridiculous, sleezy, but quite one dimensional color character from the now classic “Breaking Bad” and fleshed him out into a leading character that we feel for, pull for, and laugh with (and occasionally at). Over season 1 we have watched Jimmy McGill (played, as in Breaking Bad, by comedic impresario Bob Odenkirk) try and build his bellow the bottom the of barrel law practice into something less than a punchline to a life that had up to that point been a literal con job. You see, Slippin’ Jimmy, with the help of his wingman Marco, had made his living on the mean streets of Cicero conning barflies out of their beer money until he finally got in over his head and his lawyer brother Chuck bailed him out, figuratively and literally.

Jimmy went from mail-boy at his brother’s million dollar Law Firm to newly minted (by the law school at the University of the American Samoa) lawyer. Jimmy looks like a dumb puppy who finally went number two on command when he shows his brother his passing grade from the New Mexico Bar. Chuck is less than thrilled, and as we find out as the season unfolds, Chuck (who has some serious, though as yet not fully explored mental health difficulties) finally admits to Jimmy that he sees his younger brother as little more than a joke, a cross to bear that will never be anything but Slippin’ Jimmy in his eyes. Chuck is played with subtle humor and sympathy by the great comedic actor Michael McKean and a character that could have been your run of the mill “disapproving authority figure” but is instead a compelling part of the plot and a source of some of the season’s great moments, not the least of which is the agoraphobic lawyer’s first sojourn into the real world in months, if not years. The scene is beautifully shot, with an enormous elm tree embracing the frame like a comforting hug from a loved one. The scenes between Jimmy and Chuck are incredibly realistic and, I can say as someone who has a brother, the feelings that are on display are dead on in their accuracy. Chuck loves Jimmy, but he hates what he is, who he is, and sees his hijinks, not unfairly, as an insult to the Law profession that he loves just as dearly. It will be fun to see where the writers choose to take this relationship as the series continues.

Better Call Saul is about some rather seedy characters, but it does not have the moral burden of having a literal psychopath as it’s central personality. We don’t constantly have to justify our love for the character, and explain away his actions, like we had to with Walter White/Heisenberg. If Breaking Bad was about the banality and morality of good and evil, Saul is more about those pesky grey area most of the world lives, lies, and loves in. Jimmy is a “bad guy”, sure, at least insofar as he is an unethical guy. Then again most of his “victims” are unethical or at least criminally stupid. Jimmy seems to have an innate understanding of the human capacity for self-justification: the larcenous couple, Jimmy’s clients, who bilk the tax payers out of millions, the brother who who justifies his emotional abuse of his brother by telling himself it is for the poor schmuck’s “own good”. Jimmy knows when to hold them and when to fold them, to quote the great Kenny Rogers, and he knows when someone is trying to string him along. Sometimes he lets them, all the while gaining leverage over his wannabe tormentors and turning the deceit (and greed, and anger, and fear) to his advantage. Jimmy McGill is a bad lawyer, in an ethical sense, but he is not an incompetent lawyer. Far from it; he knows the ins and outs of the law, the loopholes and hidey-holes that can make you a pretty penny if you know how to exploit them. This is how he creates the Sandpiper Nursing home out of whole cloth, and how he stays one step ahead of a violent group of drug runners he runs afoul of in pursuit of a case (or con).

As with Breaking Bad (it is inevitable that this new show will be compared to its progenitor, so why fight it?) “Saul” is buoyed by its supporting characters. The aforementioned Chuck is one example, as is fellow lawyer and one time love interest Kim Wexler. Kim works for the Jimmy’s brother’s firm, and while the character has yet to be fully fleshed out (I am looking forward to this next season) she is played by Rhea Seehorn with a steely resolve and drive that is tempered by a burning-self doubt that seems to be holding her back from her full potential. It is not always clear whether Kim loves Jimmy or just pities him, but she tries to do right by a friend who she obviously has some feelings for. In a flashback we are teased with the fact that Kim and Jimmy were once very much in love, but something, or someone, came between them. That tension is obvious in their interactions with one another, with Jimmy obviously trying his damndest to not drag Kim down into the muck and mire with him.

The real standout from the first season, and in my opinion the most compelling and human story in the show so far, is the saga of corrupt Philly Cop/Muscle for hire Mike Ehrmantraut. Mike was played by Jonathan Banks with a tired authority in Breaking Bad, and he reprises the fan favorite character with an increased sense of urgency and tragedy in “Saul”. We find Mike running a ticket booth at the county court parking lot, where he first meets Jimmy, obviously bored as can be with his life and seeking to do right by the widow of his beloved son. The son was gunned down by his supposed “brothers” on the police force in Philly for refusing to play dirty like his fellow cops, and his father, do and did. When Mike relates the story of his son’s disillusionment with his father and with his career, Banks takes what could have been a maudlin scene and turns it into a tour de force of genuine emotion and pathos. Mike is not the sort to wear his emotions on his sleeve but in this moment with his daughter-in-law he shows a vulnerability and a sadness that is as profound as it is revelatory. Mike in “Bad” was a violent but fair grim reaper of sorts, but “Saul’s” Mike is a man who is trapped in a hell of his own making and who is desperately trying to salvage what he can from the wreckage that he had a large part in creating. Mike’s story line is not integral to Jimmy’s development (at least not yet…) but it is an important part of why the series works as well as it does. I personally hope that Mike’s plot remains as central to the show as Jimmy’s, and I suspect it will as Jimmy becomes Saul and has more and more need for a quiet but effective enforcer. Mike is brutal and unforgiving, but he has a humor and sense of fairplay about him that makes you respect and even love him. He is kind to his daughter-in-law and positively dotes on his granddaughter. Mike is most like the Ronin of such Samurai classics as “Seven Samurai”, “13 Assassins”, and the “Blind Samurai” series. He takes his craft, organized, strategically applied violence, seriously and he never does anything halfway. He also refuses to hurt others unless he absolutely has to, and he takes no joy in causing others pain. He is a force of nature, an inevitability, and he embraces this role. In Jimmy he has met another soul that knows that sometimes you have to get your hands, or a homicide detective’s shirt, dirty in order to get things done. They are drawn together first out of need, and then out of a sort of begrudging respect. Mike wanted out of the dirty world in which he plied his trade, but now that it is threatening to drag him back in again, he is not struggle all that hard to prevent it from doing so. I think there is much more to mine with this character and I expect Jimmy and Mike will find more and more in common as the show progresses.

I have tried, but I cannot find anything wrong with this show. It’s pacing is perfect, its subject matter dark but fascinating and occasionally hilarious, and the writing is so naturalistic it borders on documentary style. This is how people in the real world spin tall tales, how they ply their trade, and how they justify their behavior to their peers and to themselves. The season ended on a low key (but brilliant) note and I have a feeling that Better Call Saul has nowhere to go but up.

art, Philosophy, Science

Santayana’s Folly


We must not fall into the trap of seeing the world as a teleology, or worse, as a function of an unmoved mover. We must, as Santayana implores, look to the past in order to not repeat it, but we often misunderstand this dictum. Events as they are do not seek to move forward with a preordained or mechanical certainty for want of human agency. Events, history, movements, revolutions, are all aspects of human agency. The world will behave according to the laws of nature unless acted upon by human beings, and even then we must remember that humans are animals and a part of nature. So perhaps we must reword our original preposition: Events as they are will move, and any perceived direction is a projection of human need, fear and desire. Humans are self-obsessed animals, self-aware of their own awareness, captivated and intimidated, overwhelmed, by their potential for agency in the natural world. We are apes and subject to the sort of whims and whimsy, and instincts, of that class of organisms. We are pattern seekers and have indeed created a world for ourselves that exists, within our own minds at least, independent of the realities of nature and physics. Philosophy is a wish the human mind makes, a striving for order in a system that is inherently chaos. We are instinctually inclined to see chaos as a negative state of affairs, but it is neither “good” nor “bad”; chaos is, and that is all there is to it.

There is no good or evil, there is only cause and effect. We do and then that which is done upon acts in response. We are conditioned, as social animals, to see the good in the group we belong to. The violence done by, or in the name of, those who we associate with is not seen as violence, but as a reaction against a constant war that rages around us and against us. The world is a “dangerous” place for “our sort” and this is and has always been true. Humans will do anything, convince themselves of anything, in order to feel safe in the group, safe in the community, safe in the society. We all live in a spotlight that we believe is projected only onto ourselves. This is not narcissism, this is a sort of human naturalism, a built in mechanism that had its place in our development. It undermines us now only because we chose to attempt to transcend the purely animal and to achieve something that would allow us to “not repeat history”. We cannot help but “repeat” history because we will always conform to our natures. It is as much in our nature to create as to destroy, to rage as well as to love, to learn as well as to stick our heads in the sand.

But, we can make a change in the application of our personal, and collective, agency in order to better our own circumstances and those of our fellows. One can live well and live healthily, safely, and comfortably without violating the laws of nature. Nature allows for human comfort and happiness, but it will never allow human utopia. The problem the philosophical systems we have created (and continue to create) and let run rampant is that all are based on the premise that the human is perfectible. What we fail to realize is that the human animals already is perfect, at least insofar as perfection has a place in nature. We are what we became, and we became what we are because of natural forces. Natural Selection is not wish fulfilment, and it does not act so much as it exists. Species change over time, we are all transitional forms, changing not out of some “striving” to “become”. Firstly, nature does not strive, nature acts and reacts according to the laws of nature, and nature does not become because there is nothing to become save for what is at the moment, and that moment changes constantly. Nothing is now how it was a moment ago.

History cannot repeat itself as there is nothing to repeat: nature exists as a perpetual “is” and this is a result of laws we have discovered and continue to discover. Heraclitus was right all along, in a simple all too human way. One cannot step in the same river twice because the river is never the river, it is only the sum of the constantly moving atoms that comprise what we see as a flow of water, that we wade into for refreshment and pleasure, which we call a river, and which we bestow with the attributes and the attitudes of what we have decided comprises a “river”. We see parts where there is only a whole, and this is fine, for an animal, natural. The ape will reach for the brightest fruits, and he will choose from those only the sweetest. This will serve the tree as much as it will serve the animal, for it will spread its seeds as far as the animal will sojourn and make the kingdom of the trees that much more diverse and vital. Change is the only constant, a constant being only that which human beings have decided will (or must?) transpire based on what they have observed.

Science is that human propensity for observation refined into systems and measures that allow us to glimpse the fine print, and past drafts, of natural law. Our most noble attribute is the need to explore and to learn from that exploration. After this primary value is the penultimate, Art. Art is the human propensity for taking in what we observe in the world, filtering it through the unique contents of our individual minds, and expressing it through creative activity and behavior. Art is the ultimate human commentary on nature; where science quotes, or attempts to paraphrase, art rhapsodizes,criticizes and excoriates. Art allows us to create something that is our own and to try our hands at being in control of nature, God over the universe (and God is only our self-obsessed conception of ourselves projected onto the chaos of nature) or at least a little creative universe of our own. Art allows us to express emotion, as much blessing as curse for our ape minds, without inflicting our emotions on our fellow creatures. Art can rage as much as it can sing. Without science art would have no mythology to draw upon, without art science would have no music to inspire us. We reached for the Moon, and traveled thereto, not just because we observed it as an aspect of nature, but because its light has inspired a thousand tall tales, and gave mood and color to countless works of art. Apollo 11 was propelled as much by poetry as much as by rocket-fuel


Art thou pale for weariness

    Of climbing heaven and gazing on the earth,

Wandering companionless

     Among the stars that have a different birth,

And ever changing, like a Joyless eye

    That finds no object worth its constancy?

All this, then, is Santayana’s folly: it is not possible to learn from the past because the past is only a flawed human perception of the present. The philosopher was far more on point, if not in such a broad way as his assessment of the past, with this comment on human agency

An artist is a dreamer consenting to dream of the actual world.