Maurice Prendergast, not Teddy Pendergrass


This is the third in an series of occasional posts on random entries from the Webster’s New Explorer Encyclopedia.  Today, I discovered the artist Maurice Brazil Prendergast.  When I encountered the name, the first thing that came to mind was Teddy Pendergrass.  Do you remember his tune “Love TKO”?  Hall and Oates also recorded it.  And Gunter Grass comes to mind.  Though I have never read the Tin Drum, I do plan to one of these days.

Maurice Brazil Prendergast.  An artist born in Newfoundland, he moved to Boston in 1868 and later traveled abroad to study art.  Influenced by the French impressionsists and post impressionists, particularly Cezanne, Prendergast produced some stunning oils and watercolors, often depicting the leisure class at the beach or in the park.  I dig those horses on the beach.  Sea horses.

In the works below, Prendergast captures beachgoers in pursuit of leisure.  Notice the subtle or perhaps not so subtle class distinctions.


Prendergast painted this watercolor entitled Merry Go Round Nahant at the turn of the century when caroseuls and amusement parks became increasingly popular diversions for beachgoers.


A Little Exploitation of the Solomon Islands

In the second installment of a series of random posts, I’ve blindly selected to explore an entry from page 1132 of the Webster’s New Explorer Desk Encyclopedia about the Southwest Pacific Solomon Islands.

I knew diddly-squat about the Solomons prior to reading the entry, but I have heard of one of the prominent islands in the chain – Guadalcanal. In 1942 Guadalcanal was one of the scenes of fierce fighting between the U.S. and Japan over control of the strategic island during WWII.   Guadalcanal Diary is also the name of a band I used to listen to in the mid 80’s whose only noteworthy song in my opinion is “Cattle Prod” off the album Jamboree.

The entry says the Spanish “visited” the Solomons in 1568, though I hardly think visited would be the correct characterization.   The Spanish explorer Alvaro de Mendana landed on the island he named Guadalcanal after his hometown.  On the island, he discovered a substance thought to be gold.  Believing he had stumbled upon King Solomon’s treasure, he named the chain of islands, the Solomons.   The islands are also known as the “pearls of the pacific”.  Hardly an innocent visit to befriend the natives.

“Explored and charted” by the Dutch, French and British, the Solomon islands became a British protectorate and eventually gained full independence as an island nation.  What of this term protectorate?  Did the Brits offer the islands protection?  Would not the term colonial oppression be a better descriptor?  Protectorate?  From what – active volcanoes for which the chain is known?  Or to protect the indigenous people from the problems  wealth can create as chronicled in Steinbeck’s The Pearl.

Visit and protect – such innoncent terms.  I wonder if the New Explorer Desk Encyclopedia is interested in exploring the truth?

AirTran and Kyoto – What’s the Link?


I was mindlessly watching a ridiculous AirTran commercial in which two marketing assistants or maybe interns were trying to come up with an idea for a promotion. They were randomly selecting dictionary entries. This got me thinking, weeks later, because I was certainly not at the time, that I should do something similar as a post or even a series of posts for my blog. Inspired by this insipid commercial, I grabbed my copy of Webster’s New Explorer Dictionary (yes, I have one and refer to it from time to time when too lazy to log on to my slow computer) opened it to a random page and with eyes closed pointed to an entry on the Heian period, page 546 in between Hegira and Martin Heidegger. I would prefer to write about Hejira or Heidegger but must respect the integrity of the challenge…and so the Heian period.

Did you know the Heian period named for the capital city Heian-kyo (Kyoto) spans the years 794-1185 of Japanese history? This epoch is best remembered for its aristocratic culture committed to “aesthetic refinement through poetry and calligraphy”. I would have been an outcast in this culture. My calligraphic skills do not exist – my handwriting is a frenetic mix of cursive and print. My poems, if you can even call them poetry, lack refinement.

The Kyoto Protocol, a treaty designed to combat global warming was ratified by most countries in 1997, but not the US of A, the world’s biggest producer of carbon dioxide emissions. Thanks to the Bush administration and pressure from the U.S. Senate, the USA officially does not take global warming seriously, that is until now. The Obama administration has made climate change a priority, along with health care, immigration, national security, the economy, cash for clunkers, Afghanistan….and has pledged to work with international negotiators to craft a new treaty that would be more effective than Kyoto.

Hey, maybe AirTran will be the first commercial airline to power its fleet of planes with plug-in electric batteries. And why not have poetry slams and calligraphy lessons aboard all domestic flights.  Can you picture the flight attendants handing out free AirTran quills and inkwells to deboarding passengers?

Thank you for choosing AirTran
You know we really care
Fly us again if you can
The most refined bird in the air

Bees Dig the Bigleaf

It looks like a cauliflower flower to me, but I doubt this bigleaf hydrangea is edible. However, these festive bees, drunk on pollen, seem to favor it.

Ever wondered what a cauliflower flower looks like? on TwitpicBees dig the bigleaf hydrangea on Twitpic

FreedomWorks Against Democracy

FreedomWorks is a conservative non-profit organization that recruits activists to agitate for less government, lower taxes and “more freedom”, according to its website.  Led by former House Majority Leader turned lobbyist Republican Dick Armey, whose firm represents major pharmaceutical companies, FreedomWorks is responsible for recruiting the wild-eyed agitators who have prevented the exchange of information and ideas at numerous town hall meetings across the country on health care reform. The crazed and confused riffraff have become increasingly belligerent in approach like the French revolutionaries who stormed the Bastille.  Highly susceptible to propaganda from rabble rousing talk show hosts, the angry mob, who undoubtedly campaigned fiercely against President Obama, and who worship at the alter of Fox news, have more on their mind than defeating health care reform; they hope to bring President Obama down with it.  I would not be the least bit surprised if a significant number of these anti-democratic Jacobin rebels also identified themselves as  “birthers” who refuse to accept the legitimacy of the Obama Presidency, on the grounds that he is not an American citizen, despite irrefutable evidence to the contrary.

Far from creating more freedoms, the mob has been working to reduce them by interfering with our constitutional rights as citizens to free speech and peaceful assembly.

Why do so many fear health care reform?  Who stands to benefit most if there is no reform?  Certainly not those of you who can’t afford health care, or the many millions whose premiums continue to rise year after year while the drug companies Dick Armey’s firm represents continue to profit.   The “public option”  is nothing to fear and it will not be the only option.  Keep your own plan if you want.  Buy into the public plan if you don’t have insurance at all.  What’s so awful about that?  And don’t forget that medicare is a government run program and it works.  Would you like to eliminate that?  If you are on it, I doubt you would.

Down with the angry mobs.  Let the democratic process decide the fate of health care reform.  Democracy requires dissent, but dissent that is strong, passionate and respectful, not disruptive; peaceful, not violent.   The days of Robespierre are long gone.  Reform, not revolution.

Nissan Cube Perfect for Delivering Mail

Nissan Cube

Wouldn’t  it be neat to see a fleet of these delivering the US Mail?   Stylish and  definitely an improvement over those Grumman mail trucks that have been in circulation for the last 25 years.

Why Should I Care About Health Care?

Health Care, what do I care?  My wife and I work.  Our family has a good insurance plan.  Our premium is reasonable,  meds cheap. We like our doctors.  We live in a city with some of the best medical care facilities in the country, if not the world.  Life is good.  Who needs reform?

The above scenario may be true for the many employed and insured Americans.  It’s a me first mentality.  Survival of the fittest.  Social Darwinism. Screw the social contract.  Rousseau was a liberal fraud, even a communist, or so the argument might go.

Don’t insured Americans care at all about the 49 million who don’t have health insurance?  Do they advocate the theories of Thomas Malthus who called for the elimination of social programs that benefit the poor as a means to curb population growth?  Malthus believed national health care initiatives and social safety net programs only bring about short term relief, but ultimately promote more suffering as the earth’s resources are stressed to the breaking point.

How many pro-lifers support health care reform?  If the right to life is so sacred, then what about the right to a decent life with affordable health care for all, not just for the “fittest”.   I am not saying that all opponents of health care reform view the uninsured as unimportant, though I do think that people unconsciously blame the victims; thinking perhaps that the uninsured might be lazy or “not enough like me” or of bad moral fiber.  And there is also the anti-immigrant sentiment – don’t help “them”, forgetting the fact that we are them.

There are those who simply object on political grounds, who oppose and will oppose any idea coming from the Obama administration, even if they believe it to be a good one.

I hear people say that they don’t trust the government to run a public health care option, but are not medicare, medicaid and social security government run?  Do the naysayers advocate eliminating these programs?  No, because they work.

Affordable health care is a basic human right, as sacred as any found in the U.S. Constitution.  No one living in America should be without decent health care.  It is unconscionable that 49 million people do not have health insurance in a wealthy, technologically advanced, stable democracy.  Shame on the U.S.; shame on us.