Friday, December 30, 2011
Craigs' a great musician, and a great guy. His solid, powerful presence will be seen, heard, and felt soon in upcoming IR performances.
For now we are enjoying inoculating... initiating... inculcating... our new IR brother on the plethora of originals and cover songs... do we actually have a plethora? Isn't that a musical instrument? (I think that's what Jimmy Page was playing on "Whole Lotta Love"...!)
Be sure to come check us out in the new year... you won't be disappointed!!!
Monday, December 12, 2011
Like any normal person, I pulled out the tape measurer and took detailed measurements, along with photographs of all possible growing areas. These steps were followed by digging into my office supplies to find graph paper, determining the dimensions of cinderblocks, using the info to cut out paper blocks (to scale), and using those to prepare a variety of diagrams to determine the most efficient design that will yield the most plants/veggies. Here is what I came up with:
In the midst of all this, I also made a list of heirloom vegetables with notations on numbers of plants I could grow per square foot, which can be frozen, canned, besides being eaten fresh. With that info, I determined how many square feet I need to plant the vegetables I wanted, including room for flowers and herbs. This number I used to determine the most efficient layout of the garden.
Wait . . . Did I actually start this blog with the phrase “like any normal person”?? Disturbing as it sounds, the above is exactly what happened and exactly how I started my last garden. It was not (blessedly) how my garden at the Estes house actually came together.
Scotte and I have moved into our third house. I ‘designed’ gardens in both of our prior homes. The first garden started a little at a time until after 15 years, it had entirely overtaken the horse-shoe shaped, leaving only a narrow pathway for our poor dog to get to a small side yard.
The second garden was much the same. Starting with four 8x4 foot raised beds, this simple plan expanded until my garden encompassed an area approximately 60 x 120 feet. But, again, this did not happen in one season; the garden grew over a ten year period (and there were still areas unfinished when we moved out).
Despite my best intentions and OCD tendencies, in the end my gardens have come into being organically. One or two beds are dug and planted, and then as objects become available (I should be a crow for all my scavenging), beds of all shapes, sizes, and materials seem to sprout up all over the place. The end result is part aesthetic design, part Darwinian experiment (let’s see if this will grow here, or here, or here), and part accident—like life.
If history is destined to repeat itself, I anticipate my new garden will come into being much the same as my old ones have. I try to throw away the graph paper and start with one or two beds in the most prime location of the yard. We’ll see if I can muster that much self-control.
I’ll post pictures and updates as the garden takes shape.
Wishing you bountiful growth and only beneficial bugs.
In the old days days, I used to have a wife to tell me how many instruments I ought to have and where to store them among other things. Not having these restraints imposed (Galynn is much too cool for that!) has had the effect of doubling my guitar collection. None of them are fancy or very expensive but they have been multiplying and inhabiting ever increasing real estate in our home.
In the last few years, the kids have been pursuing their own musical ambitions and in doing so have purchased a few instruments of their own. Now we have guitars in nearly every room in the house including our "music room" where you are likely to find 5-8 guitars scattered around the piano at any given moment.
One day last week we were all sitting in our pile of guitars in the music room discussing weird tunings or the "spider chord" or something when the sheer magnitude of of our massive pile really struck us. The question soon came up: How many guitars do we actually have?
We called for a full muster: All guitars on deck. All strings would be counted.
After an exhaustive search of all rooms, closets and stray cases here is the final stats:
15 total stringed instruments with necks including:
6 acoustics, 5 hard body electrics, 2 hollow-bodies, and 1 each bass and mandolin.
We counted 90 total strings then caught ourselves in time before counting all the frets. Then we realized not all of our instruments were even in the house. Three were being stored over at mom's house.
Our picture is also filled with hidden guitars throughout as little toys or held by statuettes and even in the pics on the wall. The grand total number of guitars in the picture, therefore, cannot be fully computed without a team of dedicated counting professionals and right now all of mine are playing music.
Sunday, December 11, 2011
“Mr. Burns, know what?” Megan, a first grader in an uncustomary, yet very pretty and loud floral dress, swayed as she passed this common six year-old poser on to me while I surveyed the playground.
"No, I don't believe that I do. Tell me."
"My Mom made me wear this dress today, 'cause we was having pitchers taken." She held the thing by the hem along the bottom as she leaned this way and that, as if it might become wings at any moment that she would need to control. "I don't like wearing dresses, 'cause I can't climb the monkey bars. They’re dumb. My Mom makes me mad sometimes, Mr. Burns. I wanna wear jeans, but Mom says pitchers have to have dresses."
Dismissing the mental picture of Major League stars throwing fastballs in their pinstriped midis that Megan's Mom made them wear, I noticed her Hawaiian Punch-stained hands occasionally dropping between them a little brass token.
"You should keep your money in your pack or pockets, sweetie. The gravel out here eats kid-money, and almost never says thank you, or gives it back." I suggested with a grin.
"This is my lucky penny." She stopped and inspected it before handing it to me for my approval of its luckiness.
"It's very nice." I said. "Does it always bring you good luck?”
"Yes." Megan sighed as I handed it back to her. "With everything but my Mom."
I am blessed with these little exchanges hundreds of times a day in my capacity as a sixth grade teacher, and especially during playground duty at my school. The expressions of wonder, the surprises, and the everyday joys that burst forth from our kids are a continual source of amusement to me. They are also a source of strength, an exercise in character building, (for all of us), and proof to me of the existence of the Divine. After all, wonder is in many respects illogical, so the intellect by itself must deny the chuckles of God that I hear in classrooms and on foursquare courts. But by the same token, logically, no mortal needs to possess the gifts of humor or laughter, so they must have a deeper meaning. What objective purpose is served by lumps in the throat caused by hugs from newly band-aided eight year-olds, who are not as hurt or afraid because I was there at the right moment? How is it that things can be so much more wonderful when seen from three feet off the ground as opposed to six? No, a few inspired hugs, amazing stories, and inexplicable chuckles from my kids are all the evidence I need that angels fly over the playground and in the halls. They peek out from behind smiles still graced by a little bit of Mrs. Sellar's school lunches, forming them into sticky kisses blown, fantastic questions asked with secret grins, and tearful requests for me to go on the roof after another ball.
Though I have heard that "children are the future," that they are "our most precious resource" or that we should "believe the children," and I certainly agree to a point, I often sense that those muttering these little niceties don't spend as much time around kids as they do atop soapboxes. This accounts for an often-calculating reduction of kids to time, material, or subject matter in an attempt to sound grown-up. Kids are, above all else, just people. People who have not been around so long that they have forgotten that bugs are cool, that you only share your gum with somebody you know really, really well, and that sometimes gas is funny. Especially if coming from a properly embarrassed adult.
All this said, it is sometimes difficult to understand how to deal with kids and the various and sundry challenges that their education presents. How does one encourage, instruct, lead, or appropriately give affection to the children of others? How does one discipline them? How does one go about dealing with the parents of those in one’s charge following such activities? How in the world can all this be done without divine assistance or an advanced college degree? It is usually at such times that we are reminded how we each share the former, and the latter may come in time, if we find it's important. We’re never that old.
Meanwhile, there is fresh paint in the school. The stuff is everywhere. Having spent much of a recent summer at school putting it there, I think I know where it all is. Funny thing, much of it cannot be seen right away, because it was tucked away in little corners where no one looks unless they are painting, looking for stray supplies, or cleaning out cobwebs. I don't know why, but I kind of like the idea of it being found sometime, and the explorer commenting, "Gee, it even got painted back here." So many of the things that are done around the place are like that - going into the corners of lives without being noticed right away. I am glad to keep the tradition alive with something as simple as white latex.
Summer is gone for now, but for my own part, I always welcome my return to the land of Band-Aids, chalk dust, clinic occasional referrals, recess detentions, six-foot-guy jump rope attempts with four-foot girls, and my daily doses of "Know what, Mr. Burns?" I am curious to see how the kids have grown and what the year holds in store for us. I promise not to voice any of those stupid grown-up end-of-summer comments and questions I hated when I was a kid. "Did you have a nice summer?" for one. After all, that's what kids do. They have nice summers. Asking this is like asking your puppy if he had a nice bowl of steak scraps.
Less severe, yet also to be avoided are: "So, are you looking forward to school?” "Oh, you've grown, I didn't recognize you," (even if it's true), and never, ever any reference to how soon it will be now before boys actually like girl cooties, and vice versa. Much of maintaining good communication with kids is based on what you do not say. Grown-ups, too. Isn't that odd?
Oh, there you are Megan. I almost didn’t recognize...(Oops). What a great hugger you are. Those are wonderful new jeans your Mom got you for school! Welcome back.
Tuesday, December 6, 2011
Hm... let's look at them side-by-side:
Then I discovered something even more amazing... if you look closely at the CD cover, you can see three figures on the hill in the distance; and, if you look closely at the Wyeth illustration, you can see four figures standing just by the trees in the distance below.
It's true. You can see 'em right there.
(I guess the crew was divided on whether or not the burning of ships was, in fact, a good idea. )
In all honesty, I had NO idea that I was creating a landscape that interlocked perfectly with the scene in the Wyeth piece. Up until now, I had never even seen this particular illustration.
That just goes to show what a powerful influence Wyeth and Howard Pyle had on me as an artist, from a very young age!
What a bizarre coincidence! Perhaps there's even a Burn the Ships graphic novel, or comic book out there too!
Saturday, October 1, 2011
Oct. 16, Oriental Theater
Sean was happy, I was happy to see the piece go to a good home, and we raised some money for LLS in the process. Everybody wins!
Here is the finished painting-
"The Man In Black"
This is the painting that I'm creating for the silent auction at the 1st Annual CD Relief Concert.
Please forgive the mediocre quality of the photos; the camera is on the fritz, and I had to resort to using the webcam on my laptop. The final picture is professionally done by The Painted Pixel.
Here's a quick overview of some sketches, the realistic drawing, the exaggerated sketch, and the painting WIP:
Several talented local artists will be donating their work to the silent auction to raise money for the Colorado chapter of the Leukemia & Lymphoma Society.
After experimenting with several ideas, I decided on an 'exaggerated-features' painting of Johnny Cash – an iconic figure in the world of music. I felt it was fitting for an event featuring such great musical talent: Chris Daniels, Hazel Miller, Jock Bartley (Firefall,) Freddy Goudy (Freddie Henchi Band,)Tequila Mockingbird, Demon Funkies, Something Underground, Dave Preston, and of course, Ironwood Rain.
After gathering together a boat load of reference photos, I started exploring the concept with a few dozen sketches. I took the photos to work and 'workshopped' the concept with fellow caricature artist Ben Bloss. (That's one of the things I love about working for *LOL* Caricature Company – every day is another 'mini-workshop' and a chance to learn and share ideas with my colleagues.)
Man, what an interesting face! Here are just a few of the sketches:
This helps me to really understand the features, since I am not merely copying a photograph – I am pushing and pulling the features in an attempt to find an instantly recognizable likeness. The idea is that if you could look at a thumbnail of the drawing, and instantly know who it was, then it is a successful likeness. In order to do that, I'm experimenting with which features to emphasize, and which features to play down.
Once I really started to 'get' Johnny's face, and I felt I had gathered enough knowledge, I knew which sketch would work as the main concept.
Then I played with the drawing, exploring the exaggeration even more...
(It's funny, I thought I was exaggerating at the time I was doing the first sketch...)
I was amazed that Johnny's face lent itself better to stretching horizontally rather than vertically. And his mouth shape is really unusual. Then of course, there's the trademark creases and folds in his facial features. It's a constant push and pull, squishing and stretching...
I did an enlarged drawing to get a more concise plan.
Then I primed a 16x16” canvas with neutral gray gesso, and began blocking in the drawing.
Deciding that a black-and-white piece would be appropriate for “The Man In Black,” I mixed a 9-step value scale of grays using Bone Black and Titanium White. (I may add an accent in color at the end … we'll see...)
Next, I laid in the main shadow areas with a simple wash; then I began gradually laying in the light areas and building up the form in the lights.
After that, it's a matter of turning the from from the shadow to the light areas, building up the form in the light, and constantly stepping back to look at the result. At this point, I am taking care to keep the values in the middle range. I usually push to the extreme darks and lights early, which will not work for this piece. Once I am satisfied with the overall form I can begin to push the values out to the extremes.
Now the painting is at the stage where I start to glaze the shadows to get those really 'dark' darks, and drybrush the lights to get the highlights. This is tricky, and fun!
One of the main elements I want to retain through this whole process is the expression in Johnny's eyes; totally “badass” and at the same time "woeful..."
It's kinda strange - After getting used to the piece, it takes me a while to remember that the features are exaggerated. I feel that the painting is a much better likeness, and when I look at the sketches, they don't look as recognizable - even though they are more 'realistic...' That's the magic of caricature.
Even now, I continue to do drawings and sketches - even though I have already gotten well into the final piece. It's a great warm-up for a day of drawing, it gives me a chance to explore the face more fully, and because it's just plain fun.
More photos to come as the painting progresses....!
Friday, September 30, 2011
2012 is the apocalyptic nirvana; a year in which everything is destined to resolve in any number of redemptive, cataclysmic, or anticlimactic ways, depending on one's personal tastes. Since it seems to be gaining popularity as the new year approaches and since I had done some research on the topic for my manuscript "Apocalypse: The Forever Ending Story" I offer this excerpt to point out that there is more than one "End" on the menu for 2012 and each becomes progressivly more bizarre and amusing. Listed here are just a few of the foremost selections from 2012's millennial melieu.
According to Dr Jose Arguelles, August 16 -17, 1987 was the date of The Harmonic Convergence, the beginning of a New Age of enlightenment and cosmic understanding brought about by a propitious alignment of the planets. Incense burners worked overtime as the Aquarian faithful gathered to meditate and welcome the New Age. A cosmic beam from space was believed to have struck the planet and provided energy to transform our primitive monkey brains into multi-dimensional receivers capable of loving one another, understanding our place in the universe, and listening to Yanni with greater appreciation. The endgame of this transformation came with an option. Either we accept the new learning and do away with war, environmental degradation, and the Dark Side of the Force, or humanity will be destroyed just before Christmas 2012, when the ancient Mayan calendar runs out of tomorrows.
Unfortunately, quick analysis of the current state of human affairs shows that very little evidence exists for our becoming substantially more in-tune, caring, or sensitive. According to Arguelles' theory, this means that we will be at the mercy of his perceived Mayan apocalypse. However, his calendrical fears bear closer consideration.
Until their mysterious collapse, the Mayans used a complex calendar that was unique to them, having developed quite distinctly from those of Europe and Asia. Those who best understood its subtleties unfortunately either died of imported infections or had bright, pointy objects driven through their bronzed bodies during the early Spanish occupation. Like most modern beliefs based on ancient systems, therefore, much of what is supposedly known today about the calendar and other Mayan systems is conjecture and extrapolation by people with very different cultures and cosmological assumptions.
What can be determined with some certainty, however, is that the Mayans were consummate mathematicians, employing temporal understanding, sophisticated arithmetic, and stellar geometry. They therefore knew what zero and even negative numbers meant, which was nice. One would think that this precision, coupled with their interest in astronomy, would have made for a precise rendering of heavenly events. However, the Mayan calendar is not in fact primarily concerned with moon cycles or the kind of seasonal considerations one would expect in an agricultural society, and it is only roughly aligned with the movements of the sun*. The Mayans knew this, of course, but didn't fret over it because their interest was not so much in mapping out mundane earthly events as much as understanding history on a cosmic scale. The Mayan calendar is, in effect, a day timer in God years - what the late Douglass Adams would have termed a schedule for "life, the universe, and everything." It showed the cycles of creation and the circular nature of existence.
Because of this cyclical representation, suggesting that the Mayan calendar predicts an "End" at all is absurd, particularly when realizing that our understanding of the calendar is itself a theoretically reconstructed circular pattern. When a dog chases its tail, it also creates a circular pattern. The difference between the playful pup and those who continue to search for apocalypse in the Mayan calendar is that the dog never actually expects to catch up with itself.
Bible Code author Michael Drosnin produced yet another strained word-search showing an Old Testament warning of a killer comet destined to wreak hell on Earth in 2012. The secret decoded message reads, "Comet, 2006, Year Predicted for World, 2012, Earth Annihilated, It (comet) Will Be Crumbled, I will Tear to Pieces, 2012". In order to assess the efficacy of this and other Bible Code predictions, it is important to note that Drosnin's "code" is based on several key criteria, including that:
"The original text of the Old Testament was written in Hebrew."
"This text was carefully preserved down through the centuries by monks and rabbis whose sole function in life was the safeguarding of this original Hebrew text."
"The computer can also display the entire original Hebrew text of the Bible as a gigantic crossword puzzle. Coded messages appear when ELS [Equidistant Hebrew Letter Sequence Code] finds related words and concepts horizontally, vertically, and diagonally."
"Dates are coded according to the Hebrew calendar but are translated to AD for clarity."
(Drosnin, Michael (2003.) Annotated Index: The Bible Code and Bible Code II)
Point by point, analyzing this system turns up multiple flaws. For instance, the original languages of the Old Testament were Hebrew, Aramaic, and Greek. Moreover, Hebrew has no vowels, so interpreting words and phrases into English can provide the layperson a number of satisfying and spooky variations within the possible “translations.”
The function of monks and rabbis was often to translate text into other languages and dialects, as well as to serve as occasional illustrators and copy clerks. Furthermore, Hebrew, like any language, developed and evolved over time as it incorporated concepts and language conventions of other cultures - an event that was quite common in the culturally-diverse Levant of biblical times. Also, the liberal code-geometry makes finding hidden messages like shooting Vesica Pisces in a barrel.
Finally, the various western calendars have undergone numerous revisions in the past several millennia. The Hebrew calendar to which Drosnin is likely referring does not even have the same number of days as any other calendar in use since Anno Domini (AD) was in vogue, let alone the more precise accounting of the Common Era (CE.) Therefore "clarity" is about the last thing one would find through trying to align ancient dates, Bible Code discoveries, and a modern calendar.
In response to a challenge from Drosnin himself, critics have since used his technique to decode Moby Dick, finding hidden messages involving the assassinations of Gandhi, Trotsky, and Martin Luther King. One even discovered the phrase, "the code is bogus" in Genesis. Drosnin has nothing to fear regarding future success, however, as accuracy has nothing at all to do with popular book sales in the apocalyptic genre.
Ethnobotanist, psychedelic humanitarian, and Gaia groupie Terence McKenna casts out his fears, as well as a few I Ching sticks, and discovers Novelty Theory. In this scenario, culture-shaking events, such as the agricultural and industrial revolutions, the computer age, nanotechnology, breakthroughs in neuroscience and such are happening at an exponentially increasing rate. This rate will continue to quicken until humanity reaches "The Omega Point". At this instant, change becomes the natural state of the Universe and mankind sheds its reliance on matter, becoming very Star Treky higher beings. He explains it all by saying that at "the moment of the solstice and the heliacal rising of the galactic center, levels of planetary novelty will exponentially increase, [perhaps including] Hyperspatial Breakthrough, Planetesimal Impact, Alien Contact, Historical Metamorphosis, Metamorphosis of Natural Law, Solar Explosion, or Quasar Ignition at the Galactic Core." Any one of these could serve as the catalyst for our ascension to a higher plane of being; which is good, because any one of these might be fatal as well. His eccentricity had its merits, however. Speaking of his own impending death from brain cancer in 2000, he told a friend "Everything is a blessing, and everything comes as a gift. And I don't regret anything about the situation I find myself in. We're all under sentence of 'moving up' at some point in our lives. I have an absolute faith that the universe prefers joy and distils us with joy and this is what religion is trying to download to us, and this is what every moment of life is trying to do - if we can open to it. And we psychedelic people, if we could secure that death has no sting, we would have done the greatest service to suffering intelligence that can be done. And I feel that it's close, and I feel strong. I feel strong because of this community and the plants that it rests on, and the ancient practices that it rests on, and I am full of hope, not only for my own small problems, but for humanity in general"
When our End really does come, may we meet it with the same spirit and courage. (But perhaps fewer psychoactive substances.) Peace, Terry.
In a work that makes Erich Von Daniken look like a classical scholar, wannabe Egyptologist Graham Hancock cobbles together pyramids, the Nazca lines, Sphinx theories, flying saucers, flood stories and discredited plate tectonics notions to produce Fingerprints of the Gods. His theory is that an advanced prehistoric civilization saw their own apocalypse was nigh and answered the call by coding information about themselves into ancient myths and architecture. Once the cataclysm struck, it moved their home base thirty degrees south of its previous position, where we know it today as Antarctica. Also included in the embedded messages is a warning that the same event, known as "Earth Crustal Displacement," and not accepted by geologists as a valid scientific hypothesis, is going to happen to us in December, 2012. Holiday retail sales may never recover.
Australian radio-ham Kev Peacock determines that the Sun is about to perform a magnetic field reversal, causing a similar occurrence here on Earth. Flying saucers, alien abductions, biblical numerology, Atlantis rising, a NASA conspiracy to fake the Apollo moon landings, cattle mutilations, and a very Scientology-like alien explanation of human origins combine to round out his theory. While others cheapen their warnings of global doom by offering them free to the masses, Kev instead makes his predictions available for a fee in the form of payments for an electronic book. His next work is reported to be a fantastic fiction; a distinct departure from the hard-nosed research that can prove so draining on one's creative side.
* The Mayans actually used three different calendars. These included the 360-day Haab civil calendar, made up of 18 periods of 20 days, the Tzolkin ceremonial calendar which employed 20 periods of 13 days, and the Long Count, a device that was primarily used for historical purposes and record keeping, as it could locate any date for thousands of years in the past or the future. For our purposes, references to "the Mayan Calendar" refer to the Long Count. (Not to be confused with the "Tall Count" Vronsky from the Tchaikovsky ballet Anna Karenina, which is depressing but not necessarily apocalyptic.)
Monday, September 5, 2011
James Scotte Burns II
"Dad, why don't you be president?"
It certainly seemed an innocent enough question from a ten year old, and well within the bounds of the political discussion then in progress. Yet, as I considered the option later, the answer became much more involved than the initial response I supplied. Not more appealing, just involved. My daughter seemed satisfied as I declined her nomination for president, explaining that I could not abide those humor-challenged Armani drones following us around for the rest of our lives, peering at us through their Ray Charles disguises. Secret Service guys are rarely adept at playing four-square or pushing a swing without getting a bunch of wires tangled around their brief cases. Besides, we know how Mom gets when denied quiet nights at home, and the White House is known to harbor unkempt guests from god-knows-where nearly every night. I love what remains of my country, but household harmony comes first.
Still, as I lay awake on the sofa that night, watching Star Trek reruns as if something unexpected might happen, I pondered why fellows like me or Carter Braxton, (one of the ten Founding Farmers signing the Declaration of Independence), no longer vie for high office. Something seemed fundamentally screwed up. How can a nation founded on the noble principle of a representative government of citizens serving their country and then going back home to grow tobacco, deteriorate into the current comic fiefdom displayed on what passes for the news these days? A nation ruled by a permanent cabal of Alpha-lawyers and philandering bluebloods intent on regulating and bureaucratizing every facet of the society whose industry provides them the lofty perch on which they park their adipose butts? This sobering contemporary scenario left me with two obvious questions. What the hell happened to us, and what if anything, could I do about it if I were president?
First thing's first. What the hell did happen to us? What brought this great nation to its hands and knees and made it whimper its insecurity like some cowering, baby-powdered toy poodle pissing on itself in the back of a perfume stained Mary Kay Cadillac? There is no single causal factor involved in this lycanthropic conversion and the change happened over several decades.
It probably began with the ratification of the sixteenth Amendment in 1913. This is the act allowing government to confiscate a percentage of people's earnings before they had even seen the money. The self-righteous bastards followed this in 1919 by outlawing liquor, thinking that if the citizenry bit on that income tax thing, they were probably stoned out of their proletariat gourds. We straightened up only long enough to figure out that females ought to be able to vote, since they were helping to pay for everything (Amendment 19). Next, we invented talking movies, assuming that Hollywood always had important things to say, flushed most of our personal resources down the sewers of New York, made a New Deal with what remained of our unconfiscated wealth, and then decided it was time to start drinking again.
Following on the heels of these little morsels of history, we fought against world totalitarian domination; something at which we were really quite good. Then we formed the United Nations, so that everyone else in the world could share in the bounty of that sixteenth Amendment thing. Somewhere in there we learned how to incinerate vast areas of hostile territory using little more than a big uranium-rich Heathkit. Americans accomplished much of this under the popular and fatherly reign of the most propaganda-dependent president of the century. Then we passed the 22nd Amendment limiting presidential terms, even if we really like the guy. Go figure.
Since then, we have fought all over the world but only had one more war. We've had one president felled by criminals and one who was a criminal. (Maybe two, but we weren't interested, since it had already been done) One president lost an election because of uncertainty regarding what his lips had done. One of our more recent leaders even did a respectable job but people became dissatisfied with him because their TV's whispered to them that he was only letting them keep their money so that poor people couldn't have it!
We launched a "women's movement" that required ladies to take off their brassieres and then run about screaming that guys were gawking at their breasts. A "peace movement" appeared, responsible for more riots than general admission Who concerts. A "worker's movement" erupted, wherein people went on strike, which is like...not working. Various other political movements further ensured that nothing political ever moved. As fewer of us could agree on what we thought about all this, let alone what to do about it, a seemingly endless parade of beatniks, hippies, yuppies, puppies, rappers, rapists, rock stars, victims, leaders, pundits, junkies, prophets, pedophiles, anchormen, beauty queens, born-agains and bums clambered over one another for our attention and our approval. Those Americans remaining sane through all this were sufficiently distracted that we scarcely noticed as the barbarians at our gates matured. They then mated with the sanctimonious intellectuals and fundamentalist blowhards that we never invite to parties. This unholy union produced the contemporary breed of bureaucrat/legislator/judges who now rifle through our pockets with such regularity, it hardly tickles anymore.
Now we find ourselves in a country in which we win a battle with the Edu-crats over school policy, only to find that the Legi-crats are stealing our land. We turn back an assault by the Socio-crats on our rights to self-defense while the Busni-crats throttle domestic commerce. All the while, efforts to turn back the tide of erosion against our freedoms are undermined by the timid and ignorant trading their votes and rights for more government "security" while the long arm of the law becomes just one big manicured finger.
Considering the enormity and complexity of the problem, I have concluded that a president can do nothing to return us to the ideals generated by our forebears. Therefore, I do not want the job, thank you. However, I would submit that the collective power of the people, manifest in our framing document, The Constitution, retains the power necessary to stem the tide and ignite an American Renaissance. To be effective, however, two things would have to happen.
First, politicians, judges and anyone else subject to oath-taking on the Constitution would have to hold the highest regard for the sanctity of their covenant. Treating transgressions of their oaths as acts of treason punishable by public execution might be an effective incentive here. If carried on local PBS channels during pledge drives, public broadcasting would be flush for decades.
Second, a clarification needs to commence, wherein we could repeal superfluous, inane, outdated or destructive additions to the original document, reforming obsolete or obscure language in order to make the intent and effect of the whole understandable for the next century. Since this is my idea, and I turned down the whole president thing, allow me the opportunity to suggest how this redefinition might unfold. I am doing this with my kids in mind, so you can trust me. Here we go.
We, the People of the United States, in Order to form a union which makes more sense than the oozing mess we've made in the last half-century, re-establish justice, aspire to domestic Tranquillity, provide for the common defense, promote the GENERAL Welfare, but not your individual welfare, since that's your job, and secure the Blessings of Liberty to ourselves and everybody else after we are dead, do put into effect and recognize as law this Constitution of the United States of America. And we really mean it this time.
Articles I-VII, all sections:
Having read through the original articles of the Constitution, finding them to be both wise and wholly ignored by the politipaths we have let slobber on them for their own benefit in the past, all articles are to be considered Federal Law and enforced as such. An addition to Article II, somewhere between sections 3 and 4 shall establish as unlawful the act of Executive Order. All such previous orders will become available to the people, on display in the Library of Congress. Figuring out how to implement the forgotten articles and dispersing the riots following the release of the aforementioned Executive Orders will fall to the House of Representatives. This should build some character in the bastards.
Congress will make no law telling people what to believe, who God is, what God wants or behave in any way that restricts people thinking about it for themselves. Congress may not restrict what people say, no matter how stupid or ignorant it may be, or what the press can say about it, even if they are wrong. Citizens may visit with anyone they wish, in any number, so long as they do not make a mess or start a fight. If they all want to tell Congress to go suck an egg, well, that's just fine.
Since the world is full of bullies, some of whom have guns, and the government is not above falling into this category, American citizens have right to own and carry guns if they like. If anyone goes and does something stupid with one though, other citizens have the right to shoot them with their gun and give it someone more responsible.
As long as the country is not at war, the government may not use private property for military purposes. If one of our soldiers needs a place to stay or a sandwich, he/she can just ask and most folks will oblige. We are all on the same side here.
Since your stuff is your stuff and your home your castle, nobody from any government agency can take or look at your things without your permission. The only way we, (hereafter referred to as The People), allow this is if the government has a really good reason that a judge will believe. This must include what the government thinks you are doing, what they want to look for, and where they are going to look for it. In that case, the judge will give them a permission slip that you can see first.
No American has to answer to a crime, except when a Grand Jury agrees they're in really big trouble, unless they are in the military, in which case, they should have known better, after all the money we spent training them; nor is anybody going to be tried twice for the same offense or be required to say things which make them look like a criminal, even if it's the truth. No one will be executed, jailed or have their stuff taken away without a fair trial, and if we, (you know, The People), do take anybody's stuff, we have to pay a decent price for it.
Any person accused of a crime gets to have a trial as soon as we can pencil it in. Their trial will be public and judged by a jury of people who are not taking the whole thing personally, for one reason or another, and who live right around where the defendant does. The accused person has to be told exactly what we think they did, be able to confront anybody who says they did it, and make those people show up to say so, even if they have other things to do. Other people who might be able to help the accused person have to show up too. Since the whole thing can get a little complicated, he/she can always bring a lawyer, if they want. Heck, we'll even pay for it, if we have to.
In a case where no law is broken, but you get your panties in a knot over something stupid someone's done costing you more than a hundred bucks, (It used to be twenty, but what with inflation and all...), you can sue them in front of a jury. Nothing that the jury decides can be decided again in another court, except according to the local rules for suing people. Having said rules explained to you for two hundred dollars an hour will give you some idea as to why lawyers have so few friends except for other lawyers.
Bail will not be set so high that only mega-celebrities and other rich guys get to walk before trial. Fines also have to be set at a level where there is a chance of paying them. Further, we don't beat people, realign their anatomy, or do any other weird things to them as punishment for crimes.
Just because we spelled a few things out here as rights, it doesn't mean that we don't allow or don't like anything else reasonable people can do or say that we didn't mention.
Any government power we haven't talked about here, or that we didn't come right out and say States can't do, are reserved to the States, or the People, which, I hope you all remember, is supposed to be the same thing.
All of the above were what the wise guys who started this American thing thought we needed to have to make a go of it, pretty much forever. They are what became known as the Bill of Rights and they worked pretty well on their own for a long time. Although the founders did allow for changes to be made now and then, they made the process such a pain in our collective backside that frivolous or silly things would hopefully be weeded out before mucking things up. In fact, nobody really thought seriously about adding anything until 1794, when the third Congress proposed the Eleventh Amendment, which was a pretty good idea, but got the ball rolling toward the current mess of twenty-seven amendments of which we currently try to make sense. Many of these later additions are merely legislative flotsam which we must bring on board, examine, and either sink forever, or safely bring to shore and show off. Following is a brief summary of these, whether and why we keep them. Again, you can trust me here. I'm a reasonably smart guy who is doing this for his kids, and I wouldn't do anything which is going to make us all look stupid two hundred years from now.
The Federal judiciary may not go sticking it's big nose into any lawsuits against individual states.
We keep this one. It's hard enough getting legal satisfaction against a state government for the occasional Stupid Government Trick without Uncle Sam throwing a bunch of their stuffed suits into the mix. It really isn't any of their business anyway, unless they are at fault, in which case they can be named in the lawsuit.
Amendment Twelve: Deals with the way we choose the President and Vice-President. The original text is still quite adequate here, even if it isn't very amusing.
Some of this amendment was later altered by the twentieth amendment, which we shall summarily ignore for now, since all it does is complicate the issue of terms when viewed in the context of the original concept of our government, where the President is just an executive and not a shah or the owner of Microsoft, or something really important.
No one gets to own anyone else.
Contrary to popular belief, many of our founders were opposed to slavery from the beginning, but yielded on including abolition as one of the original "inclusive amendments" in order to have the Constitution ratified by all thirteen states, some of whose representatives were not as "enlightened" by their times as we have been led to believe. Needless to say, we keep this one and shouldn't have taken so long figuring it out. Thanks, Abe.
States cannot restrict rights somebody already has as a U.S. Citizen.
This probably could have gone without saying, but since it is here and makes sense, we'll keep it. However, it also contains subsections worth mentioning separately, as there are a few minor alterations necessary to bring them up to speed.
Section 2- Delete all use of the word "male" preceding "inhabitant" or "citizen" and we probably ought to discuss whether or not Indians are actually taxed and therefore exempt from representation.
Section 4- It would be wise, at this point, to begin to question the validity
of the public debt of the U.S.. Maybe it's just me.
All citizens of the U.S. get to vote, regardless of their current or past race or color.
Or anything else, for that matter, so long as they aren't in prison or ignorant. Yes, I know it sounds mean, but we need to pass legislation related to this amendment which would prohibit ignorant people from voting before they at least read a book, or something.
Amendment Sixteen: REPEAL
This amendment allowed the federal government to confiscate ridiculous amounts of money that it did not generate in order to redistribute it to people who did not earn it, who then vote for those that give it away. From now on, the Feds must get by on a ten percent national sales tax, tariffs, fees for federal services and whatever their lawyers and publicists might like to kick in. Donations are always welcome. For those of you screaming "What about the poor" we have transferred about five TRILLION dollars of New Society/Great Deal handouts, which is roughly the same amount as the current national debt, and yet, the percentage of people living in poverty in the U.S. is the same as it was when we started. I don't think that worked very well. While you people are figuring out what the hell to do about it, the rest of us are going to save for our families and I’ll give some of what used to get taken away from me to my Unitarian church, which does a pretty good job of helping the poor. There’s symmetry to it all, somehow.
Amendment Seventeen: REPEAL
Seventeen made the election of senators a function of popular vote. Bad idea. The Senate, being a supposedly more deliberative body, must be informed, subject to reasonable oversight, and be representative of the states and those states' House members. The election of senators is therefore the responsibility of the House. This is also a less expensive method, saving us from having to pay for the privilege of listening to the self-important wretches whine and kvetch at us every election cycle.
Amendment Eighteen: REPEALED
The prohibition of liquor was a perfect example of just how much can go terribly wrong when government gets on a high horse and does something for our own good. Now, don't get me wrong, drinking can lead to a host of personal and societal problems, but then so can stone-cold sober stupidity and I don't believe we can legislate against that with any certainty of compliance either.
Girls can vote too.
No one in their right mind would suggest touching this one with a ten-foot flaming brassiere, so be aware of the fact that God wanted ladies to vote, or he'd never have created school boards, independent tickets, and JFK.
The President and Vice President begin their terms on Jan. 20 and Senators & representatives on Jan. 3.
Originally, I was going to repeal this one, because it seems silly that grownups can't get to work on time without a Constitutional amendment, but if it keeps us from arguing about it, well, I guess we can live with it. The subsections of this amendment deal with the responsibilities of Congress in picking new leaders if the Big Cheeses turn out to be illegal aliens or get their tickets punched to the great White House in the Sky before they've passed the baton, so to speak. Personally, I'd put Larry Miller in charge until the next election, but if we have chosen our representatives well, they should be able to send in a decent second-stringer.
O.K., we must've been stoned, or something. Forget Amendment Eighteen. What? We already did that? Oooh. We forgot. Anybody got a tylenol?
Seriously, we passed an amendment to un-pass another amendment. Couldn't we have just said we were kidding and borrowed an eraser?
Nobody gets to be Prez for longer than two four-year terms, including if they were only there the first time because the last guy skipped town, and no one gets the Big Chair more than once.
After all, other people might like a turn, too.
Amendment Twenty-Three: REPEAL
Giving the District of Columbia a vote in Presidential elections was a silly idea. It's not like it's a real state, or for that matter, even a real place. Next thing you know, they'll want to give a vote to Hollywood, and then Boulder, and then Martha's Vineyard; God only knows where it will end if we don't stop the madness.
Everyone who reads a book now and then gets to vote, even if they haven't paid their taxes, including poll taxes, which are dirty pool and therefore shall be left up to the labor unions.
This was a really good idea and keeps the government from blackmailing us for tax money by withholding our most basic right until we ante up.
If the President can't hack the job for any reason, dies or gets canned, the vice President gets the job, which is why he was hired and is kind of a no-brainer here. The President must keep the veep seat warm with somebody qualified to run things in case the Prez takes a powder. If the President needs to step out for a while, he has to at least send a nice card to Congress and let them know what the hell's going on. If the VP and three quarters of congress determine that the Big Guy (or Gal....it could happen) is a nut, or acts like they've been sniffing Sterno in the Rose Garden, they can move him to a smaller room and run things either until he's better, or until we all pick a new quarterback.
There are lengthy subsections in the original copy of this amendment, but this pretty well sums it up. It is amazing how many words we seem to need to argue over, the later in our history we travel through the amendment process. I think that by 1967, when this little nugget passed, our self-professed Alpha-males of legislation were working by the hour.
Amendment Twenty-Six: REPEAL
Voting privileges are not a function of age, sex, religion, national origin, or even species, for that matter, so long as you are literate and informed on the issues and candidates. Therefore, the only requisite to vote, beyond proof of citizenship, is that you check out a book once in a while at the library where you will no longer have to go to get all those income tax forms.
Limiting voting by age is arbitrary and completely ignores the salient issue underlying why it is so difficult to do a coherent job of electing people and passing initiatives: ignorant people pulling levers for stuff they can't read. Once we get the government out of the education business put that new "off" chip in all the TV's, this problem should become more manageable.
Amendment Twenty-Seven: REPEAL
Allowing a bunch of lawyers to effect their own pay increases under any circumstance is just stupid. From now on, you people up there get forty thousand dollars a year, indexed to inflation, plus expenses, room and board. If the money means that much more to you than the service, then maybe you'd better start sending out some resumes. (Use your own copier, though, and if you need a few stamps, ask that Rostenkowski guy).
Yes, I know the argument that "If you want qualified people, you have to pay them what they can make in the private sector." Horseshit. Many of these folks never had a real job, so how the hell would they know what they could make? Besides, even if things slow down for awhile, I'd rather have a bunch of mechanics, teachers, secretaries, and soldiers serving their country, and then going back to their lives, than a gaggle of self-impressed, overpaid bureaucratic page-turners serving themselves, then retiring on our nickel and thumbing their non-inhaling noses at us. So there.
Now, by this time some of you may have begun to wonder about a few loose ends not covered directly by this Constitution. Items such as state laws, water rights, environmental laws, medical oversight, foreign policy and the like would take a few meetings in order to hammer out the rules. Nevertheless, they don't belong in the framing document and if we can all behave like grownups, we'll work through these a few at a time. I have to go put the kids to bed, but you all are welcome to chew on this for a bit and get back to me. I will have to find a way of telling my little girl that I can't be president, but I think she'll understand when I let her know that I am practicing to be a Founding Father. She trusts me with the Dad thing, and as much as I love my nation, that is a much bigger and more important job to she and God and I. That buck stops here. Good night, honey.