First, a retraction from last week.
I don’t care if Van Morrison eats babies. His art forgives him his faults—a thousand times the creator I am.
¡Viva el Van!
Standard English version, first verse and chorus (singable):
Should old acquaintance be forgot
and never brought to mind?
Should old acquaintance be forgot
and auld lang syne?
For auld lang syne, my dear,
for auld lang syne,
we’ll take a cup of kindness yet,
for auld lang syne.
In 1788 Robert Burns wrote down the Scots version of this tried and true oral classic, and has been given credit ever since. Decades before Burns’ theft, it was a popular ballad sung as farewell to occasions, such as the life of an old friend, or another revolution of earth around the sun.
Last New Year’s day I invited in 2020 with this painting:
Did my fish wish come true? Or did we just drink another cup of kindness to a billionaire truncheon up our asses? Unfortunately, no matter how desperately I want for old man Potter to become ugly young man Elon Musk in a SNL alternate reality spoof on a timeless classic, the broad consensus is to live and let live the Takers, and party like it’s any time not 2020.
During those final minutes of the worst year of our lifetimes, Americans made lockdown Zoom calls toasting their mutual humanity. Look! A ball! Here comes 2021 and vaccine dreams of a Tesla Model Y by next Christmas, post arrival of the fifth stimulus check. Use it or lose it. Cause y’all ain’t keepin’ it. By the end of the decade, China gets to be superpower. Handsome Mao Yuan pressed beneath our disintegrating IKEA foam mattresses while a million U.S. dollars goes to the baker for a loaf of multigrain bread. 1.5 billion people in a land Americans care nothing about until a ship of untouchables unload fidget spinners in Long Beach, California. Xenophobic radio silence from the United States where 41% of its inhabitants believes a 2,000 year dead Palestinian Jew will return from the sky by 2050 to usher in the end of the world. Gee, I wonder what the 1.5 billion people in China think about that? America, a nation of imbeciles nuclearly armed to the teeth falling out, telling tall tales about four horsemen of the Apocalypse. That’s gotta sound crazy, right? Worshiping a deity that promises to scrub life down to bedrock some day. How? Well, with an atom-splitting Jesus Christ of course, making the earth uninhabitable for all life, not just those sinning humans whom he shepherds. I rather be pretend communist among thin-wristed totalitarians who, at the very least, vow to make me an ancestor someday. I’ll convert to Chinese to eat snakes and bind my daughter’s feet if I have to. I hear that’s routine in China. No American education ever taught me otherwise. Nor did it bother to instruct about coal dynamos in trinket cities choking the atmosphere, but hell, petroleum worms feed on mulberry bushes only in China, right? So I’m practically forced to purchase another piece of plastic crap from 10,000 miles away, if I’m to keep up with the Jones in racist America.
I have two culture aphorisms—the first one about there, the second about here:
The true beauty of Chinese writing…
Makes me wonder if “anglo-american” in Chinese
is an intricate brushstroke of two heavy white men with beards
making violent love to the front and back of a giant tree
and then setting the tree on fire
And the next one on the painting:
Without the help of rabies
cats cannot kill cats
Soldiers kill a lot of babies
the U.S. says are stats
Americans shared cultural and geographical ignorance is not why I write today. Nope. I want to declare my New Year’s resolutions. One thing I know I am very good at is being resolute. I can will myself to be vegan for a year, then turn on a dime eating nothing but steak until my toes crimp with gout agony. My problem is that I expect others to share my level of effort toward self improvement or indulgence, especially by members of those groups of people whom appear to have it all. I fear that I’ve become a moralist, and I want to nip that hypocrisy in the bud before it bursts into some hideous thistle of cynicism. My top resolution for the coming year is to kill this “holier than thou” presence inside of me. We all know that life isn’t fair and governments rarely act in our best interest. Children get cancer and Presidents order bombs dropped on a children’s cancer hospital. There is nothing overly sensitive Ron Throop can do about it, save physical retaliation which would fail from the get go. I’d accidentally shoot myself in an attempt to kill the killers. I’m just not that clever, or sneaky. Nor am I able to imagine myself the CEO of whichever death factory I castigate. Hunters need to think like the animal they are hunting. My presence in the wild is as obvious as a loaded Mick Jagger over-doused with gorilla musk.
I learned a new word this year. “Performative”. Generation Z uses it to condemn those peers who use social media to post moralities worn like a new hat rather than outward expressions from an inward justice gene. It’s very effective at herd-correcting. Most revved up moralities are contained early on allowing selfie and humor memes to rise to the top. Another “me” generation has primed itself to get wasted by its own media—social app sheep peer-pressuring one another to ignore the terror felt by creatures outside the fold. Instead they post funny foibles of their fellow sheep being stalked night and day by hungry wolves.
Basically, to be performative means that one is not truly dedicated to the noble eight-fold path promoted by Buddhists and atheist moralists. An example would be last summer’s murder of George Floyd and the explosive resurgence of the Black Lives Matter movement, with its endless waves of Internet virtue signalling (another new term I learned from my daughter). Meme morality became the social media norm when bored lock down high school and college students (and a handful of their parents) were introduced to the horrors of their own live’s involvement with institutional racism. It was the young people’s “life isn’t fair” moment, and it hit them like a brick at the windshield of a Minneapolis police car. For the eternal moment, nothing else mattered. Instagram feeds were flooded with morality posturing to make a Mormon Tabernacle Choir ashamed of its reticence.
Then summer ended slow like any year’s hot season. Memers left lockdown for school and cool, and Black Lives Matter was no longer headline news. No autumn marches planned, no more “fuck the police” (while the police led the marches). Racism went back to being just as prevalent as ever, maybe more so since the silent majority of bigots and white supremacists got to flex their vocal chords aided and abetted by a racist federal government with King Holy Terror at the head. The performative memes vanished. Generation Z followed Y followed X, and readily hopped into the meaning of this John Steinbeck truth I often quote:
I have named the destroyers of nations: comfort, plenty, and security—out of which grow a bored and slothful cynicism, in which rebellion against the world as it is, and myself as I am, are submerged in listless self-satisfaction.
So life isn’t fair and the young who are the future in the flesh, are cyclically “submerged in listless self-satisfaction”. Perhaps this would be normal and good in an alternate clan/technological society, for self-satisfaction memes would show off hunting exploits, or the medicinal recipes from apprentice mages. And yes, even performative reminders of fairness and mutual respect would dominate cyberspace feeds during times of clan stress. Morality would be obvious like breathing.
But in modern real time, we’re too spread out and too far gone. All morality is performative when a planet is divided into nation states fueled by the power of exploitation. My life pressures the life of a child in China. I am unable to detach myself from the threat I pose to the world simply by breathing on its topsoil. Today we show off our individual talents and goodness on Instagram or Facebook, and Twitter is the best public place for a hypocritical tool to angrily fake any positive meaning for his existence.
Unfortunately, my Fish Wish for 2020 (see title painting) did not come true. Of course it never could—not even in a dream world where manufacturing happens. I believe wholeheartedly that a universal morality cannot exist until our species is blown back into the stone ages by the human made catastrophes that are poised to happen because we have done everything to deserve it. And the rest of life expects it.
So this year the least I can do is end my performative self-satisfaction. I shall make myself invisible on the Internet except from this one place of refuge and Vimeo, which embellishes it from time to time with content video. I shall leave for good Facebook, Instagram, Youtube and Twitter. I will cancel my website. Friends who actually like me will have to succumb to receiving a weekly newsletter in their email box, and when COVID ends, make actual visits on the street, by the lake, at my house or at theirs. This must be a right act because it feels so free just imagining it. I suggest it to anyone who has had too much of themselves on the Internet. Time to give 2020 a performative bow and exit stage left.
I will continue to write and publish books, and also paint and exhibit. 2021 will be the year I left the rat race to move back in with art. I’ll take a cup of kindness. And then another and another until I’m drunk on the nobodyness that will set me free for good. Without a single ironic hiccup.
So please friends, subscribe so we don’t forget each other. I am doing this for you because a part of me knows how much of a crappy friend and worthless acquaintance I have been. I need to leave the world to connect back to it. I know you know this. Without you I am nothing a child would care about. A cynical drunk Richard in a bar, some fool who once thought himself someone to see. He fueled his only power, love, with pretty lies. (If you hit on the link and listen, then I think you might cry).
Don’t do it! Leave the screen and go hug something you love.
Happy New Year!
I’m an advocate for Medicare for All. I hope you are too. There is a popular online protest developing called #ForcetheVote. Representatives who claim to be progressive and ran on a Medicare for All (M4A) platform have the power to bring a vote to the House floor. It would take only 15 members to threaten to withhold their support for Nancy Pelosi as Speaker until she brings up the vote for M4A.
It’s now or never. The people have been asked to make a one or two minute video pleading their case, then post it on social media with hashtags #ForcetheVote and #MyStory.
This will be my humble swan song to social media. Please join the movement if you’re so inclined.
Any Day Thursday But Pregnant With Meaning For Me
Here is one of those rare writing moments when the flood gates are bulging against the amygdala, and the bony fingers down below are quivering in anticipation of the deluge. Yesterday, I got an early birthday present, and I appreciate it’s timing. A fortunate half century is a good, round amount of time to pass before realizing true happiness and satisfaction for a job well done. Today is my first daughter’s birthday, my stepfather’s death day, and a day of life satisfaction remembrance for however many future years I push back against the gravity of our solar system.
Last night I had an art opening at the local library. I got the gig over the holidays with little time to prepare, and set up an exhibition to coincide with my ongoing art project “Throop for Congress”. I titled the show, “The Painter for Congress”, and set it up last week during a heavy lake effect snow storm. 24 paintings and a standing, painted memorial to my dear, departed stepfather. I hung up the following promotional material:
Five days later, the night before the opening, I received an e-mail by an assistant librarian:
Ron, as a public tax funded institution we cannot promote any candidate for office. May I trim the bottom of your biography poster where the throopforcongress2018.com is printed?
I admit at first I was nonplussed, as many a hot-headed arteest can be when confronting a road block. However, I worked it back and forth with my level-headed spouse, and wrote a reasoned response.
So far, this is all tongue and cheek. It’s an art project to raise civic awareness. That said, of course! Just marker, tape, or white out the web address. Please, if it can be avoided, refrain from cutting the paper. I will replace it on Saturday with a revised print.
Hope this works. A heavy black marker (permanent) should do the trick.
Thanks for the head’s up!
So yesterday, three hours before show time, I came to the library with my cookies, cheeses, and American flag cake, to set up a cozy spot in the community room adjacent to the gallery. The director of the library was standing by my 11 × 17" promotional poster (now 11 × 14" after being trimmed), to explain why she had to cut off the title of the exhibition, and mark out certain words.
She apologized for the short notice and argued why it was her job to keep politics fair and balanced in the library. Theoretically, if John Katko (NY-24) wanted to have a personal, expressive art exhibit about his experience while Congressman®, he could not in a library, nor any other publicly funded institution, say a skating rink, a town park, or his own, cobweb procreating Congressional office downtown. Good to know, I guess. Still, I am not a Democrat®, Republican®, nor even a Whig, and I certainly would not have an advantage in this upcoming horse race if the library director left my website exposed (which, by the way, is the gateway social media presence to my Twitter® account presently overwhelmed with two followers). Also, Katko has raised over a million dollars this year, many bribes from dastardly out-of-state corporations. I declare zero donations in my campaign. So no money changes hands in this project. WRVO®, my local public radio station (a publicly funded institution), shouts out other politician’s official campaign news quite often. Never mine though. And it’s not like I haven’t tried to get their attention.
Philosophically I must ask, “If a candidate for Congress® runs through the woods, and nobody sees him, is he still a candidate for Congress®?”
Best to let it go. Too much confusion to argue the point. I actually told her that I was thrilled to be censored. My first time. No longer a virgin to creeping totalitarianism, exposing itself in a library of all places!
Then she mentioned the memorial to my stepfather. She moved it to her office. It couldn’t stand freely for insurance reasons. It might fall on a child and the library get sued.
Fair enough. So then I asked if I could move it into the community room just for the night because it happened to be the eve of the first anniversary of my stepfather’s passing, and I hoped to talk about him and the creation of the piece at the evening’s reception.
“No,” she said. “There is an offending panel.”
“The Rex Tillerson is a sociopath one.”
Nonplussed again, and this time the internal organ somersaults... A deep breath, and then I told her how days after my stepfather’s death, I painted this memorial in the grips of memory’s very vocal keening with tears pouring out of my eyes, and the cat looking at me like it was my turn next. It just so happened that the radio was talking about the new secretary of state. So I painted him, and then I painted my opinion of him—and I would have made it meaner if that day I wasn’t so down and devastated with mourning. Because on a good day I think people like Rex Tillerson are disgusting human beings and need to be wrapped up in a village stockade for all the suffering they cause the village. Here is the panel and its original title.
So once again, the deep breath, and a reasonable solution. I asked if I could show the piece that night if I changed the title. She agreed. So I went home to get my paints, returned, and had a conversation about censorship with her while changing the original artwork to please the state.
Through conversation I found the director to be a very kind and caring person. She even admitted that she would not want to compromise future funding from the state Senate®, which just awarded a $50,000 grant to the library.
Part I of my Thursday ended with a new understanding of what it feels like to live in a nation with a dying fourth estate. For the time being, I maintain a platform on my blog and publish in book form from time to time. It sometimes gets erased at libraries and ignored by paid-for news organizations. Still, I have other paths to deliver my news and be free. So...
Rex Tillerson, the highly protected sociopath, is gonna kill a lot of stuff.
Part II of my censorship Thursday begins in crushing self-doubt, then hits the sheets satisfied that I am the best man I could ever be.
After the reception, we went to dinner at my youngest daughter’s favorite Japanese restaurant. We have few international options in Oswego and the Yummy-Yummy® is always yummy yummy. I was feeling a bit down after the opening, as I usually do after exhausting myself in expressive overdrive. It is an honor to have friends and family support creative endeavor, an effort worth doing again and again. But there is a draining. There is always a draining time, when I remind myself of our families’ financial situation—that so much of what I do depends on the support of a loving wife and friend. Even on good days, a big bell in mind tolls my economic dependency. And in this culture where I live, an art career is no career if it doesn’t make any money.
My existence as an exhibiting painter can be thought of as a kind of charity if thought about too much.
Still, I have been a competent homemaker, and have paid my non-monetary dues along the way. I have raised and helped raise two incredibly mature and well-rounded children. I also bake an excellent patriot cake to serve at my public and private art functions.
But last night I was down, as I do get from time to time. Seated behind us in the restaurant there was a rowdy group of drunken thirty-somethings teasing me out of my temporary despair into a “be prepared to protect” state of tension. A couple burly dudes shouting “f” this and “f” that, and “nobody better push this f-ing bear because I’ll effin’ kill ’em!” My back was to them. My wife told me it was the junior sensei at my daughter’s karate school. To be fair, he wasn’t one of the loud, obnoxious idiots, but he was playing along anyway, knowing that his student and her family were within ear shot.
At that moment I got my early birthday present.
When attending my daughter’s seasonal karate promotions, I become emotionally overwhelmed by the ceremonial procedure that promotes her to the next level. She is a junior black belt, and heading into a lifelong dedication to the martial art. Many positive feelings pass through during these proud moments. I look at these men and women (her teachers) standing in the front of the dojo—they appear so stable and upright socially, and I wonder where and when did I make that wrong turn? How can I not support my family? How is it that I am such a monumental financial failure? If I join the dojo, work hard, and become a black belt, will I finally succeed where I have failed time and again? The senseis are successfully employed—that is, they’re employed, which to me, means success. And, they have made great, personal achievements through disciplined practice.
Great, personal American achievements. And there is the rub. Surface achievement only. Wealth or status first. Methods second. The young sensei hanging around bad company at the Japanese restaurant is the son of the Grand Poobah of senseis in my town. One who actually trained with Okinawan masters and is a living ninth degree black belt to prove it.
The son, also a blackbelt of several degrees, is a substitute teacher at my daughter’s high school. No doubt, there will be more public drunkenness to come while establishing himself as an upstanding contributor to his family and community.
However on this night he lost the respect of his student who is heading to greatness. She saw him as a small town boy-man, undignified, a follower, and a failure. He learned nothing but kicks and punches from the many years training in his father’s dojo.
Just kicks and punches.
Happy birthday to me! I have received the gift of never again apologizing for who I am nor how I imagine myself to be. I will never paint over a thought expressed, nor be fooled by the ruses of lessor men.
Rex Tillerson and my daughter’s young sensei are both protected sociopaths. One will kill an awful lot of stuff; the other might desire to, but in the end, probably just punch his way through life, amounting only to another fool’s surface opinion of him.
Friday Freeflow New Year Dedication to Robert Allen Mazza (1934 - 2017)
Let’s raise a glass to 2021!