“RED,” A PLAY ABOUT MARK ROTHKO BY JOHN LOGAN

By Paul M. Lewis

When the curtain goes up on John Logan’s play “Red,” we see Abstract Expressionist artist, Mark Rothko, sitting in a chair in his studio, smoking a cigarette. He is facing the audience, staring at something in front of him. We come to realize soon enough that this is one of his paintings (another is actually visible to the audience directly behind him). For anyone not familiar with Rothko’s later paintings—and the play mainly deals with these works of the 1950’s—they are iconically large canvasses consisting of juxtaposed floating colored rectangles on a darker background. Those referenced in this play are exclusively red and black.

Rothko’s newly hired young assistant, Ken, enters and stands behind him, ignored by the painter. After a few moments, we realize that Rothko does know Ken is there. Without even a glance in his direction, the painter asks him: “What do you see?” Ken, who is clearly in awe of the great man, much his senior both in years and in experience, replies innocently enough: “Red.” And the play is off and running.

The production my partner and I went to see recently took place at South Coast Repertory in Costa Mesa, CA, although we had already seen another version at the Mark Taper Forum in Los Angeles a few years ago. Both productions were very well done, with the actors in each playing off their individual strengths and idiosyncrasies—greater forcefulness or anger in one portrayal of Rothko, more subtlety and intellectuality in another; youthful energy and verve in the part of Ken in one iteration, while more of an emphasis on innocence, morphing into maturation, in the other.

There is much discussion of the concept of red in this drama. Logan portrays Rothko as challenging his new helper to understand more deeply what is meant by the color, both in terms of its physical manifestations, as well as its psychological implications. Is there even any such a thing as red—simple red? Or is it, as Rothko points out, better thought of as: “plum-mulberry-magenta-burgundy-salmon-carmine-carnelian-coral?” I suppose he could have added crimson, lobster, ruby, cherry, vermilion, cardinal, cuprite, and so on, as well. The point being that, to an artist, the über-category of red is of little use as an honest, visual description of the almost endless possibilities of physical reality.

Rothko and Ken then go back and forth in naming other categories of red that relate more directly to the feelings and emotions that the color can represent: passion, wine, lipstick, apples, rust on the bike on the lawn, an albino’s eyes, atomic flash, the Russian flag, the Chinese flag, the Nazi flag, red light district, red tape, rouge, viscera, flame, Santa Claus, blood, slash your wrists, and on and on. Slowly, Ken—to an extent our stand-in as audience members—begins to get the feeling of what Rothko means when he paints with “red.”

But there is also black. Big blocks of color that are again not merely of one hue, but are composed of browns and umbers, endless underpinnings of multifarious earth tones. We see coal and we see night; we see darkness and the symbolism of race, prejudice, bigotry and bias; the absence of light, the Stygian world, mourning, and of course death itself. But we also see the Cosmos, filled with light and only seemingly black because it reflects off of nothing, or nothing that registers with us at least.

And what happens when red and black are juxtaposed? There is an immediate play of one off the other, such that our eyes see what both is and what is not there. Logan has Rothko expound on the concept: “Look at the tension between the blocks of color: the dark and the light, the red and the black and the brown. They exist in a state of flux—of movement. They abut each other on the actual canvas, so too do they abut each other in your eye. They ebb and flow and shift, gently pulsating. The more you look at them the more they move…They float in space, they breathe..Movement, communication, gesture, flux, interaction; let them work…They’re not dead because they’re not static. They move through space if you let them, this movement takes time, so they’re temporal. They require time.”

Of course time is needed. Because we are talking about physical manifestation, about the world as it appears to us, as we live in it in our bodies, and this cannot be experienced except temporally. It’s there for now, but gone in another moment. We are here for a second, and then disappear again into the endlessness of Cosmic energy, only to come together once more in some other form. Matter cannot be created; neither can it be destroyed. It simply is, and can be perceived only by those whose very form has been cobbled together by its own seemingly random interaction. The subject matter of the play has to do with the nature of art. But if art is both a reflection and an enhancement of nature, a highly idiosyncratic while at the same time universalized vision thereof, then it is in that sense also a play more generally about the full panoply of the human experience.

Rothko, the man, was not without his flaws. He was arrogant, bombastic, argumentative, contentious, prideful, jealous, domineering, and conceited. He was so full of himself and lived so hermetically, so much in his own head, that he eschewed nature as being too messy. But he was also highly sensitive, energetic, insightful, intellectual, emotional, fearful, depressed, and of course ultra-talented. Given all this, the play may not be for everyone. If you don’t like long discourses on art, or contentious dialogue between master and apprentice, or Abstract Expressionism for that matter, this may not be what you might choose to spend your hard earned money on.

But if you are interested in exploring what art is, that elusive, fragile, delicate, phantasmagorical mix of the real world—whether it be paint, or canvas, or light, or clay, or physical movement, or words, or sound, or whatever the medium—and something else, some ultimately indefinable ethos of the human spirit, something pointing beyond humanity to another level altogether even more subtle, exquisite, elegant, refined, eternal, spiritual, if you will, then “Red” was written for you.

Also thrown front and center into the mix are questions of Rothko’s politics. We are reminded in the play of his social-revolutionary youth. His anti-establishment leanings did not sit well with gallery owners, museum curators, or even some of the rich who ultimately bought his paintings. One of the major turning points in the play, in fact, has to do with his struggle over the commission he received to paint murals for the famous—and famously rich and exclusive—Four Seasons Restaurant located in the new Seagram Building in New York City, for which he was paid handsomely (more, we are told, than any other commission in the history of modern art). In that sense, we are back once again with the conflict between light and dark, between artistic integrity and commercialism, idealism and money; we might even say, between red and black.

The family of Marcus Yokovlevitch Rothkowitz (his original name) moved to Portland, Oregon in 1913, when Rothko was only 10 years old, having fled the Cossacks and the pogroms of the old Russian Empire. Logan has him describe the neighborhood as a ghetto, filled with “thinky, talky Jews.” He was, of course, also himself in life both “thinky” and “talky.” He understood what it was to be the outsider, and he knew fear, tension, and the everlasting interplay of the opposites. Logan portrays how Rothko saw that movement was essential to growth, that the son succeeds the father, the apprentice takes over from the master, and that one art movement must kill off its predecessor (as much as he hated it, and railed against it, when Pop Art came to displace Abstract Expressionism).

Rothko will be remembered as a master of this tension, of strain and stress and the push-and-pull that so utterly enthralled and mystified him. I will not reveal how the play ends, except to say that it does so with an answer to a question. Although my own preference might have been to allow that question to hang in the air, unanswered, for us all to contemplate.

Rothko is famous for having said: “If you are moved by color relationships, you are missing the point. I am expressing the big emotions—tragedy, ecstasy, doom.” Who can fully plumb such questions? Can art, or even a great artist like Mark Rothko, ever reveal to us what is, in the end, indefinable, unfathomable, and ultimately unanswerable?

 

 

 

 

 

 

BERNIE or HILLARY… or BOTH?

by Kevin L Miller

I just read a quote from Robert Reich (secretary of the treasury under Clinton) about the current choice between Hillary and Bernie, that I find insightful:

“This election is about changing the parameters of what’s feasible and ending the choke hold of big money on our political system. I’ve known Hillary Clinton since she was 19 years old, and have nothing but respect for her. In my view, she’s the most qualified candidate for president of the political system we now have. But Bernie Sanders is the most qualified candidate to create the political system we should have, because he’s leading a political movement for change. The upcoming election isn’t about detailed policy proposals. It’s about power – whether those who have it will keep it, or whether average Americans will get some as well.”

Hillary has been saying that Bernie is an idealist who cannot possibly accomplish his goals, while she is the hard-nosed pragmatist who knows the system and how to get things done. Well… She’s right. She IS the system, so she should certainly know it by now. But the system doesn’t work. Politics doesn’t work anymore. The environment is in the toilet. Climate change is threatening the very survival of all life on earth. The top 20 richest Americans hold as much wealth as the bottom 50%. The entire established social contract is anachronistic and broken and leading us to destruction. As Hillary is suggesting, we may have very little chance of changing the fundamental workings of society in a way that might save us, but don’t we have to TRY at least?

Bernie photo

Hillary is way more presidential than Bernie. No doubt about it. She knows how to evade reporters’ questions and appear unperturbed under fire. Bernie doesn’t look like any president of the USA that I’ve ever seen, and that’s exactly what I like about him. He just tells the plain unvarnished truth as he sees it, and those pronouncements from him have not changed in 30 years. By contrast, Hillary’s positions seem to reverse with every shift in the breeze, according to what is politically expedient, whether you want to talk about the KXL Pipeline, gay marriage, foreign trade, or you name it. We cannot trust that her positions today will still be the same tomorrow, because they certainly don’t sound like what she was saying yesterday. How can anyone trust a leader like that?

I was already a big fan of Bernie for years before he announced his intention to run for the nomination. I remember writing to friends many months before he declared, that I wished he would run, and they indicated that they didn’t really know who he was. Almost nobody knew who he was, and a lot of people who did, considered him a joke. He started with terrific odds against him and has risen to tie Hillary in the Iowa polls and beat her handily in the NH polls. And he has done this without a political PAC or dark money or giant Wall Street contributions of any kind, but with very small donations from millions of Americans. This unlikely candidate… this frumpy, grumpy, gravel-voiced, bald-headed, unpolished Jewish social democrat who will not compromise the truth… has already proven that he can beat the odds with his unconventional tactics. If he can do that, then maybe… just maybe… he can also lead the masses in changing the system enough to give humanity a fighting chance at survival.

Bernie-Sanders-jpg

For me the choice is clear. I’m voting for Bernie’s idealism in the primaries. Obviously, if Hillary wins the nomination, I won’t have any choice but to vote for her in the general election, because turning over the nation and the world to a President Trump or Cruz would spell the end of all hope. But I’ll feel a whole lot better about our chances if we inaugurate Bernie as our next president, because I am confident that he will do everything in his power not to sell the masses to the highest bidder, and put all of his energy into moving us toward sanity and survival. If we can’t vote for that, then we’re in very big trouble. And besides… the majority of major polls are showing that Bernie would beat Trump and Cruz by a much wider margin than Hillary. Voting for Bernie in the primaries turns out to be the practical thing to do.

Let’s be practical and vote for the idealistic candidate — Bernie! — Peace, – Kevin

 

 

BERNIE OR HILLARY: WHAT DO THE HEAD AND THE HEART HAVE TO SAY?

By Paul M. Lewis

Next Monday, the 1st of February, 2016, we begin—and here, you choose how best to characterize it—either: 1) the democratic process of selecting a candidate from each party to run for the presidency; or 2) the giant circus act, including legions of clowns and endless pratfalls; or 3) all hell breaking loose. Also known, of course, as the Iowa caucuses. And soon after that, on Feb. 9th, we will get the results of the first actual primary voting, when New Hampshire holds its election.

I’ll leave it to another time to wonder about the sagacity and utility of the whole process of selecting candidates, of why two states with so few people and so little diversity get to set the stage for the debate (note that Iowa is 92% white, and New Hampshire is 94% white—hardly a reflection of America as a whole). More important and germane for the moment is the question of who the candidates actually are. But I also won’t bother—for now anyway—with the Republicans, as I consider them to be virtually a lost cause. Does it matter if Trump or Cruz wins in either of these places? The former is a blowhard of a buffoon, who touts overly simplistic answers to complex and weighty questions of policy and practice, while the latter presents himself as a rigid and doctrinaire authoritarian, with frighteningly xenophobic and jingoistic tendencies.

That leaves me with Hillary and Bernie to think about. And as a lifelong Democrat anyway, it’s only right that I do so. I will admit to having not paid as much attention to the contest as I should have, indeed, as much as I have done in years past. My partner and I have been preoccupied for months with matters of family, specifically with eldercare and its endless and enervating demands of what is best to do, how it should be paid for, and if what’s provided, in the end, really is sufficient. But this too is a topic for another time.

The question remains, am I for Hillary, or for Bernie? And how should I reply to the endless requests for money I’ve gotten on my email every day without fail from both the Clinton and the Sanders campaigns. So far, I have to admit, I haven’t donated a single dollar.

So, how to respond, especially when I fear that I haven’t done enough of my homework yet to feel as though I’ve fully plumbed the ins and outs of either of their policy positions? Of course, I know in a general way who is who, and what they more or less stand for. Hillary is the middle-of-the-road candidate, pragmatic and practical, who knows how to get things done, and who isn’t too afraid to crack a few heads along the way. While Bernie is more the ideologue, a guy who doesn’t shy away from calling himself a socialist, almost a dirty word in American politics—or at least so it has been up until now—and who stands for lots of things that I like, such as a single-payer healthcare system, the breakup of too-big-to-fail banks, free higher education, etc.

But Hillary poses a question about Bernie that is not irrelevant: if elected, would he be able to work within the system, especially if, as seems likely, at least one of the houses of Congress remains in Republican control? And if both are under GOP domination, he would be stymied on virtually all counts. Of course, the same question about ability to work with a Republican controlled Congress could be posed in regard to Hilary, as much as she apparently thinks she could do so, or at least that she would not be so utterly shut out by the Republicans as he (perhaps its own dubious and uncertain assumption).

To an extent, I’m beginning to feel as though this is coming down to a debate between the head and the heart. I have to admit that my own more pragmatic side leans a little bit toward Hillary. I keep hearing that nagging inner voice of reason, so-called anyway, saying things like: “Bernie would never be able to pull in that vital one-third of people in the general election, the Independents, who will ultimately decide the race. So why risk voting for him as a candidate and sending those middle-of-the-road voters running straight into the arms of Trump’s shallow and overly simplistic answers, to say nothing of his racism, or to Cruz’s totalitarian extremism?”

The other more idealistic, and dare I say more hopeful, side of me wonders why I shouldn’t vote for a candidate who finally embodies some of the values I have long cherished, but always thought too far outside of the mainstream of American politics. Isn’t this my one chance to do so, maybe my last and only opportunity to side with a guy who has the guts to say what needs to be said, and damn the consequences?

Not that even Bernie is without his flaws, mind you. His take on some issues related to race, for example, leave something to be desired. As the cogent and insightful commentator, Ta-Nehisi Coates, said recently writing for The Atlantic magazine: “Sanders’s basic approach is to ameliorate the effects of racism through broad, mostly class-based policies…This is the same ‘A rising tide lifts all boats’ thinking that has dominated Democratic anti-racist policy for a generation.” But it hasn’t worked, as anyone can see who looks at the still enormous disparity in economic opportunity between the races in this country. As Coates goes on to point out: “We now know that for every dollar of wealth white families have, black families have a nickel…We know that in a city like Chicago, the wealthiest black neighborhood has an incarceration rate many times worse than the poorest white neighborhood.” These are specifically racial, not just class, divisions, and Bernie has not addressed them. Neither has Clinton, it could well be argued, nor any other candidate in the race, for that matter. This is Bernie we’re speaking of, though, and haven’t we come to expect more of him?

But, in regard to Bernie, is it wise to think that the good ought to be the enemy of the perfect? Furthermore, should we even consider questions of pragmatism when it comes to choosing a candidate? If you don’t have somebody you can believe in, someone whom you can get excited about, someone you’re willing to work for, or at very least whose campaign you’re willing to open your wallet for, then what chance does he, or she, have against boisterous and bloviating bigots?

So, this is where I’m at for the moment. I get it that a lot rides on who wins the upcoming presidential race. So much is at stake, from questions of global climate change, to international policy as it relates to Iran, China, Russia, and the Middle East, to immigration, to healthcare, to the economy, and even potentially to new justices for the Supreme Court. More still could be added to this list, big questions having to do with race and class, education and employment, the use or abuse of public lands, and on and on.

So, do I follow my head or my heart? That really is the question. And I have to admit; I don’t know the answer yet. I love much of what Bernie stands for, and I at least like many of Hillary’s positions. But who could win, and who could best govern if they do win? For me, given our odd and dysfunctional primary system wherein the most populous state gets the last chance to vote for a candidate, it may well be a moot point. By the time we Californians cast our ballots on June 7th, it might all be settled anyway. Just in case, though, it’s probably time for me to try to sort this head-heart thing out once and for all. And as soon as I figure out how to do that, I’ll be sure to let you know.

 

HOW RICH DO YOU HAVE TO BE?

By Paul M. Lewis

Only some five or six years ago, it took close to 400 rich people to equal the wealth of one-half of the world’s population. And as astounding as this may in itself be, the numbers that register today go even beyond that. In 2016, the amount of riches held by just 62 individuals equals that of 3.5 billion people in the world combined.

The Gateses, the Buffets, the Slims, and the Kochs of the world are not just rich, they are so super-, mega-, ultra-rich that the money they have could—and to an extent does—bury much of the population of the globe. At these levels, the notion of wealth begins to blur a bit in the minds of most of us. We are no longer talking just about dollars and cents, that is, bills and coins, but instead we begin to enter into the realm of exotic financial tools that expand exponentially what we normally think of as money. For example, derivatives, monetary instruments that allow parties to create contracts between themselves for the purpose of benefiting from underlying assets or options such as futures, are worth far more than mere money, at least as we normally think of it.

The amount of simple hard cash in circulation in the world amounts to something on the order of about 5 trillion dollars. If we consider only that figure, these 62 super-rich men (it is mostly men, not surprisingly) own about 1.75 trillion dollars. However, if we move on to these other ways of valuing wealth in the world, what they are worth is far greater. It’s estimated that the derivatives market alone may be valued at close to 630 trillion dollars. No one knows exactly how much of this kind of wealth the mega-rich own, because it is often held in secret and in accounts that are closed to government scrutiny, and therefore to taxation. But we would probably not go too far afield in guessing that a very large percentage of derivative wealth is held by these same Gateses, Buffets, Slims, Kochs, and so on, and of course in the portfolios of multinational corporations like Exxon, Royal Dutch Shell, Berkshire Hathaway, GE etc. Bill Gates alone, the richest individual man in the world, is said to be worth $77 billion. If we take the Koch brothers together (and we know they often act in tandem, at least politically), they are even richer, at a combined wealth of about $80 billion. And if we are talking dynasties, the Walton family of Wal-Mart fame, taken as a whole, is valued at well north of $140 billion.

What are we to make of this kind of wealth, and of the ever expanding, yawning chasm between the super-rich, the middle class, and the super-poor? Most people in the world believe that you get money by working. When I was a boy in the late 40’s and early 50’s, living in an even then dying industrial town in upstate New York, you attended high school, graduated, and then went to work in one of the local factories. My brother worked on an assembly line that turned out radiators for the Ford Company; one of my uncles worked in a local steel mill and another in an Army arsenal that happened to be located nearby as a toolmaker. My mother sold women’s lingerie in Pearl’s Department Store in Troy, New York. She came home with $35.00 a week, and my father, who worked in a sandpaper factory, took home $65.00 a week.

Even in those years, it was not easy to raise a family of three kids on a weekly income of one hundred dollars. But that was, and is, wealth compared to the poorest of the poor, who today subsist on $1.25 a day. Many such people cannot find what we might think of as actual jobs, but live instead on scavenging or begging. If you are lucky enough to have a bit of land, you scratch out a living for yourself and your family through subsistance farming, if the rains come on time, or in the hope that not too much rain comes, and if you can afford a bit of seed in order to plant a crop for next year.

When we consider these figures and the depth of poverty so many people live in, we often think of it in moral terms. And undoubtedly there is a kind of moral framework in which we ought to consider such disparities. Questions of justice and injustice spring to mind. Is it right for such enormities of wealth to be concentrated in 62 men, while billions of people barely have enough to buy a loaf of bread or a bowl of rice?

But as crucial as this viewpoint may be, we must also consider issues beyond justice and injustice. Questions related to the general economy and to politics also arise. When so much money is concentrated in so few people, there is that much less wealth available to invest in the lives of the have-nots (yes, in this sense, it is a kind of a zero sum game). People without resources cannot buy things they need; they cannot purchase food and clothing for themselves, or afford a clean and decent place to live, to say nothing of needed medical attention and an education so that their children will have a chance at a better life than they have had. As such, the cycle of poverty repeats itself endlessly, and the poor not only remain poor, but they become more and more desperate. Additionally, this lack of buying power on the part of so many actually starves the market itself; when sellers are no longer able to move their wares, they stop buying from suppliers, and a downward spiral begins to set in.

Neither do desperate people make for a stable social order. Why should they? Why try to participate in a political system that appears to exclude you, that criminalizes you for being poor, or that ostracizes you from obtaining the bare necessities of life? And while factors like these do not fully explain dissident terrorist groups such as ISIS, they do go a long way toward helping us understand why young men and women feel they have nothing to lose, why they feel hopeless and enraged, and why they may be prone to follow authoritarian demagogues who promise ascendency in this world and reward in the next, if only they will believe, join up, and follow proper orders.

Although the world-wide stock markets and related money markets, where the real wealth is made, have taken a bit of a beating of late, even so they have risen enormously over the last 5 to 6 years. In a similar vein, CEO compensation has increased by more than 40% during that same period of time, while the wages of every day working people have remained either flat, or actually fallen, in real dollars. “The poor,” as one Catholic priest once told me many years ago, “we shall always have with us.”

He was not wrong. There will always be a disparity between people and how much money they have. To a large extent, such disparities are fueled by things like family wealth (those who come from money have a far greater chance of making money), as well as race, class, and educational levels. For better or for worse, these are things we all live with. But if we do not find some way of better disseminating what might be called “wealth opportunity,” if not actual wealth, if we do not begin to grapple with providing people with the chance to earn a living that not only gives them daily necessities, but one they can take some pride in as well, then we are dooming our world to ever increasing instability, insecurity, and terrorism.

In the end, an economy in which less than 1% of the population owns half of the world’s wealth is not merely unfair and unjust, it is also a highly dangerous world for all of us to live in.

HEALTHCARE.GOV WORKS!… Warning: May Cause Ruminations on Mortality

by Kevin

When I succeeded in securing health insurance on line at  healthcare.gov, the thought fluttered through my mind that now, with REAL health insurance, I would live forever in good health.

When I succeeded in securing health insurance on line at healthcare.gov, the thought fluttered through my mind that now, with REAL health insurance, I would live forever in good health.

Virtually all the news commentators throughout the known media universe have been screaming for months about how the Affordable Care Act enrollment website, healthcare.gov, has not been working perfectly. As a 64-year-old man with an analog brain, who NEVER manages to get electronic technology to work the first time, I was not surprised or alarmed that the website wasn’t working well in October.

Even though I am one of the millions of Americans whose health insurance companies deliberately downgraded our insurance to junk status so that it would be cancelled for not meeting ACA standards (scroll down several posts to read the whole story,) I figured I had until January 1 to secure REAL insurance through the Affordable Care Act, and if the website did not work for me, then enrollment by phone or an actual person-to-person interview would certainly do the trick. What was all the fuss about anyway? Smells like sour grapes to me.

The administration said that most of the website glitches would be resolved by the end of November, so I waited until the day before Thanksgiving to make my first attempt at starting to secure REAL health insurance on line. After only three hours I had managed to create my profile and my account, provide my financial information, and study the details of some of my early leading candidates for health insurance. No problems whatsoever. I was impressed. And, by the way, if an old technophobe like me can do this without any difficulty, then the website is extremely user friendly, and most people will succeed in a fraction of the time I invested.

The day after Thanksgiving, while others were shoving and punching each other to gain an advantage in the Black Friday super-consumer frenzy, I quietly resumed my online health insurance quest and was once again very pleased with the experience. I spent a grand total of about seven hours on healthcare.gov, mainly reading about the scores of possible insurance programs I could consider. During that time I probably logged on and off about seven times without any difficulty.

Between sessions I made two calls to the Affordable Care Act phone line: 1 800-318-2596, to ask some basic questions. They were very helpful. I also called several insurance providers to clarify their options and make sure my local doctor and hospitals accepted their coverage. I ended up getting in my car and driving to my doctor’s office to talk face-to-face with his receptionist. I really like Dr. Carl Brango, and I wanted to be extra sure that the plans I was considering were okay with him.

I was sorry to see that dental and eye care insurance did not seem to be offered by any of the plans, but finally, I made my choice, triple checked it, and clicked on “ENROLL.” A message immediately flashed on my screen – something like, “Are you aware that you are eligible to select very similar group plans that are more affordable?” Well… no… I had missed that part of the information, because I had just assumed that the more expensive policies would be more comprehensive. Not so. I voided my first choice and did more research, discovering a very similar plan for $110 less per month than the one I had originally selected, offered by the very same company! But the best news of all is that after many years of paying over $550 per month for fake health insurance that could be cancelled or changed at the whim of the insurance company, as it was recently, I will now have much better health insurance for half that price.

Icing on the cake: After I made my final health insurance selection, healthcare.gov delighted me with an option to buy affordable dental insurance as well. I am ashamed to admit that I haven’t been to a dentist in years, despite some pretty serious dental problems. Now for less than $23/ month, I will be able to see a dentist as often as I wish.

I clicked “CONFIRM” to activate all my choices and received congratulations from healthcare.gov, telling me that I had successfully enrolled in health insurance and dental insurance that would begin January first. Ironically, on January 15th I will begin researching my healthcare options all over again, because I will be eligible for Medicare starting March first, since I will turn 65 in March, and they recommend beginning the process of applying, choosing a plan and securing supplemental insurance, six weeks before the program starts.

I don’t mind. I am just so relieved to have REAL health insurance after decades of paying high prices for fake insurance in the individual market. I will no longer have to lie about my family health history or hide my own pre-existing conditions from my health insurance provider. I won’t have to go to free clinics or university health studies or pay for secret medical services out of my own pocket to prevent my health insurance provider from finding out about a condition and potentially canceling or changing my policy. I will have REAL health insurance that I can use without fear of cancellation or policy change for two months through the Affordable Care Act. Thank you President Obama! And then I will be covered by Medicare for the rest of my life. Thank you President Johnson!

When the congratulatory statement from healthcare.gov appeared on my screen, I was elated, and for just a brief instant I felt the invincibility of youth again. I sensed just a hint of a taste from the Fountain of Youth. The thought fluttered through my mind that now with REAL health insurance I would live forever in good health. After all… that is certainly what REAL health insurance would do for us, right? It would insure that we’d live from now on in a state of perfect health. Alas, the fantasy lasted only an instant before reality closed in around me again – mortality.

An old monk once told me, “The body has to find some excuse to go.” And besides, the science of medicine may be doing some wonderful things, but it is still in its infancy. Too often today’s cures are as lethal as our diseases. Sadly, health insurance does not insure our health yet. But at least it may finally begin to insure that we can all get the basic healthcare we deserve as a human right, when we are physically ill or injured. This tremendous benefit has been a long time coming. From my point of view it was well worth the short wait while a few website bugs were resolved. Check it out… healthcare.gov works!

 

“UTOPIA and APOCALYPSE” — Kevin L Miller Retrospective at Manchester University until Dec 4, 2013, about Life on Earth Imperiled by Climate Change

by Kevin L Miller

“The Flood,” 4x4 ft apocalyptic oil painting on canvas, Kevin L Miller, 2013

“The Flood,” 4×4 ft apocalyptic oil painting on canvas, Kevin L Miller, 2013

Deep in the Pennsylvania woods at the dead end of our dirt road, Robert Allen and I share a shabby old trailer house painting studio, a 150-year-old barn art gallery, and a hunting cabin slowly evolving into a cottage, on 12 wooded acres with a pond and stream. This is paradise and we love it. (http://tinyurl.com/nl6s9nm)

A few nights ago I dreamt that Robert and I were in a rowboat with our good friends Susan Finn and Jerry Lee Miller. We were all looking down through the water at the White House submerged below us. We were also congratulating ourselves on managing to procure our little boat, until we looked up and saw a mile-high wall of water racing toward us at top speed from the horizon. The End.

“Check,” lower left corner detail from “The Flood,” Kevin L Miller, 2013. I have grown impatient with subtler communications when it comes to climate change, because our window of opportunity to fix it is closing. Time’s up! So now I try to spell out exactly what my paintings mean. I hope this check does the trick.

“Check,” lower left corner detail from “The Flood,” Kevin L Miller, 2013. I have grown impatient with subtler communications when it comes to climate change, because our window of opportunity to fix it is closing. Time’s up! So now I try to spell out exactly what my paintings mean. I hope this check does the trick.

Robert and I both have one-man shows right now, across the street from each other at Manchester University, in North Manchester, Indiana. You can see my photo essay about Robert’s very popular show, “PLEASE TOUCH THE ART!” at http://tinyurl.com/mtyyrf5 .

"UTOPIA and APOCALYPSE -- Seven Decades Re-Imagined -- Kevin L Miller Retrospective at Manchester University, Gallery G, The Union, upper level, until Dec 4, 2013. Left to right: The Flood, Faucet Head, Magna Mater.

“UTOPIA and APOCALYPSE — Seven Decades Re-Imagined” — Kevin L Miller Retrospective, Manchester University, Gallery G, The Union, upper level, until Dec 4, 2013. Left to right: The Flood, Faucet Head, Magna Mater.

Over a year and a half ago we were invited to produce our tandem shows. I vacillated for a year about the theme for my exhibit. Finally I decided on Global Climate Change, when I realized that I have painted utopian visions and the great flood apocalypse throughout my life. That mile-high wall of water coming at us haunts me. Can’t we try to do something about it? There is still a little time. Isn’t there a moral imperative to save life on Earth?

“Hawaii,” 4x6 ft utopian enamel painting on clear vinyl, Kevin L Miller, c 1991

“Hawaii,” 4×6 ft utopian enamel painting on clear vinyl, Kevin L Miller, c 1991

The Earth is exquisitely beautiful, precious, special and rare. Astronomers and physicists searching the universe for other planets that might support life are telling us that worlds blessed with exactly the right narrow band of conditions for life are indeed extremely rare. Now our Earth-home is in jeopardy from human pollution, causing Global Climate Change. We live in peril of losing our habitat and our health, and endangering the lives of our children and grandchildren if we do not transition to clean energy quickly and stop four kinds of increasingly extreme removal and burning of fossil fuels:

  • Fracking for natural gas
  • Deep sea oil drilling
  • Mountaintop removal coal mining
  • Tar sands exploitation and piping
“Requiem,” 4x7 ft acrylic on canvas, Kevin L Miller, 2013 -- an apocalyptic painting including three quotes from Michelangelo’s Sistine Chapel Ceiling.

“Requiem,” 4×7 ft acrylic on canvas, Kevin L Miller, 2013 — an apocalyptic painting including three quotes from Michelangelo’s Sistine Chapel Ceiling.

Extreme extraction methods and fossil fuel burning are filling our atmosphere with CO2, now alarmingly over 400 parts per million, whereas our environment can only withstand 350 ppm without disastrous consequences, which are already upon us:

  • Earth’s polar ice caps and glaciers are melting at a catastrophic rate.
  • Greenland is melting and experiencing ominous internal seismic activity.
“Poseidon’s Prophecy,” 4x7 ft oil on canvas, Kevin L Miller, 2013. King Neptune brings apocalyptic news from the oceans to the utopian woodland spirits.

“Poseidon’s Prophecy,” 4×7 ft oil on canvas, Kevin L Miller, 2013. King Neptune brings apocalyptic news from the oceans to the utopian woodland spirits.

  • Our oceans are now 30% more acidic due to CO2 dissolving into the water. Coral reefs are dying. We are losing them as marine habitats and coastal flood control barriers.
  • 40% of Earth’s sea plankton, the base of our oceanic food chain, has already died. The food chain is fundamental.
  • Earth’s atmosphere is now holding 5% more moisture, and extreme weather and precipitation events are on the rise. We have “100-year storms and floods” every year now, like Super Storm Sandy a year ago. https://twooldliberals.wordpress.com/2012/11/04/mother-nature-sends-sandy-to-make-climate-change-a
“The R.L. Miller Farm,” watercolor, Kevin L Miller, 1966 (age 17,) depicts our family ancestral farm as it looked when I was a boy.

“The R.L. Miller Farm,” watercolor, Kevin L Miller, 1966 (age 17,) depicts our family ancestral farm as it looked when I was a boy, and when my father, uncle and aunts grew up there, just outside of North Manchester, Indiana, home of Manchester University.

  • The U.S. Midwest experienced the most severe drought in American history in the summer of 2012, and American food prices rose steeply as a result.
“Drought and Gathering Storm," Kevin L Miller, 2013, digital re-imagining of the R.L. Miller Farm, as it might have looked in the great drought of 2012, if the full-timber black walnut barn had not been demolished.

“Drought and Gathering Storm,” Kevin L Miller, 2013, digitally re-imagined version of the R.L. Miller Farm, as it might have looked in the great American drought of 2012, if the full-timber black walnut barn had not been demolished.

  • Biologists and zoologists tell us that there are no longer any climate change doubters in their ranks, as they are witnessing virtually all animals and insects moving north and to higher elevations in search of cooler climes.
“Firebird Visit’s the Elders,” 3x4 ft acrylic on canvas, 2-artist collaborative painting by Robert F Allen and Kevin L Miller, signed “Allen Miller,” illustrating both the utopian nature of Earth and the peril from climate change.

“Firebird Visit’s the Elders,” 3×4 ft acrylic on canvas, 2-artist collaborative painting by Robert F Allen and Kevin L Miller, signed “Allen Miller,” illustrating both the utopian nature of Earth and the apocalyptic peril from climate change.

Indeed, 97% of the world’s climate scientists and all 12 national academies of science, and the World Bank (http://tinyurl.com/k397rjf), and the United Nations International Panel on Climate Change, and Pope Francis I in the Vatican (http://tinyurl.com/kjwl2eo – the pope’s quote is at the end) are among a host of institutions raising the urgent alarm for action. 

“The Musician and the Tree of Life” 4x4 ft acrylic on canvas, Kevin L Miller, 2013, depicts the joys and burdens of an artist (in this case the Rev Jerry Lee Miller) coping with both the ecstasy of living in utopia, and the agony of expressing prophetic statements and art about the impending apocalypse, while making every effort to save the Earth for the children of tomorrow.

“The Musician and the Tree of Life,” 4×4 ft acrylic on canvas, Kevin L Miller, 2013, depicts the joys and burdens of an artist (in this case the Rev Jerry Lee Miller, musician and climate change activist) coping with both the ecstasy of living in utopia, and the agony of expressing prophetic statements and art about the impending apocalypse, while making every effort to save the Earth as a livable home for the children of tomorrow.

Time’s up! Now we really do have to transition quickly from fossil fuels to clean renewable energy and save the Earth as a livable habitat for all life forms. If we do not do so, what will we tell the children of tomorrow when they ask, “Why did you do this to us?” (lyrics from Jerry Lee Miller’s song, “Children of Tomorrow.”) What will you tell your children and grandchildren?

“Time’s Up,” marker poster on paper, Kevin L Miller 2012 -- responding to the July 19, 2012 Rolling Stone article, ( http://tinyurl.com/okyz2nc ) “Bill McKibben’s Terrifying New Math,” this poster was one of many created for the Lancaster, PA, brainstorming effort to form “The HIVE of Planet-Loving Activity” (See our FaceBook page) to take creative action and support all efforts to halt Global Climate Change.

“Time’s Up,” marker poster on paper, Kevin L Miller 2012 — responding to the July 19, 2012 Rolling Stone article, “Bill McKibben’s Terrifying New Math,” this poster was one of many created for the Lancaster, PA, brainstorming effort to form “The HIVE of Planet-Loving Activity” (See our FaceBook page) to take creative action and support all efforts to halt Global Climate Change.

Rolling Stone’s July 19, 2012 article “Bill McKibben’s Terrifying New Math,” awoke people around the world to the greatest survival challenge humanity has ever faced. http://tinyurl.com/okyz2nc 

  1. The Earth can only withstand 2 degrees Celsius warming without disastrous consequences, and we are almost there when the inertial rise built into the system is factored in.
  2. We can release a maximum of 565 Gigatons of CO2 into the atmostphere by 2050, but at our current rate, we will reach that ceiling in 2028 — only 15 years from now. 
  3. Companies and countries have already committed to extracting and burning 2,795 Gigatons of CO2 locked in proven fossil fuel reserves — five times the allowed limit.
Left to right: Firebird Visits the Elders, Hawaii, and Requiem are part of Kevin L Miller's retrospective at Manchester University, "UTOPIA and APOCALYPSE."

Left to right: Firebird Visits the Elders, Hawaii, and Requiem are on exhibit in Kevin L Miller’s retrospective at Manchester University, “UTOPIA and APOCALYPSE.”

The good news is that there is still a little time to turn this planetary crisis around, and there really are things that each of us can do. None of us has to save the world all alone. If all of us do our own little part — even if we do it badly — humanity will achieve critical mass for a change in consciousness and behavior, and we can leave a livable planet for future generations.

  • Can we buy an electric or hybrid car and use less fossil fuel? I know… Those cars are way too expensive for most of us…
  • Well, are we willing to become vegans or vegetarians? That’s one of the most effective things we can do to shrink our individual carbon footprints. But lots of us really love meat…
  • So, can we buy local products to reduce carbon emissions from shipping? That practice helps local economies, too.
  • Are we willing to write letters to public officials and call our congressional representatives? Or, if solitary action to speak truth to power makes us a little too nervous…
  • Can we join organizations like The Sierra Club, or 350.org, or Citizens Climate Lobby and support them with our resources and participation in their events?
  • Are we qualified to plan and facilitate community discussions on climate change? (http://tinyurl.com/lf3xdqm)
  • Are we willing to start our own local organization with friends? If so, here are some notes about how 13 of us started The HIVE of Planet-Loving Activity. (http://tinyurl.com/149g7lm)
  • Can we talk to institutional leaders about divesting from coal and other fossil fuels? If direct one-on-one talks with authority figures are too intimidating for some of us…
  • Are we willing to write letters to the editors of our local newspapers and urge others to do the same?
  • Can we start a climate change blog and open a larger dialogue?
  • Are we qualified to write poetry or plays, or to compose music, or dance, or paint, or make art of any kind about climate change? Art is a very powerful tool for transformation.
  • Do we know how to make a climate change quilt or bake a climate change cake, or create a T-shirt featuring “Don’t Frack Up the Earth!” as a slogan?
  • Can we urge our churches, colleges and universities and local or state governments to become involved?
  • What else are we willing to do to wake up the world and inspire everyone to take action urgently?
“The Revelations of Eve and Adam,” 16” x 20” acrylic on canvas, 2004, Kevin L Miller

“The Revelations of Eve and Adam,” 16″ x 20″, an acrylic utopian painting on canvas, 2004, Kevin L Miller

When we decide to take creative action on behalf of Mother Earth and the children of tomorrow, we find that we are not alone. Some corporations are beginning to realize, as I have been telling them for 15 years, that extinction is NOT good for profits! They are starting to take strategic action to save their bottom lines and ours. Even the Department of Defense has identified Global Climate Change as one of the greatest threats to U.S. security, and is transferring military operations to clean renewable energy sources, especially in the field. Nations like Germany and Spain and others are quickly getting off of fossil fuels and transitioning to solar, wind, geothermal and other clean energy sources. Cities, communities, and churches are taking leadership roles in creative action to save life on Earth.

“Woodland Spirit Guides,” 4x4 ft oil on canvas, 2010, Kevin L. Miller

“Woodland Spirit Guides,” 4×4 ft oil on canvas, 2010, Kevin L. Miller

There is a major benefit that comes with creative action to heal the Earth — It also heals us in the process. Fifteen years ago when I learned that the polar ice caps were melting due to climate change caused by humanity, I struggled with depression and nausea for a year. It took more years for me to discover that creative action is soul-healing medicine. Sometimes it feels like we have to choose between denial and depression. But there is a third way — creative action overcomes denial and depression and leads to fulfillment.

A display of Kevin's "Provence Style" landscapes is part of his retrospective. This style evolved out of his junior year abroad in Aix-en-Provence, France, and his studies at the Ecole des Beaux Arts there, as well as his interest in Cezanne, Van Gogh, and Picasso.

A display of my “Provence Style” landscapes is part of the retrospective. This style evolved out of my junior year abroad in Aix-en-Provence, France, and my studies at the Ecole des Beaux Arts, as well as my interest in Cezanne, Van Gogh, and Picasso.

Today I know that even spending a whole year making apocalyptic paintings yields nothing but increasing inner joy and peace. Rest assured that when you decide to take creative action, you will find that depression, denial, anger, fear and grief, will be transformed into fulfillment, clarity, peace, confidence and joy, and you will have the personal satisfaction of knowing that you have done the right thing, regardless of the outcome.

The Kevin L Miller Retrospective, "UTOPIA and APOCALYPSE -- Seven Decades Re-Imagined" is on exhibit in Gallery G, The Union upper level, at Manchester University, until Dec 4, 2013 (photo by Alison Stein)

The Kevin L Miller Retrospective, “UTOPIA and APOCALYPSE — Seven Decades Re-Imagined” is on exhibit in Gallery G, The Union upper level, at Manchester University, until Dec 4, 2013 (photo by Alison Stein)

Robert F Allen, Outsider Artist, Rocks Manchester University with His One-Man Show, “PLEASE TOUCH THE ART!” THROUGH NOV 19, 2013

by Kevin L Miller

Outsider Artist, Robert F Allen with two of his most recent 2013 paintings: 4x8 ft "A Winter Walk," and 4x7 ft "Escape!" Both acrylic paintings on canvas are among 44 of Robert's large works on display at Manchester University, North Manchester, Indiana, in Link Gallery, Winger Building (across the street from The Union) until Nov 19, 2013.

Outsider Artist, Robert F Allen with two of his most recent 2013 paintings: 4×8 ft “A Winter Walk,” and 4×7 ft “Escape!” Both acrylic paintings on canvas are among 44 of Robert’s large works on display at Manchester University, North Manchester, Indiana, in Link Gallery, Winger Building (across the street from The Union) until Nov 19, 2013.

Robert feels his way across a highly textured 4×7 ft canvas, “The Story,” at the artist’s reception for his very first one-man show. He tells visitors they can “see” his paintings through their fingertips as well as with their eyes. A mature woman in the group says,  “What are you DOING!?” Her husband stands behind her and rolls his eyes as if to say, “Here we go again…” Robert says, “Ma’am, you can touch the art. I give you my permission.” She asks, “Who do you think you are?” Robert says, “I am the artist.” She demands, “Do you have any identification?!” Another person in the group is holding a copy of Robert’s artist’s statement. Pointing to the photo of himself, Robert says, “See! This is me, and the show is called ‘PLEASE TOUCH THE ART!’ You can touch my art.”

"The Story," 4x7 ft acrylic on canvas by Robert F Allen, 2013. After studying some photos of cave paintings, Robert created this image about a hunt. He says that the upside-down golden bear escaped the arrows with the help of its protector god, left of the bear. The hunters on the right side of the canvas did not fair as well as the bear.

“The Story,” 4×7 ft acrylic on canvas by Robert F Allen, 2013. After studying some photos of cave paintings, Robert created this image about a hunt. He says that the upside-down golden bear escaped the arrows with the help of its protector god, left of the bear. The hunters on the right side of the canvas did not fair as well as the bear.

The lady backs away mortified, but her husband approaches Robert’s painting and runs his hand from one side to the other, calling to his wife, “Sometimes you have to touch the art to know it is really there!” Later Robert tells me that he feels nothing but gratitude toward the lady, “because she was only trying to protect my art.” He admits to watching her out of the corner of his eye, however, and feeling sorry for her when she tries to touch “A Winter Walk,” but cannot bring herself to do it.

"A Winter Walk," 4x8 ft acrylic on canvas, 2013, Robert F Allen. Under both the moon and the sun, in a wintry cityscape, Robert's beloved Cairn Terrier, Scrappy, takes a purposeful walk toward a fire hydrant.

“A Winter Walk,” 4×8 ft acrylic on canvas, 2013, Robert F Allen. Under both the moon and the sun, in a wintry cityscape, Robert’s beloved Cairn Terrier, Scrappy, takes a purposeful walk toward a fire hydrant.

The programming that keeps us separate from art is very strong. From birth we are taught a certain reverent respect for art that requires us to keep our distance. Outsider artists do not mean to be subversive, or anti-authoritarian, but by their very nature they tend to tear down the barriers between those who make objects and anyone who sees and responds.

Robert F Allen with his 4x8 ft 2013 acrylic on canvas, "Matter of the Heart" and other paintings in his Manchester University exhibit.

Robert F Allen with his 4×7 ft 2013 acrylic on canvas, “Matter of the Heart” and other paintings in his Manchester University exhibit.

Outsider artists don’t think of the objects they make as untouchable “objets d’art,” as does the art establishment. They regard making things as being like breathing and eating — a matter of survival, and they often don’t think of their work as “art” at all – just “things.” Outsider artists have almost always been insulated from social and cultural conditioning by profound poverty or physical or mental challenges. In the absence of societal conditioning they follow only their own unique inner visions, which sometimes produce surprising aesthetic innovations and revelations.

Visitors of all ages enjoy touching Robert's art. Children especially want to place their hands on the hand prints in the design of "The Story."

Visitors of all ages enjoy touching Robert’s art. Children especially want to place their hands on the hand prints in the design of “The Story.”

Robert had all three forms of deprivation and more. When he was an infant, his older sisters mistook motor oil for mineral oil and poured it into his ears, destroying his eardrums. He hears a little now with the aid of a mechanical eardrum, but communicates mostly by reading lips. He grew up in profound poverty in the woods 50 miles north of Syracuse, surviving on government assistance and woodland foraging. His family was so dysfunctional and abusive that Robert moved out at age 12 and built his own little shelter in the woods. He lived there for years with his beloved raccoon, “Cooner,” whom he raised from infancy after Cooner’s mom was killed crossing the road. Cooner came to Robert and asked for help, so Robert adopted him.

"The Last Supper," 4x7 ft acrylic on canvas, 2013, Robert F Allen. The background was painted first. Then Robert stared into it until the images of the animals materialized out of his random marks and shapes.

“The Last Supper,” 4×7 ft acrylic on canvas, 2013, Robert F Allen. The background was painted first. Then Robert stared into it until the images of the animals materialized out of his random marks and shapes.

Robert’s skills with animals are legendary. I have personally seen wild raccoons, rabbits, frogs, and even fish, crawl or swim into his hands, looking for comfort. On a pitch black moonless night in the woods, Robert can see wild woodland animals right around the corner or over the hill. He “feels” them. Robert says he has special animal radar. It’s real. I have witnessed it.

"Neon Dream," 4x8 ft acrylic on canvas, 2013, Robert F Allen

“Neon Dream,” 4×8 ft acrylic on canvas, 2013, Robert F Allen

At age 13 Robert suffered a major traumatic brain injury when his crazy step-father dropped a big tree on his head. The doctor said Robert would not survive the night. He did live, although large portions of his brain died. Reading and writing have presented real challenges for Robert ever since. But as sometimes happens with severe brain trauma victims, Robert developed almost savant-like powers driven by the remaining areas of his brain. He has a collection of 300 Rubik’s cubes, half of which he made himself, and he can solve any of them in under two minutes. His spatial intelligence is off the charts.

Robert is displaying 16 of his 4x6 ft abstract expressionist canvases in four art pillars as part of his Manchester University show.

Robert is displaying 16 of his 4×6 ft abstract expressionist canvases in four art pillars as part of his Manchester University show.

These unusual skills came in handy during eight years in the U.S. Marine Corps, serving in the Philippines, Bangladesh, Japan, and the USA. Robert has always said that the USMC was a Sunday school picnic for him after his abusive childhood. He figured out how to fake the hearing tests and he never told the USMC about his severe brain trauma. Interestingly, the profile of many outsider artists often includes a significant period of time in the protective custody of an authoritarian institution. The USMC was “protective” by comparison with Robert’s family.

Robert F Allen (center) greets visitors at the Oct 5, 2013 artist's reception for his one-man show "PLEASE TOUCH THE ART." The exhibit continues until Nov 19, 2013.

Robert F Allen (center) greets visitors at the Oct 5, 2013 artist’s reception for his one-man show “PLEASE TOUCH THE ART.” The exhibit continues until Nov 19, 2013.

Robert has always made beautiful objects. For decades he was a master carpenter and woodworker, making exquisite inlaid, hardwood furniture and floor medallions. He never thought of himself as an artist until we traveled to France with friends, and he saw objects at Versailles like he made at home. I was one of three friends present, in the company of the ghost of Marie Antoinette, when Robert’s eyes grew huge and he slowly turned and said with utter amazement, “I am an artist!” His inlaid hardwood art became even more ornate after that.

Close-up detail from "Neon Dream," 4x8 ft acrylic on canvas, 2013, Robert F Allen

Close-up detail from “Neon Dream,” 4×8 ft acrylic on canvas, 2013, Robert F Allen

A few years later I was laboring over a lousy, tiny painting at the kitchen table on a quiet Sunday. Bored with mindless TV, Robert picked up a blank canvas and a brush and asked me, “How do you do this?” I didn’t even look up. I said, “Oh, it’s easy. You just put some paint on the brush and wipe it on the canvas.” That was the first, last, and only formal art education Robert ever received. He took off like an art bat out of painters’ hell. I couldn’t have gotten a word of instruction in edgewise, even if I had wanted to. Robert started painting in every spare minute. To say that he has painted prolifically ever since, would be a monumental understatement. He has crammed a lifetime of painting experience into five years. He paints with the reckless abandon of a dying man, the exuberance of a drunken sailor, and the honesty of an ecstatic monk. Far from needing any instruction whatsoever, Robert has been my teacher ever since he first picked up that canvas and brush years ago. I am learning from him.

Two weeks after "PLEASE TOUCH THE ART" was installed at Manchester University, 1,600 students, K - 3rd grade, visited Link Gallery and had close encounters with art. In this photo they are touching Robert F Allen's 4x7 ft 2013 acrylic on canvas, "Escape!"  The exhibit continues until Nov 19, 2013.

Two weeks after “PLEASE TOUCH THE ART” was installed at Manchester University, 1,600 students, K – 3rd grade, visited Link Gallery and had close encounters with art. In this photo they are touching Robert F Allen’s 4×7 ft 2013 acrylic on canvas, “Escape!” The exhibit continues until Nov 19, 2013.

Robert and I have had quite a few two-man shows and even ran a big art gallery together for a year and a half, but “PLEASE TOUCH THE ART!” at Manchester University in North Manchester, Indiana, is his very first one-man show, and it is a hit. A few weeks ago 1,600 school children, K – 3rd grade, toured Robert’s exhibit in small groups. They were very excited about being able to touch the paintings. Art Professor Jena Oke asked one group, standing in front of “The Last Supper,” what the artist was trying to say. They yelled, “HE LIKES ANIMALS!” She asked, “What else is he trying to say?” They yelled, “HE LIKES PAINT!” Jo Young Switzer, Manchester University President, asked one child what it was like to touch a painting. The wide-eyed child said, “It was bumpy!”

Detail from the center of "Neon Dream," 4x8 ft acrylic on canvas, 2013, Robert F Allen

Detail from the center of “Neon Dream,” 4×8 ft acrylic on canvas, 2013, Robert F Allen

Equally important was the response of the MU art students to Robert’s one-on-one portfolio review conversations with them. Robert kept saying, “This is amazing. These people ask me questions and listen to me as if I actually know things!” For their part, the students told their professors that Robert was one of their favorite visiting artists ever, because he treated them like “actual artists” and talked with them like “real people.”

"Matter of the Heart," 4x7 ft acrylic on canvas, 2013, Robert F Allen

“Matter of the Heart,” 4×7 ft acrylic on canvas, 2013, Robert F Allen

After a week of gratifying events, including the opening for his first one-man show, Robert was already feeling that he did not want to leave North Manchester. Several art students made his departure even harder a day before he left, when they came to him and asked privately if he would consider making the 1,200 mile round trip to return from South Central PA to attend their senior shows in Indiana next winter. Robert is definitely considering it… if he can get time off from his overtime job as a USPS clerk. Meanwhile, he just finished a majestic new 4×8 ft canvas of a forest — five highly textured trees on a colorful leafy background, and he has plans for at least five other huge, textured canvases burning holes through the screen of his mind.

"Escape!" 4x7 ft acrylic on canvas, 2013, Robert F Allen

“Escape!” 4×7 ft acrylic on canvas, 2013, Robert F Allen

It is understandable, when we consider the life story and work of Robert F Allen, that the art world is becoming more and more fascinated by outsider artists. We all still worship Leonardo and Michelangelo. We idolize Rembrandt, Van Gogh and Picasso, and admire the intellectual depth and innovation of Diebenkorn and Motherwell. But for sheer honesty, joy, energy and a breath of fresh air, nothing beats the sincere creations of an outsider artist like Robert.

Allen MU Sept 26 kids visit 1

“PLEASE TOUCH THE ART! – Texture Is Part of the Experience,” a one-man show of paintings on canvas by Robert F Allen will be on exhibit in Link Gallery, Winger Building (across the street from The Union,) Manchester University, North Manchester, Indiana 46962 until Nov 19, 2013. For gallery information, contact Professor Jena Oke, Coordinator of Galleries, 260-982-5334.

(My thanks to Jena Oke and Alison Stein for their essential support of our MU art exhibits and for contributing photos to this post. — Kevin)

 

GLOBAL CLIMATE CHANGE — Are We Out of Time? — one-act play and panel discussion June 12, 2013, Midtown Scholar Bookstore, Harrisburg, PA

GLOBAL CLIMATE CHANGE

Are We Out of Time?… Arts, Answers and Action

digital illustration by Kevin. 2012

digital illustration by Kevin. 2012

 6:30 – 8:30 pm, Wed, June 12, 2013, Midtown Scholar Bookstore1302 N. 3rd St., Harrisburg, PA 17102 (corner N. 3rd & Verbeke Sts)

Presented by The Susquehanna Salon

with HIVE of Planet-Loving Activity (See our Facebook page)

6:30 “What Will We Tell the Children of Tomorrow?” – a one-act musical play

“HIVE of Planet-Loving Activity” offers a glimpse into the future of climate change

Streetbeets: music; Kevin Miller: art/emcee; Kesse Humphreys: performance art

 7:10 Expert Panelists Speak – Then Q&A and Discussion until 8:30 –

  • Jan Jarrett – Consultant on Environmental Policy, Outreach & Communications
  • Prof. John C. Dernbach – Co-Director, Environmental Law Center, Widener University School of Law
  • Rev. Jerry Lee Miller – Founder of HIVE and Citizens Climate Lobby of Lancaster
  • John Hanger – Former Secretary, PA Department of Environmental Protection
  • Lamonte Garber — PA agriculture Director for the Chesapeake Bay Foundation

DRIVING DIRECTIONS from South-Central PA to Midtown Scholar Bookstore:

  • Drive North on 83 (Stay right on 83 North approaching Harrisburg)
  • Take Exit 43: State Capitol / 2nd Street
  • Drive 1.2 miles on 2nd Street and turn right on Locust
  • Drive 500 ft on Locust and turn left onto 3rd Street
  • Drive .6 mile on 3rd St. Arrive at 1302 N 3rd St (corner N 3rd & Verbeke Sts)
  • Plenty of parking on the street

“Forward on Climate” 40,000 Rally in D.C. Feb 17, 2013 — Photos from Kevin

Kevin (left) and Robert (right) bought new silk long underwear, found their warmest hats and attended one of the hottest events of the year -- "Forward on Climate," on the mall in Washington D.C. Four buses carried 150+ concerned citizens from York and Lancaster, PA to the Washington Monument, under the very able guidance of the Rev. Jerry Lee Miller, Founder of "HIVE of Planet-Loving Activity" -- See our page on FaceBook.

Kevin (left) and Robert (right) bought new silk long underwear, found their warmest hats and attended one of the hottest events of the year — “Forward on Climate,” on the mall in Washington D.C. Four buses carried 150+ concerned citizens from York and Lancaster, PA to the Washington Monument, under the very able guidance of the Rev. Jerry Lee Miller, Founder of “HIVE of Planet-Loving Activity” — See our page on FaceBook.

 

Jacques Cousteau was right. A situation has indeed arisen on Planet Earth, causing all of us to join forces and demand action on climate change. Our great cities and coasts are begin torn apart by hurricanes like Katrina and Sandy. Massive wilfires are burning the U.S. Southwest. A devastating drought decimated American Midwest crops in 2012. The Earth's atmosphere is 5% wetter and the oceans are much more acidic. Half of the arctic ice mass is gone in the summer, and an area larger than the U.S. melted in 2012. Chunks of Greenland are breaking off and floating away as flash melting and seismic activity increase. Mother Earth is crying out for our protection. It is our moral duty to stop these atacks against Her by ceasing the extraction and burning of fossil fuels and switching to clean renewable energy so that future generations will inherit a planet that can support life. That is why 40,000 of us gathered by the Washington Monument and marched around the White House on a very cold, windy winter day. We joined forces to ask the whole world to come along with us in changing course for the benefit of all life on Earth.

Jacques Cousteau was right. A situation has indeed arisen on Planet Earth, causing all of us to join forces and demand action on climate change. Our great cities and coasts are being torn apart by hurricanes like Katrina and Sandy. Massive wilfires are burning the U.S. Southwest. A devastating drought decimated American Midwest crops in 2012. The Earth’s atmosphere is 5% wetter and the oceans are much more acidic. Half of the arctic ice mass is gone in the summer, and an area larger than the U.S. melted in 2012. Big chunks of Greenland are breaking off and floating away as flash melting and seismic activity increase. Island nations are sinking as the oceans rise. Mother Earth is crying out for our protection. It is our moral duty to stop these atacks against Her by ceasing the extraction and burning of fossil fuels and switching to clean renewable energy so that future generations will inherit a planet that can support life. That is why 40,000 of us gathered by the Washington Monument and marched around the White House on a very cold, windy winter day. We joined forces to ask the whole world to come along with us in changing course to halt global climate change for the benefit of all life on Earth.

 

All 40,000 of us were entertained by live music and inspiring speakers. Robert Allen gave Jerry Lee Miller a bird hat, which he is wearing in this photo as he greets trombonist Soul Furnace, who played with his band on the streets around the White House for all of us to enjoy.

All 40,000 of us were entertained by live music and inspiring speakers. Robert Allen gave Jerry Lee Miller a bird hat, which he is wearing in this photo as he greets trombonist Soul Furnace, who played with his band on the streets around the White House for all of us to enjoy.

The most popular messages seen and heard at the "Forward on Climate" rally were "Stop the XL Keystone Pipeline," and "Switch from Fossil Fuels to Clean Renewable Energy" and "No More Fracking." It was and is all about ceasing the extraction and burning of carbon that is warming the planet and making it unsuitable as a habitat for life.

The most popular messages seen and heard at the “Forward on Climate” rally were “Stop the XL Keystone Pipeline,” and “Switch from Fossil Fuels to Clean Renewable Energy” and “No More Fracking.” It was and is all about ceasing the extraction and burning of carbon that is warming the planet and making it unsuitable as a habitat for life.

It was poignant to see so many compelling signs juxtaposed against the Washington Monument and the cloudy sky.

It was poignant to see so many compelling signs juxtaposed against the Washington Monument and the cloudy sky.

There were many handmade signs carried by the 40,000 concerned citizens who marched around the White House to demand action on climate change, including stopping the XL Keystone Pipeline and fracking. This tragic and beautiful original collage-painting was the best art we saw all day.

There were many handmade signs carried by the 40,000 concerned citizens who marched around the White House to demand action on climate change, including stopping the XL Keystone Pipeline and fracking. This tragic and beautiful original collage-painting was the best art we saw all day.

As the crowd grew from 30,000 to an estimated 50,000 for the march to the White House, we listened to inspiring talks like this one from Bill McKibben, Founder of 350.org, which co-sponsored the rally along with the Sierra Club and 150 other environmental organizations.

As the crowd grew from 30,000 to an estimated 50,000 for the march to the White House, we listened to inspiring talks like this one from Bill McKibben, Founder of 350.org, which co-sponsored the rally along with the Sierra Club and 150 other environmental organizations.

Rev. Jerry Lee Miller (left) and Susan Finn Miller (right) at the "Forward on Climate" rally in Washington D.C. Feb 17, 2013. Jerry donated all of his time for well over a month to recruit and organize over 150 concerned citizens from Lancaster and York PA to fill four big buses for the rally. Jerry is the Founder of "HIVE of Planet-Loving Activity." See their page on FaceBook.

Rev. Jerry Lee Miller (left) and Susan Finn Miller (right) at the “Forward on Climate” rally in Washington D.C. Feb 17, 2013. Jerry donated all of his time for well over a month to recruit and organize over 150 concerned citizens from Lancaster and York PA to fill four big buses for the rally. Jerry is the Founder of “HIVE of Planet-Loving Activity.” See their page on FaceBook.

NOW WHAT CAN WE DO?

Here are several concrete steps we can all take to demand that government and fossil fuel companies stop extracting and burning carbon and switch to clean renewable energy:

1. We can write to President Obama and Secretary of State John Kerry and our Senators and Congressional representatives asking them to halt the XL Keystone Pipeline, which NASA climatologist James Hansen said would mean “Game over” for the climate and our planet if this dirty carbon pipeline goes through.

2. We can write and call our state representatives and newspapers demanding a cessation of fracking and asking them for aggressive programs to promote switching to clean renewable energy sources like solar and wind and geothermal.

3. We can lobby our national church organizations and colleges and universities and other institutions to eliminate fossil fuel from their investment portfolios. Divestment worked to bring an end to apartheid in South Africa. It can work again to save the planet as a habitat that will support life in the future.

4. We can all join a sensible science-based environmental organization like Bill McKibben’s 350.org or the Sierra Club nationally, and a local group like “HIVE of Planet-Loving Activity” in York and Lancaster, PA (See our FaceBook page) to promote visible, audible, creative action to halt climate change. If you can’t find a local group, start one. Write to me and I will tell you how.

5. If we know how to pray, now would be a good time to do that. Our planet is right on the edge of the amount of heating it can absorb (2 degrees Celsius) before truly catastrophic and extreme events begin to make Katrina and Sandy look like child’s play.

Ask youself three questions: A) What can I do? B) What am I willing to do? and C) What am I qualified to do? Think long and hard and make a list under each of those questions. If anything at all shows up on all three lists then DO THOSE THINGS. Now is the time, because time is running out. There is certainly no time to waste. Thank you for anything you can do, are willing to do and are qualified to do to help save Planet Earth as a habitable home for future generations of human beings and for all life supported  by our beautiful Mother Earth.

"Forward on Climate" rally and march in Washington D.C. Feb 17, 2012
“Forward on Climate” rally and march in Washington D.C. Feb 17, 2012

Forward on Climate! Join us.

Yours, -Kevin

Holiday Decorations Should Stay Up Until Spring!

Cliffs Dec 29 2012 Xmas Scrappy Robert 007

TO: Everyone who feels pressured to take down their holiday decorations during the first week of the New Year… CHILL!

FROM: Kevin                                   DATE: January 1, 2013

I hope you are not sustaining any undue strain or injury from taking down your tree and holiday decorations much too unnaturally prematurely. I should think those cheerful embellishments might not acquiesce without a fight!

For our part, Robert and I are sitting in our living room (photo above) on New Year’s morning, secure in the knowledge that our beautiful tree and wreath and window garlands will remain up through our March birthdays, when, with any luck, the crocuses will be peaking through the ground. Spring flowers are the official signal that it is time to put away Christmas decorations for the year, ladies and gentlemen.

What ARE Christmas ornaments and evergreens but poor manmade substitutes for the glorious flowers and leaves of nature? Therefore, they should be put up immediately upon the falling of the last colored leaf and remain up until spring flowers burst forth. That is the natural order of things. We hope you will eventually see the error of your ways and join the movement to voluntarily extend holiday cheer until nature takes over every spring.

Happy New Year! — Kevin and Robert