Culture


02 Oct 2011 11:38 am

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Our Banner in the Sky, painted by Frederick Church during the Civil War.

The Aurora Borealis shone down upon both the armies of the North and South at the Battle of Fredericksburg during the Civil War, a very rare occurrence in the latitude of Virginia. On Sunday, Dec. 14, 1862, a bitterly cold night, the Union Army had just suffered one of its worst defeats.

Shelby Foote, in his Civil War Trilogy, wrote of the spectacle:

“A mysterious refulgence, shot with fanwise shafts of varicolored light, predominantly reds and blues—first a glimmer, then a spreading glow, as if all the countryside between Fredericksburg and Washington were afire—filled a wide arc of the horizon beyond the Federal right…to one Southerner it seemed ‘that the heavens were hanging out banners and streamers and setting off fireworks in honor of our great victory.’”

In 1905 Elizabeth Lyle Saxon wrote in A Southern Woman’s War Time Reminiscenses ” It was near this time that the wonderful spectacle of the Aurora Borealis was seen in the Gulf States. The whole sky was a ruddy glow as if from an enormous conflagration, but marked by the darting rays peculiar to the Northern light. It caused much surprise, and aroused the fears even of those far from superstitious. I remember an intelligent old Scotch lady said to me, “Oh, child, it is a terrible omen; such lights never burn, save for kings’ and heroes’ deaths.”

It was not to be a victory for the South but a great tragedy for our nation in the loss of life; nearly 620,000 lives and over a million casualties. But out of the death and destruction came freedom for the slaves, and a victory for human worth and dignity. There would be, in time, a great reunification of all of the states but, no longer, would people consider their own state, as General Robert E. Lee once did, “their country.”

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God’s Windows had opened for a time on the night of December 14th, 1862 and human beings, being creatures of emotion, misinterpreted the meaning. The metaphysical meanderings of time have always intertwined great human events with cosmic and natural eruptions. Great men and women have emerged in dark times, when all of civilization seemed lost.

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Abraham Lincoln would have seemed an unlikely choice as the leader of the strife filled United States of America had he emerged in the days of Hollywood casting. He was born poor, had very little education and was from what we now call flyover country and yet he was elected President of the United States in 1860. Abraham Lincoln guided our country through the most devastating experience in its history. He was never to see the flowering of the spring of the reunion of the states; the conciliatory plans he had in mind for reconciliation with the South were cast away just six days after the surrender by Confederate commanding general Robert E. Lee when he was assassinated by John Wilkes Boothe in Ford’s Theater in Washington, D.C.

Throughout Lincoln’s presidency there was little peace to be found inside or outside of the White House. There was the death of his son, Willie, the anguish of his wife, Mary, the constant attacks of friends and foes and the failures of his generals.

Throughout his life he also believed in dreams and other enigmatic signs and portents. As he grew older, and especially after he became president and faced the soul-troubling responsibilities of the Civil War, he developed a profound religious sense, and he increasingly personified necessity as God. He came to look upon himself quite humbly as an “instrument of Providence” and to view all history as God’s enterprise. “In the present civil war,” he wrote in 1862, “it is quite possible that God’s purpose is something different from the purpose of either party—and yet the human instrumentalities, working just as they do, are of the best adaptation to effect His purpose.”

Lincoln seemed to understand his place in the great stream of time. Just days before his death he spoke of foreboding dreams. Abraham Lincoln never graduated from high school, college, Harvard or Yale, (although those colleges did exist during his lifetime) but he is considered by most historians to be the greatest of all American Presidents.

“In times like the present, men should utter nothing for which they would not willingly be responsible through time and in eternity.”
–Annual Message to Congress, December 1, 1862

This exceptional nation produced exceptional men - and women who walked through hard and bitter times, not stopping when events seemed to present no victory, no solution, no relief. Abraham Lincoln, and the Founders before him saw the glorious light through the darkness that John Adams described in a letter to his wife, Abigail:

“The day is passed. The Fourth of July, 1776, will be a memorable epoch n the history of America. I am apt to believe it will be celebrated by succeeding generations as the great anniversary festival. It ought to be commemorated as the day of deliverance by solemn acts of devotion to Almighty God. It ought to be solemnized with pomp, shows, games, sports, guns, bells, bonfires and illuminations from one end of the continent to the other, from this time forward forever. You will think me transported with enthusiasm, but I am not. I am well aware of the toil and blood and treasure that it will cost to maintain this declaration and support and defend these States; yet, through all the gloom, I can see the rays of light and glory. I can see that the end is worth more than all the means, and that posterity will triumph, although you and I may rue, which I hope we shall not.’’

In this present time of darkness and gloom in which the American people are steeping like a teabag too long in a cup of now tepid water, the economy and culture rests on the edge of a cliff and the 2012 Presidential Election approaches, like a distant candle seen through a fog. There are now nine Republican candidates competing for the GOP nomination, and some Eastern Elite nervous Nelly Establishment types are urging one more Republican politician to enter the race to unseat Barack Obama.

Since 2009 we have watched our Liberty rapidly decline due to the passage of Obamacare and Dodd-Frank. The EPA and the NLRB have declared war on business, spending is out of control and Obama has hinted that he is tempted to bypass Congress altogether.

Enemies, foreign and domestic, are working day and night to weaken our nation while Obama prances about the country blaming its very citizens for its problems. He claims that America has lost its greatness because America is soft.

Soft?

It will take a Republican with incredible courage and backbone to unite the party and the independents behind him (or her) and withstand the barrage of attacks Obama and the media will gleefully inflict upon him. (or her) There will never be another Ronald Reagan but there are candidates who may possibly possess the remarkable personality traits and conservative principles that Reagan will forever be known for. Our Republican nominee will also need to understand (and become an expert on) the times of Abraham Lincoln. We are at a great divide in our nation. Lincoln more than understood that fact in his time and he counted the cost and led the Union without the assistance of pollsters. The United States of America is now on the line. We may never know it again as it once existed if it continues to be led by Barack Obama.

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Will God’s Windows open again? Will they be misinterpreted? Time is short. If we keep gazing up at the stars we could easily go to sleep. We are so close to the edge of the cliff if we begin to dream we might fall off. How far is the fall? Have we already fallen?

31 Aug 2011 12:28 pm

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(The photo comes from a UM Facebook page via Bill Cooke at Random Pixels)

Donna Shalala, who served for eight years as Secretary of Health and Human Services under President Bill Clinton has been President of the University of Miami since 2001.

First, Shalala’s history with powerful men.

Soon after the sex allegations about Clinton’s involvement with White House intern Monica Lewinsky broke, Clinton had a meeting with his cabinet. Afterwards they met the press on the White House lawn.

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Clinton did meet this morning with his Cabinet and afterward, his appointees voiced their support. Secretary of State Madeleine Albright said, “I believe the allegations are completely untrue.” Commerce Secretary William Daley added “I’ll second that. Definitely.” “Third it,” said Health and Human Services Secretary Donna Shalala.
Albright and the other Cabinet members said the president told them “to remain focused on our jobs.”

Shalala’s tenure as President of the University of Miami.

At Miami, Shalala claimed to always be on alert for violations against NCAA rules.

Again, others might not laugh. At Miami, president Donna Shalala personally hires each coach. She studies the NCAA rulebook and weekly compliance reports. During football games, she scours the sidelines for suspicious guests. “I’m on alert all the time,” she says.

Obviously not too alert. The photo below belies Shalala’s claims. She is gazing down at a $50,000 check from Hurricanes booster Nevin Shapiro who is now in jail and has been singing like a bird.

In 100 hours of jailhouse interviews during Yahoo! Sports’ 11-month investigation, Hurricanes booster Nevin Shapiro described a sustained, eight-year run of rampant NCAA rule-breaking, some of it with the knowledge or direct participation of at least seven coaches from the Miami football and basketball programs. At a cost that Shapiro estimates in the millions of dollars, he said his benefits to athletes included but were not limited to cash, prostitutes, entertainment in his multimillion-dollar homes and yacht, paid trips to high-end restaurants and nightclubs, jewelry, bounties for on-field play (including bounties for injuring opposing players), travel and, on one occasion, an abortion.

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As school president, she is involved in the Nevin Shapiro sports recruiting scandal which broke in August 2011. Shapiro, who is convicted of a $930 million Ponzi scheme, allegedly provided cash, goods, prostitutes, and assorted favors to University of Miami football players and even purchased a yacht on which sex parties were held, again including prostitutes. 72 players have been implicated. Included in the case is a photograph of Shalala with Shapiro and Miami basketball coach Frank Haith receiving a $50,000 check from Shapiro in 2008. In an interview with time magazine earlier in August 2011, Shalala is quoted by Time as saying that such depravity “would not have lasted two minutes under me,” and that under her leadership there would be “no tolerance for breaking the rules.” [6] There is currently speculation that the scandal may prompt the NCAA to impose the death penalty on Miami’s famed football program.[7][8]

Guess Shalala’s been “thirding it” all along. She can’t tell those powerful football coaches how to run their teams.

Oh my, according to Wikipedia, Shalala was a friend of Angelo.

In June 2008, Conde Nast Portfolio reported that Shalala allegedly got multiple below-rate loans at Countrywide Financial because the corporation considered her a “FOA’s”–”Friends of Angelo” (Countrywide Chief Executive Angelo Mozilo).

Forbes is calling for Shalala to fall on her sword. It’s really doubtful that she has a sword, being a feminist. I love college football but it’s getting harder to watch, knowing there is so much cheating going on. Allowing and encouraging it via “boosters” and others is sickening. Shalala, in her quest for a big seat at the top either didn’t have a sense of discernment when dealing with Shapiro or any of the coaches or players when she claimed to be so alert. Since she failed at that she should resign.

29 Jul 2011 09:17 pm

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Life before fast food was slower.
 
It sure was a much more meandering pace for our family. For the readers who were not born during the fifties: there were no microwaves, but there were stoves and ovens and ice boxes (refrigerators). Although many women did go to work during and after World War ll, most women were still at home raising children during the early fifties.

  1. They were cooking. Cleaning. Reading cookbooks. Cracking eggs. Chasing their kids around the house outside with a switch when they didn’t behave themselves. (hmm umm)

The food may have even tasted better.
 
I remember taking my own good time at the supper table. I liked to linger and count the peas left on my plate. Make faces at my little sister. The food was pretty simple back then but it was fixed by my Mother who just happened to be one of the best cooks in the world.

Anyway, I thought so. My mother graduated from high school and married my Dad several weeks later. When I came along she was already an accomplished cook because, as she told me, she made straight ‘A’s in Home Economics.

Mother could cook anything without measuring cups or spoons but she always had her high school home economics text book on the kitchen counter which helped her to prepare wholesome, healthy meals. I always liked books even before I could read and I remember poring over the menu section. Mother never cooked duck that I can remember but I used to wonder what it tasted like. In the cookbook were menu suggestions for everyday of the week and for holidays.

I remember one menu for a January dinner:

Avocado Cocktail salad, Duck with Sauerkraut, carrot and celery souffle and Hot Mince Pie with Rum Sauce for dessert.

The only way we ate saurekraut at our house was with weiners. It wasn’t one of my favorite dishes. Being a Baptist family, household rum wasn’t consumed but I often wondered how Mince Meat Pie tasted with Rum sauce. That sounded yummy to me.

Anyway, there were, of course, grocery stores in the fifties. I remember going with my Mother a few times when I was really little but she usually managed to do that chore without us. We had chickens and ducks when we were young and I recall gathering eggs and bringing them in to the kitchen. We had a milkman who would deliver milk in glass bottles. I used to watch in a mixture of horror and awe as my mother cut up a chicken. To this day I cannot do it. I just don’t have the pioneer spirit I suppose.

We were of English/Scotch/Irish stock and when it came to the partaking of meals, we called them: breakfast, dinner and supper. No one had lunch. That was for people who lived in Missouri.

My Dad was a finicky eater so when my Mother strayed from the meat and potatoes route she received scant appreciation. She used her creative passions (and she had a lot of them) on her desserts. Mother made the best date candy, pumpkin, and apple pies, cobblers and cakes.

When the cupboard was bare Mother still managed to whip up magic with the use of a little white cornmeal, sugar, milk and hot water. I was fascinated by an old cookbook Mother inherited from her New England grandfather. I spent many hours thumbing through the cookbook to find exotic receipts such as Turtle Soup and Johnnycakes. Yes, my Mother made the Johnnycakes from the recipes she found in Grandfather Whitmarsh’s cookbook. So, it’s true, a little bit of Yankee cooking was handed down through the family.

We didn’t drink soft drinks or eat potato chips. Mother taught us that vegetables and fruit should reflect the color wheel during our daily meals. She enforced the drinking of milk unfortunately. I always hated milk. The first thing I did when I went away to college was  stop drinking it.

Food was cooked from scratch.
 
There were no mixes, no MSG, no shortcuts in our family’s larder. According to some food writers and experts the time after World War ll brought many modern conveniences to fifties housewives with processed foods such as Cheeze Whiz and frozen products. They tended to be too pricey and lacked nutritional value for my Mother’s uses. Sometimes I would find myself sitting on the front porch swing shucking corn or snapping green beans.

My favorite meal was a dish my Mother called, Arkansas Pie, which was yellow cornbread covered with butter beans, and topped with a slice of onion and a dollop of ketchup.

Along with the Arkansas Pie we had fresh cooked green beans, fried ham, and coleslaw. There were usually tomatoes from the garden. Daddy was a frustrated farmer who always had something growing: kale, asparagus, corn or tomatoes.

Sometimes on the weekends, Mother would make banana pudding which she always served with meringue topping.

  • No, none of us had weight problems. We weren’t couch potatoes, there was no such term back in the fifties. We were active, busy kids, spending most of our time outside.

Oh, but the fifties pressure cooker. It was a big, aluminum pot that scared me something awful when Mother had it going. It hissed and splattered and seemed to always be on the edge of exploding. But Mother operated it like a cool scientist who understood her science. She used the cooker often to cook chicken and other meats. When she finished preparing the chicken the dumplings she made after wards were worth the terror the pressure cooker caused. Mother wouldn’t allow us in the kitchen when the pressure cooker was at work.

It never did blow up on us, although it did explode many times in my imagination.

Another delicious dish Mother made in the pressure cooker was her beef and vegetable stew. Mother put pretty tough slices of beef in the cooker, along with tomatoes, potatoes, carrots, celery and other vegetables and within twenty minutes or so, have a great stew. The meat was tender and tasty and most of us were right on time when called to the table for supper.

Leftover roast beef was made into a special treat by the use of a hand-crank meat grinder that clamped onto the side of a counter. Feeding the ingredients into the little mechanical miracle was some kind of thrill for me and I was always up for helping my mother make the roast beef salad. She added chopped pickles, salt and pepper and mayonnaise. We served it up on Wonder Bread and it was delicious. My siblings liked to have a side of cottage cheese with the roast beef salad sandwich but it made me gag. The sandwich alone was good enough for me.

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Fishing at Silver Bridge

My grandparents were fishermen so we went fishing a lot when we were young. The family’s favorite destination was a place up in the Boston Mountains called Silver Bridge. Most of the fish fries occurred at our grandparents’ house, but I got the feeling my Mother didn’t much care for cooking fish. Still, she made great Salmon croquettes. The salmon fillets came from a can but she managed to make it taste like something special by adding green onions, an egg, bread crumbs (or crackers) and frying it in some vegetable oil.

We were never allowed to eat much popcorn or peanut butter because our family doctor advised against it. He suspected that popcorn and peanut butter might cause appendicitis. Anyway, that’s what Mother told us. After I grew up I made up for that deprivation. I love popcorn.

When t.v. dinners came along they were too expensive for my parents’ budget and my Mother wasn’t convinced that they were nutritious. I remember wanting to try the Mexican t.v. dinners once for my birthday so Mother made an exception for that. There was a little Mexican Tamale place downtown and occasionally our Grandfather would pick up some tamales and bring them over to us. The t.v. dinners didn’t compare to the downtown tamales so I never asked for Mexican t.v. dinners for my birthday again.

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In the fifties people didn’t go out to dinner that often. Sometimes when Mother took us downtown to see our grandparents at their dry-cleaning shop, The Rightway Cleaners, on Garrison Avenue we were treated to dinner at Woolworth’s counter. My sister and I loved their mashed potatoes and brown gravy and rolls, which is what we always ordered.

  • My Mother and Grandmother could always be counted on to go down the block to The Wide Awake Cafe to get a cup of coffee. I hated milk but loved the cream that was served with the coffee and my Grandmother always shared her cream with me. I also loved the red headed waitress who always served us. That was my Aunt Jeanine.

The Fun Guy in the Kitchen
 

  • My Dad never ventured into the kitchen unless our Mother was really sick and the only foods he knew how to make were fried potatoes and pancakes. He’d open up a can of pork and beans and serve it along with the fried potatoes and his children thought he was some kind of cool chef from outer space. He made his pancakes in the shape of animals.

Lucy and the Liver

  • When my Mother fixed liver for supper my sister, Lucy hightailed it over the little foot bridge to our neighbor, Ellen’s house and hid in her room. She couldn’t stand the smell of liver. My Mother would send us out looking for her. We knew where she was but would take our time looking for her because we knew there would be the usual scene at the table. Lucy was really clumsy and spilled her milk at almost every meal. She didn’t do it on purpose either.

Unlike my sister, I liked my Mother’s Liver and Onions. In fact, it had something to do with my romance with my future husband. One of the first times Bob came over to our house my Mother was making Liver and Onions for dinner. I was sort of embarrassed about the humble food she was preparing but Bob’s eyes lit up and he invited himself to eat. Mother had fixed mashed potatoes and gravy, homemade biscuits, the liver and onions, peas, etc. Bob was smitten.

He sat down in the onlooker’s chair. The rest, as they say, is history.

The Onlooker’s Chair
 

  • The Onlooker’s chair was just an extra chair at the dinner table that a neighbor or friend who dropped by unexpectedly was invited to sit down in to have a meal with us. It became the “onlooker’s chair” one day when our friend,Tommy came over.  When we invited him to eat supper with us, he said,”no, I already ate, I’ll just look.”
04 Jul 2011 02:49 pm

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It is America’s 235th Birthday. She deserves more than a cake, a gift and a card.

A parade, fireworks and a barbecue could be meaningful of course but if we go away and forget what this day means tomorrow, shame on us.

Matthew Spalding at The Heritage Foundation explains why we celebrate the 4th of July. Here is just one excerpt:

The ringing phrases of the Declaration of Independence speak to all those who strive for liberty and seek to vindicate the principles of self-government. But it was an aged John Adams who, when he was asked to prepare a statement on the 50th anniversary of the Declaration of Independence, delivered two words that still convey our great hope every Fourth of July: “Independence Forever.”

03 Jul 2011 03:26 am

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My children on some rocks at Fort Monroe years ago.

Boy it was hot today. But it was even hotter yesterday. I went to see my sister about thirty five miles south of me and spent a few hours helping her to inventory art items and when I got back in my car the temperature was 117 degrees. As I was driving home I glanced at the temperature gauge and it was slow to cool. By the time I arrived home the temp had merely cooled to 102 degrees. And I was thirsty. I was so dry I was spitting cotton. Unlike some people, I don’t like heat. Summer is my least favorite season.

An odd thing happened while I was with my sister counting and listing all the art materials. We were in her art room which is in an old stone building and has absolutely no windows. The air conditioner was old and struggling to keep us cool. Around five o’clock I had a feeling that it was raining outside.

I walked over to open the door to take a look and no, it was sunny and hot. A weird feeling. I was wrong. But after I got home I noticed that almost all the lights were out in the house. My husband told me that we had had a power failure for a couple of hours even though there hadn’t been any bad weather, just a little rain.

I checked the weather and discovered that just a few blocks away there had been quite a bit of bad weather, one of those “microbursts” of wind and rain that knocked down a lot of power lines.

So I was glad that the flowers and Alberta Pines had been watered by the rain and that I was home and the electricity had been restored and that, for once, I had missed the lack of it. But I did have to endure the heat inside the car.

We Americans are so spoiled.

I know I am.

I am writing the whiny proof about myself.

Last night ended up being a delight because with our precious electricity we were able to view the Coen Brothers True Grit for the first time. I had resisted all this time because, being a John Wayne fan and a purist for the original True Grit I didn’t think it could be improved upon. But it could and it was.

How do I judge a movie? Not only by how much it affects me while I am watching it but by how much I think about it later. I love how the Coen Brothers captured the dialect/language of the era and region. Much of it, of course, was lifted straight from the Charles Portis book and was in the first True Grit but the dialogue in the Coens’ True Grit was rich and well delivered, developing the characters through the use of it. The original was like reading the New American Standard Bible but the Coen Brothers’ True Grit was like reading the King James Bible. (I much prefer that)

What touched me personally? The Fort Smith where Mattie found Rooster Cogburn still has some people around here who live their lives and speak as uncompromisingly as Mattie Ross. (my grandmother spoke with few contractions)

My favorite scene? Seeing that little girl put on her over-sized hat and get on her ten dollar pony (named Little Blackie) and plunge into the Poteau River to catch up with Rooster and La Boeuf and make it to the other side. Mattie herself had True Grit.

We need more people with True Grit (unyielding courage in the face of danger) We see it everyday in our military, and in heroic people who step up to save people in danger but it is rare to see it in those in the political realm. That is, it is rare to see courage in those who are in elective office.

Some individuals, Sarah Palin and Michelle Bachman, in particular, are courageous in my book. Sarah is still standing after the relentless attacks of the democrat hounds of hell. They are just now starting on Michelle.

Our Founders had the grit to face the British in 1776. They endured many long years before we had what Franklin termed a Republic. If we are to keep it, we have to stop the whining, and stand up and unite behind a conservative who we can trust to stand up and rouse the American people to listen and vote out that sorry outfit in the White House.

It may be still hot outside but we can take the heat.

11 May 2011 08:50 pm

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Our lovely and oh, so cultured First Lady, Michelle Obama held a poetry event at the White House tonight. She invited the Rapper, “Common” to the event. N.J. Cops are outraged.

As well they should have been. The Rapper, Common grew up in the same church Michelle and Barack attended back in Chicago and those Jeremiah Wright chickens were roosting in the White House tonight.

Ten Detroit area students were invited to the event as well as the actor/poet, Steve Martin, and other contemporary poets.

No Cowboy Poets were in attendance. Neither were the poets Robert Frost, Carl Sandburg and Henry Wadsworth Longfellow.

Not even in spirit.

Although the White House claimed that Common was sidelined from the afternoon events, according to Facebook responses of those who watched the White House stream tonight, he was there and performed at the event.

President Obama welcomed the crowd to the White House with arguably the most poetic words he has ever uttered, “Hello, everybody. Please have a seat. Welcome to the White House. I am going to be brief, because on a night like tonight, my job is to get out of the way and let the professionals do their job.”

10 Mar 2010 08:33 am

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Forget the NCAA tournament, the Iditarod, and the Academy Awards, it’s Art Season for me. Three art competitions in recent weeks have had me working day and night to prepare my “players” for their chance to shine.

Why do I do it when most of the Arts establishment discourage competition in art? (and other areas)

Art will take them places.

The art establishment discourages competition in art just as educational elites frown upon any kind of competition in schools. Children are not being encouraged to compete or to strive to achieve in many schools in America, unfortunately.

Talent is the great equalizer; I’ve taught in high socio-economic schools as well as the low socio-economic school where I am teaching presently. I much prefer schools in poor neighborhoods. The children aren’t as distracted by ipods, video games and other prizes of the well off. Many of my students are immigrants and appreciate the education that our school is providing. Many, of course, not all, of the students who I taught who came from richer neighborhoods did not have aspirations to achieve.

When life comes easy, achievements are few.

What does the national art educational establishment consider important? Not achievement, nor excellence but social justice.

The theme of the NAEA 2010 National Art Education Convention is: Art Education and Social Justice

The theme of the 2010 Convention, Art Education and Social Justice, is appropriate to our time. The historic election of President Barack Obama and Supreme Court Justice Sonia Sotomayor reflects our ever shifting demographic. Our nation is truly questioning itself in order to discover and redefine who we are as a nation, what we believe in, and what needs to change.

The White House held a briefing on Art, Community, Social Justice, National Recovery on Tuesday, May 12th, 2009 that was attended by arious representatives of the current administration and more than 60 artists and creative organizers. All gathered were there to not only pledge their support for the arts and community organizing but also to begin a real dialogue on issues of social justice and our nation’s economic and emotional recovery. Joseph Reinstein, Deputy Social Secretary, said, “The administration believes the arts play a critical role beyond art education in saying what a democracy is” (2009, p.5).

It is never a comfortable task to question oneself; there is fear at what we will find. But the arts are used to questioning, probing, and searching. As Maxine Greene writes, “[T]he arts will help disrupt the walls that obscure…spheres of freedom” (1988, p. 133). This year’s Convention seeks to do just that.
–Vanessa Lopez, Roland Park Elementary Middle School, Baltimore, MD
2010 NAEA National Convention Program Coordinator

The National Endowment for the Arts, community organizing and social justice.

Where have I heard this before?

Now I’m back to matting and shrink-wrapping artworks that express students individual and personal thoughts and ideas. No more personal in Obama’s world?

UPDATE:

Here are some artworks by my students:

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26 Apr 2009 12:44 pm

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We had a kettle; we let it leak:
Our not repairing made it worse.
We haven’t had any tea for a week…
The bottom is out of the Universe.
~Rudyard Kipling

Tea should be taken in solitude. ~C.S. Lewis

All true tea lovers not only like their tea strong, but like it a little stronger with each year that passes. ~George Orwell, “A Nice Cup of Tea”

A Proper Tea is much nicer than a Very Nearly Tea, which is one you forget about afterwards. ~A.A. Milne

Spring is always the best season for Tea Parties.

I’ve been out of it for a while, but expect to get back to normal blogging in the next few weeks. Americans need to keep holding stronger and more demanding tea parties. It’s true that tea is good for solitude but our nation needs to keep drinking some strong, coffee and do what we have always traditionally done with tea.

Sissy Willis expresses her thoughts on why she is a tea party woman. Hear her Roar!

And, yes, woman need to take up the cause in honor of great women like Abigail Adams.

Forget Oprah. Abby has always been where it’s at.

14 Mar 2009 01:38 pm

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We almost lost the yellow house with the bad perspective a week ago last Thursday.

I was out, and had an art substitute who was teaching for me in the “new” artroom which is inside the school. The elementary school has been undergoing a big renovation in the past two years. Many new classrooms, new offices and a lovely new cafeteria with a large stage have been added. The old auditorium has been divided into two parts and I have the largest part and the music teacher will have the part with the stage.

The reason why I was not at school a week ago last Thursday is because my daughter-in-law and son were experiencing the birth of their first daughter, (and my husband and my first granddaughter) Marlee Michelle, who weighed in at 8lbs, 1oz.

It was a joyful and most wonderful day.

Not so at my dear elementary school, which is the school that I went to as a child and the school I love and want to help. When I went to school there as a little girl there was no integration. The school was all white. There were no art, music or P.E. teachers. The classroom teachers taught everything. There was no air conditioning, we had windows around every room. We had prayer in school, a Jewish boy read the story of Luke when we performed the Christmas program. We were allowed to walk home for lunch and walk back to school afterwards. If we were in trouble with our teacher we were in trouble with our parents. My teachers encouraged me to write, draw, and create scenery for plays which we performed ofen. We ran track and were always the number one school in town for track meets.

The demographics at my old school have changed radically but the school is still beloved to me. The students are still the same at heart. They are like I was, with the same hopes and dreams and I am there to help them succeed at them. That is my personal goal for my school and so many of my fellow teachers feel the same way. I’ve heard my principal say often that our school has the hardest working teachers in our school district and I agree. I see them in action and I know that to be true. No one can count public education out when you walk through the school where I teach art.

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I taught in this sunny mobile art room for the last three years.

Our grand Open House is coming up soon and everyone has been scrambling to get moved into their new classrooms. The moment the classroom teacher moved out of her temporary digs which was the half of the old auditorium into her new classroom I asked the principal for permission to move into the school from my mobile classroom outside. It was a wonderful place to teach for three years but truth be told, much too small and always worrisome when the children needed to go to the bathroom. I had to stand at the door to watch them go into the school and send another child along with my key to get inside the door to the school and hope the child didn’t drop it along the way, especially in the bathroom.

But I had lots of art in the room and I hung the yellow house chalk drawing along one wall and had glorious art prints along all the other walls and I made art history bulletin boards featuring wonderful artists who helped to make our world a more creative place to live. All around the room were the names of the great artists that I wanted the students to remember done in good calligraphy.

I am a neat-freak so I always had things where I wanted and that worked out well in such a small room. I only had one small bookshelf so I had to keep my books moving on a revolving basis and when the principal gave me permission to start to move in the big auditorium half the first thing I took with me were my personal artbooks. (too bad I wasn’t able to move the bookshelf)

Since most of the first grade, second grade and kindergarten teachers were also moving their rooms with only the help of the two school custodians I knew I was more or less on my own so during every school break I was heading back and forth to the old room, grabbing art supplies and paper, some art prints and miscellaneous.

All that had been left in the old auditorium was a tiny old oak desk, five small rectangular tables, and chairs. I had talked the principal into giving me the old teacher mail boxes since we now had a new office and it included a new mail center so when he said yes, I could have it, I was elated. It works well as a place to keep all my classes work and has cabinets below I can use for storage which is a good thing, considering what happened on that fateful Thursday a week ago.

While I was out rejoicing over the birth of my granddaughter, a big truck pulled up behind the school, and stopped in front of my old art room. In to it walked a bunch of men who began to carry out my art cabinet, desk, file cabinet, (full of art history videos) and everything else in the room. Our school custodian saw what was happening and asked them if they had been in contact with the principal and the head man said no, but he had been ordered by the official in charge of buildings and grounds to get the mobile building ready to be moved away so the school would be ready for the Open House on March 15th.

Our custodian informed them that the teacher hadn’t completely moved out of the room and needed the items so they needed to stop and leave the room alone until it could be emptied. But they didn’t stop. The custodian started to move things that he knew I would need such as the rolling art text book cabinet out of the room. One of the fifth grade teachers also saw what was happening and organized her students to get in the room and save the art prints, the art supplies, the white board, the yellow house chalk drawing, The Mona Lisa wall hanging, and many other important art items. The students hand carried all of the art text books (2nd grade - 6th grade) from the old art mobile building into the new room.

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A lot of happy art happened in this room.

All this chaos was happening while the art substitute was teaching the students. She told the fifth graders where to put the saved items and luckily there was plenty of room for them at the end of the very large room. My computer was saved. That was a lucky thing as I had just recently gotten it and hadn’t even been able to install it yet. After five years as an art teacher I had been able to finally scrounge up a used computer and almost lost it.

The next morning, a Friday morning, as I was pulling into the parking lot, I noticed that the mobile building no longer had it’s steps. As I got out of the car and walked towards the school, I saw that the doors were open and the building looked empty. My heart started beating harder as I walked over to the building and looked inside. It was completely empty.

As I walked into my art class inside the building I saw a pile of items inside the room. I sighed a breath of relief when I saw my big black art cabinet sitting in the middle of the room. I looked for my desk and file cabinet and book shelf and art cart and other items but they weren’t there. They had been carried off and stored in a warehouse. Will I get them back? I have been told that I will. I won’t hold my breath.

I returned to the pile and began sorting through. On the table at the end of the room was the Yellow House chalk drawing folded neatly (it’s just made from butcher paper) and it had no damage done to it. I found the Mona Lisa wall hanging and my computer later on that day on the stage in the music room.

I know I can count myself very fortunate to have finally found myself included (along with my fellow music teacher) in a school which honors its art and music. We have a place now, not in closets, not on carts but in rooms of our own. We are also blessed with a fifth grade teacher who has always honored our efforts at our school (along with many other teachers) and in my opinion she elevated her students and taught them what a good deed really is. They did a lot of hard work by saving all the Van Gogh, Monet, Rembrandt, and O’Keeffe prints (and many others) oil pastels, water colors, paper.

In a very small way the fifth grade students were re-enacting a race that took place during World War ll when the Nazis were destroying and stealing the great art in Europe. No, there were no stormtroopers rampaging through the parking lot at our school but the entire contents of the artroom would have been taken had the men not been stopped. At the very least, the students, their teacher and the custodian stopped a bureaucrat’s wasteful destruction.

The film about rescued art of WWII, The Rape of Europa, tells the story in documentary form about the heroic acts of individuals to save the art of our past, our art lineage, from defilement and destruction by the Nazis. I am going to try to find this film to view it. I hope it is being shown in high schools. For some reason, I am not extremely optimistic that it is, although it ought to be.

“The Rape of Europa” (based on the eponymous book by Lynn Nicholas) is a film that needs to be seen by every high school student, college student, history teacher, history buff, art teacher and museumgoer worldwide. It is not about the famous allegorical painting by Titian (1487-1576); it’s a riveting documentary about the theft, destruction and miraculous survival of many of Europe’s artistic and architectural treasures during World War II. “Europa,” by Richard Berge, Bonnie Cohen and Nicole Newham, elicits a visceral weeping for what could have become a total holocaust for Europe’s art and for its national treasures. The film details the race against the Nazi-programmed destruction and theft — mitigated by acts of heroism, sacrifice and determination — that underscores one of the film’s truisms:
“Art is what makes us human.”

25 Feb 2009 01:58 pm

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Tilles Park back in the day

When I was a child, my brothers, sister and I spent a great deal of time at Tilles Park, a park about six blocks away from our home. Our parents took us to play on the swings, and the slides and to swim in the “wading pool.” We brought our pets to Tilles Park for the Pet Competitions. Our cats, our dog, Cookie, our horse, Scout and even our turtle, Squeaky came home with ribbons. Our parents entered us in the summer park competitions. I won Miss Tilles Park one summer. My sister outdid me, winning Miss Tilles Park and going on to win the all city competition, Miss City Park.

Tilles Park was a fun and safe park back then. We had picnics there. We loved climbing on the big cannon. We went to Easter Egg Hunts and had fun looking at the unique rock formed Japanese architecture. Back in 1978 when I was asked to illustrate a calender for the Fort Smith Junior League I included Tilles Park for one of my months.

The park lost its place as a safe and fun family destination in the sixties when the culture started to destruct. Hippies took over the park with their drugs. Later, the younger brothers and sisters of the hippies moved in, then came the gangs and meth users and not long after homosexuals started to meet each other in the park. Today the neighborhoods surrounding the park are rundown and most are rentals, not single family homes.

Parents don’t let their children go to the park to play anymore so why in the world would they take their handicapped children to the park?

Of all the parks in our city why in the world are there plans to put in a 40,000 dollar playground for physically challenged children at Tilles Park? Who asked for this money? Why is it part of the stimulus?

The school where I teach art just had a big renovation, adding a new cafeteria and lots of new classrooms. What pitiful playground equipment there was had to be taken out to make room for construction. The parents were naturally outraged and started a fundraiser but so far have only raised five thousand dollars.

That only takes care of one piece of playground equipment. That stuff costs big bucks anymore. When I was a child the only thing we had on our “playground” were swings and the old seesaws. I used to love it when the kid on the other end of the seesaw jumped off and I landed with a big bump. I don’t know why, but I did. The arbiters of the political correct don’t allow that type of childrens’ playground equipment anymore, along with the harsh play ground games like Dodge Ball. (which I loved) Gone from our city parks are the merry go rounds where kids could sit on a round bench and push each other round and round, getting dizzy. (as portrayed in the drawing above) That equipment was taken out. In its place are a bunch of individual spring riders which aren’t very satisfying to the little ones.

Most of the kids at our school would really enjoy the $40,000 playground that is going to be put in at a park a few blocks away that will be trashed almost as soon as it is put in.

Talk about a waste of money.

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