Occupy My Thoughts

In light of the Occupy protests, resistance, arrests, and public outcry, I’m reminded of a wonderful quote that is not my own, but is one with which I 100% agree.



Color My Independence Red, White and Blue

A happy (early) Independence Day to all fellow Americans out there. And I send out an ethereal “thank you” to all the soldiers who have died (and who currently serve) on behalf of this nations’s independence.

According to USFlag.org

Sentimental writers and orators sometimes ascribe meanings to the colors in the flag. The practice is erroneous, as are statements on this subject attributed to George Washington and other founders of the country.

From the book “Our Flag” published in 1989 by the House of Representatives…

“On July 4, 1776, the Continental Congress passed a resolution authorizing a committee to devise a seal for the United States of America. This mission, designed to reflect the Founding Fathers’ beliefs, values, and sovereignty of the new Nation, did not become a reality until June 20, 1782. In heraldic devices, such as seals, each element has a specific meaning. Even colors have specific meanings. The colors red, white, and blue did not have meanings for The Stars and Stripes when it was adopted in 1777. However, the colors in the Great Seal did have specific meanings. Charles Thompson, Secretary of the Continental Congress, reporting to Congress on the Seal, stated:

“The colors of the pales (the vertical stripes) are those used in the flag of the United States of America; White signifies purity and innocence, Red, hardiness & valour, and Blue, the color of the Chief (the broad band above the stripes) signifies vigilance, perseverance & justice.”
Also this from a book about the flag published in 1977 by the House of Representatives…

“The star is a symbol of the heavens and the divine goal to which man has aspired from time immemorial; the stripe is symbolic of the rays of light emanating from the sun.”

The quote below concerning gold fringe on the Flag is from the book “So Proudly We Hail, The History of the United States Flag” Smithsonian Institute Press 1981, by Wiliam R. Furlong and Byron McCandless. “The placing of a fringe on Our Flag is optional with the person of organization, and no Act of Congress or Executive Order either prohibits the practice, according to the Institute of Hearaldry. Fringe is used on indoor flags only, as fringe on flags on outdoor flags would deteriorate rapidly. The fringe on a Flag is considered and ‘honorable enrichment only’, and its official use by the US Army dates from 1895.. A 1925 Attorney General’s Opinion states: ‘the fringe does not appear to be regarded as an integral part of the Flag, and its presence cannot be said to constitute an unauthorized addition to the design prescribed by statute. An external fringe is to be distinguished from letters, words, or emblematic designs printed or superimposed upon the body of the flag itself. Under law, such additions might be open to objection as unauthorized; but the same is not necessarily true of the fringe.'”

The gold trim is generally used on ceremonial indoor flags that are used for special services and is believed to have been first used in a military setting. It has no specific significance that I have ever run across, and its (gold trim) use is in compliance with applicable flag codes and laws.

AND, according to our friend Wikipedia: The Pledge of Allegiance of the United States is an oath of loyalty to the national flag and the Republic of the United States of America, originally composed by Francis Bellamy in 1892 and formally adopted by Congress as the national pledge in 1942. The Pledge has been modified four times since its composition, with the most recent change adding the words “under God” in 1954. Congressional sessions open with the recital of the Pledge, as do government meetings at local levels, meetings held by the National Exchange Club, Knights of Columbus, Royal Rangers, Boy Scouts of America, Girl Scouts of the USA, Fraternal Order of Eagles, Freemasons, Lions Club, Rotary Club, Toastmasters International and their concordant bodies, as well as other organizations.

According to the United States Flag Code, the Pledge of Allegiance reads:

I pledge allegiance to the flag of the United States of America, and to the republic for which it stands, one nation under God, indivisible, with liberty, and justice for all.

Also according to the Flag Code, the Pledge “should be rendered by standing at attention facing the flag with the right hand over the heart. Members of the Armed Forces and veterans who are present and not in uniform may render the military salute. Persons in uniform should remain silent, face the flag, and render the military salute”.

The Pledge of Allegiance was written in 1892 by Francis Bellamy (1855–1931), who was a Baptist minister, a Christian socialist, and the cousin of socialist utopian novelist Edward Bellamy (1850–1898). Bellamy “viewed his Pledge as an ‘inoculation’ that would protect immigrants and native-born but insufficiently patriotic Americans from the ‘virus’ of radicalism and subversion.” The original “Pledge of Allegiance” was published in the September 8 issue of the popular children’s magazine The Youth’s Companion as part of the National Public-School Celebration of Columbus Day, a celebration of the 400th anniversary of Christopher Columbus’s arrival in the Americas. The event was conceived and promoted by James B. Upham, a marketer for the magazine, as a campaign to instill the idea of American nationalism by selling flags to public schools and magazines to students.

Bellamy’s original Pledge read as follows:

I pledge allegiance to my Flag and the Republic for which it stands, one nation indivisible, with liberty and justice for all.

Students swearing the Pledge on Flag Day in 1899

I remember saying The Pledge in grade school each morning. I don’t remember when we stopped saying it, but I doubt I’ll ever forget the words.

My Hero: Artist Laurie Lipton

When I came across Laurie Lipton, I was just absolutely blown away by her work. It is rare for me to come across an artist whose technical skills and content are equally brilliant, drenched in my favorite type of macabre loveliness. After spending some wide-eyed time poring through her work, I scream-Tweeted at her in all caps: @laurielipton – YOUR ART IS SO INSPIRING AND AWESOME. I’M IN AWE OF YOUR WORK. JUST SPEECHLESS. THAT’S ALL I CAN SAY. And I fanned her on Facebook. Because that is what fellow artists do when they are star-struck by such juggernauts of talent.

Watch this terrific video of her explaining the reasoning behind some of her pieces – which makes me want to give her a gigantic hug to thank her for “asking the questions rather than answering them”. Her inspiration surfaces through her sense of social responsibility and appropriate outrage towards the media and society which is so delicately expressed in shades of black, white and gray. Her quiet artistic aggression appeals to me as a feminist and her work’s sharp social commentary is nothing short of brilliant. There are artists and then there are smart artists…and Ms. Lipton is a smart one. Her tools of choice are mostly charcoal and pencil on paper for her art but she also has lovely commissioned color pieces. One could spend hours gorging on her gallery drawings – they are like a 7-course gourmet feast of artly awesomeness.

When you are done viewing this clip visit her gallery at www.LaurieLipton.com. God, if I could amass a mere FRACTION of her talent by my life’s end, I would be ecstatic.

According to her website, LaurieLipton.com, she was born in New York and began drawing at the age of  four. She was the first person to  graduate from Carnegie-Mellon University in Pennsylvania with a Fine  Arts Degree in Drawing (with honours).  She has lived in Holland, Belgium, Germany and France and has made  her home in London since 1986. Her work has been exhibited extensively throughout Europe and the USA.

Lipton was inspired by the religious paintings of  the Flemish School. She tried to teach herself how to paint  in the style of the 16th century Dutch Masters and failed. When  traveling around Europe as a student, she began  developing her very own peculiar drawing technique building up tone  with thousands of fine cross-hatching lines  like an egg tempera painting. “It’s an insane way to draw”, she  says, “but the resulting  detail and luminosity  is worth the amount of effort. My drawings take longer to create  than a painting of equal size and detail.”

“It was all abstract and conceptual art when I  attended university.  My teachers told me that figurative art went  ‘out’ in the Middle Ages and that I should express myself using  form and shapes, but splashes on canvas and rocks  on the floor bored me. I knew what I wanted: I wanted to create  something no one had ever seen before, something  that was brewing in the back of my brain. I used to sit for hours  in the library copying Durer, Memling,Van Eyck,  Goya and Rembrandt. The photographer, Diane Arbus, was another of  my inspirations. Her use of black and white hit me at the core of my Being. Black and white is the color of ancient  photographs and old TV shows… it is the color  of ghosts, longing, time passing, memory, and madness. Black and white ached. I realized that it was perfect for the  imagery in my work.”

Campfire Ghost Stories

I’ve recently been sucked into a show on the cable channel BIO called “Celebrity Ghost Stories“. I’m not prone to watching these types of shows, but I’m kind of addicted to this one. Based on my history, I guess I shouldn’t be surprised.

When I was a kid I loved spooky, macabre stories. My tween years were spent immersed in Stephen King novels between episodes of Tales From the Dark Side, Twilight Zone, Tales from the Crypt, and Friday the 13th: The Series. I enjoyed Edgar Allen Poe and before him Alvin Schwartz, author of such gems as “In a Dark, Dark Room“, “Scary Stories to Tell In the Dark”, “More Scary Stories to Tell In the Dark” and “Scary Stories 3: More Tales to Chill Your Bones”. I want to lead off this post with a story from one of his books, which I remember to this day called “The Green Ribbon”. The narrator’s voice alone makes me want to hide under a blankie.

As an adult I don’t subscribe to the traditional idea of “ghosts” but as a young kid my friends and I were always on the lookout for them. It took awhile to make the connection between slamming doors, open windows, breezy days, and the idea of vacuum – we were convinced it was ghostly stirrings. And there was always a nagging suspicion that all dolls, especially the blinky-eyed ones – were pure evil and moved around at night. I know that was the reason why I sent my creepy doll to my Grandma’s house when I was 7. I wanted no part of it. Ghosts, devil dolls, poltergeists, axe murderers – all fell into the “serious threat” category as a kid.

The movie The Children of the Corn (heck, the movie poster alone) kept us at a respectable distance from the cornfields we lived next to, in tandem with the understanding that summer camp was out of the question (the fix was in with that Jason Voorhees fella). Summer months meant being on the lookout for hauntings because fall and winter provided too many turkey-filled events chock full of glad tidings, sledding, and marshmallowy mugs of hot chocolate to make any paranormal associations (with the exception of The Shining).

My friends and I loved thrilling each other by exchanging tales which we were CERTAIN were 100% true. Slumber parties and campfires in the woods provided occasions for that yarn-spinning goosebumpery whose only opportunity to shine occurs in that narrow window between “just-enough-understanding-to-be-credulous” and “enlightened-by-science-disbelief”. Ages 7-11 would be the most emotionally intense as far as supernatural paranoia, I’d say.

When I was 11 I attended a slumber party at which I was exposed to (for the first time) a game that I thought was cool, so I CLEARLY remember being upset and shocked as I got chewed out by my parents at the mere mention of “Ouija Board“. I was yelled at because it “wasn’t a game” and “didn’t lead to good things”. I was shocked by their reactions. I haven’t played with one since. Odd that the nervous kid in me walks the fence on whether or not I’d play if the chance ever presented itself again. I think I probably would.

However, the Ouija Board issue surfaced years later.

When I was in college a good friend came up to stay with me in Chicago. She said in the weeks after her stay she was in the presence of a girl who’d often play with the Ouija Board by herself. When my friend found herself in a social situation with this girl (a friend of a friend), in a casual capacity, she called “bullshit” on her silly board-playing. So, the girl played the ‘ask-the-board-anything-and-see’ card. My friend (who was not touching the board or the planchette) asked “Where did I go for spring break?” I was told that C-H-I-C-A-G-O was spelled out.  She asked it “Who did I stay with?” I was told it spelled out S-A-R-A-H. I was to understand that there was not familiarity between my friend and this girl – that she couldn’t possibly know these things. Now, because I wasn’t there I can’t vouch for all the situational nuances, but at the time I wasn’t happy about my name being dropped and got a few chills. I guess that’s why one episode of “Celebrity Ghost Stories” piqued my interest as it pertained to a Ouija Board incident as told by actor Michael Urie in (Season 2, Episode 14).

Science points out that it is most likely the psychological underpinnings that cause a player to move the planchette with their own hands. I’ve read the debunk reports and there’s plenty of evidence against any authenticity. The skeptic in me disbelieves that the Parker Brothers Company is actually in cahoots with the “other side”, but the wide-eyed 11-year-old in me shivers and secretly wonders if they are.

Is There Art in Suffering?

The subject of suffering has been covered by artists, writers, singers, and poets since the beginning of time. The suffering I’m talking about is the basis of masterpiece, the breaker of hearts, and the mover of souls. I believe there is art in suffering, but it’s not the duty of the artist to merely say “look at this suffering”…I think it is equally the co-duty of an artist to help end suffering. To be genuine and truthful in one’s art, I believe the artist should have a meaningful experience in which they closely examine that particular ethos. The suffering of others is more graspable, more deconstructible and more serviceable than our own. As an artist I’m developing a growing hunger for “the transformative experience”. Ironically enough, I wasn’t prone to these overt desires to help others in my community until I (ta da!) left Catholicism. Maybe Jesus Christ, Ghandi, or St. Vincent will analogously tear out of me in an altruistic flurry of chaos – like the chestburster in Aliens – but in a good way. Call it the existential anxiety of a heretical believer, but whether or not these experiences reflect in my own art, the fact is that I’m getting anxious to partake in meaningful encounters that will benefit the less fortunate. As I view the world through the eyes I have now, I think a louder understanding of what matters begins to ring in my ears. Ecclesiastes 1:18 states it well: “For in much wisdom is much grief; and he who increases knowledge increases sorrow.”

I recently took a step toward quelling this (oxymoronic) “selfish need” and I’m going to shamelessly plug it here. I signed up for The Greater Chicago Food Depository’s 26th Annual Hunger Walk in Chicago. It takes place on Saturday, June 25th, 2011. The Hunger Walk is an annual 5K (3.2 miles) event to raise funds and awareness for the Food Depository’s work in Cook County and network of 650 agencies (food pantries, soup kitchens and shelters). The Food Depository covers the overhead expenses for the event so all funds raised can be divided amongst the agencies to help supplement their budgets or, in some cases, serve as their entire annual budget. This is the largest one-day anti-hunger event in Chicago that brings together all of Cook County.

My fundraising goal is a modest $275 but since I’m kind of a newbie, I see this as the shallow end of the “doing good” pool where I need to step in rather than dive in. So, if you read this and would like to do me (and the hungry others) a solid favor and donate to this great cause, you can do so here.  And thank you = )


Good Cause-Related Resources:


Suffering-Related Resources: