This week (7/17) the New York Times displayed a seven-day map of the United States with hot spots where temperatures were far above “normal” temperatures for the summer. It’s clear that there’s no normal left anywhere in the world. Antarctica is warmer than ever before, fires are raging in France and Spain, record-breaking heat struck Britain, and temperatures across Africa and Asia are killing people at a greater rate than ever before. We were warned that this would happen, so it shouldn’t be a surprise to anyone who reads the news at least once a year.
50% of the U.S. Senate refuses to take extreme action. Lindsey Graham argues that before we do anything that might harm the US fossil fuel industry we should pressure China. We’re all sinking in a leaky life raft and he’s complaining that he shouldn’t have to be the first to start bailing.
Here’s a cartoon I made a few weeks ago to illustrate the overwhelming feeling I get reading the news these days.
It has been a busy year. I say that with a weary shrug as a number of my speculative writing projects have been stymied at various stages. So, I’m posting some artwork here, most of it puppetry or animation. These are things I’ve done in the after hours, when I needed to blow off steam. I beg your forgiveness for their homemade quality, hoping it’ll pass for charm!
These animations were done with the Procreate program on an Apple iPad.
In March I was seized with a righteous panic about the terrifying climate crisis. So, I built a street puppet for a youth climate demonstration march across the Brooklyn Bridge. You can see the design below, and the final result, with me grinning like an idiot in the back yard because I didn’t know what was to come. When I carried the 10 foot tree puppet across the Brooklyn Bridge I almost lost it to the fierce wind blowing across the span. After a painful struggle, I backed up and took shelter by one of the towers and dismantled it, then walked it across the rest of the bridge and set it up again for the rest of the march to Foley Square. Lesson learned, a 10′ puppet is too high for crossing the windy East River!
Here are a few landscapes of Prospect Park in Brooklyn, and Blue Hill, Maine.
I’ve been busy trying to clear up a few loose ends. Here are a few pictures I’ve painted lately.
Music led me to some interesting places in the mid-70s. During my summers in high school I had a job mowing lawns, and whenever I got paid, I would rush over to the Princeton University Store and get a record and a copy of Rolling Stone Magazine. One day I came across a review of Lou Reed’s Rock’n’Roll Animal. After I bought that record, I chased down everything to do with Lou Reed and The Velvet Underground. Reed had written a song about Delmore Schwartz, one of his college professors. I found Schwartz’s short story, In Dreams Begin Responsibilities, and I was blown away by its poignancy. If any story could convince me to become a writer, IDBR was probably the one.
Lou Reed once described his songwriting style as an effort to write rock and roll songs in the style of William Burroughs. That is probably a very poor description of what he said, but the idea behind made a lot of sense to me. So, here he is, the lunatic himself!
Breathed a big sigh of relief this morning when our fearless leader stepped aboard Air Force One for the last time. Speaking only for myself, this man’s tweets for the last four years have been like having an eternal chain saw revving in the back of the house. At first you think you can tune it out, but the noise continues to rise and fall, worming its way into your cortex until you can think of nothing but how to get away from it.
It wasn’t just the unpleasant tweets, it was their malice, their relentless repetition, and the dull stupidity of their messages that bored into my skull to the point that I scanned the news every morning for a signal that it would end. Like counting the minutes until my root canal was over.
Somebody was running a chainsaw in our back yard for five hours last week while I was trying to write. Eventually I resorted to hiding in the boiler room of my home—the most oppressive, bleak and dimly-lit room—simply because it was the quietest. So many of us were already house-bound and isolated from the Covid-19 pandemic. He gave us no relief.
In his last week of disgrace, after the January 6th attack on the Capitol, it became clear that this man was more in love with being President than doing the job. He retreated to stew about his electoral defeat, shunned even by his abettors in Congress, unable to tweet, unwilling to work.
It would make a great play or opera except for the necessity that the protagonist experiences a moment of self-realization in the last act. Every fictional despot has one. Not this guy.
I predict that he will be forgotten quickly. Less so, his damage to the democracy. His coddling of white supremacists. His lies. Congress will try to pass barriers to some of the things he did, but the embers of hatred are here, and unless we’re vigilant, someone else will fan them.
I’m trying to finish a new children’s book. This one’s about rats. But more on that, later. Here are some new paintings:
I’ve been painting lately. It’s nice do something creative and get an instant result. Writing a book takes me a very long time.
Almost two weeks ago, we were walking down the street when a woman shrieked loudly from the window of a nearby brownstone in our Brooklyn neighborhood. My wife told me to check the news, convinced that something important had happened. People began applauding on the sidewalks, yelling, cheering, and passing cars began honking frantically. I checked my phone. The New York Times had announced that Biden was declared President by the Associated Press. It wasn’t just in Brooklyn. Joyful celebration had broken out in cities all over the country. Biden not only won the popular vote by 5 million, he had gathered enough electoral votes in Pennsylvania to render Trump the loser. A massive street party erupted around the arch at Brooklyn’s Grand Army Plaza. There were people cheering, dancing, musicians on drums and brass instruments, and the giddy communal joy you only see among strangers relieved of a shared burden. It felt as if a war was over.
Except that it wasn’t.
Although Biden’s win was confirmed by state ballot officials in all fifty states, our fearless leader refuses to acknowledge it. Donald Trump was brooding in the White House, refusing to concede, insisting by tweet that he won and hellbent on exerting his influence to turn reality in his favor. When he tried to claim victory at a White House press conference, the networks switched him off. His statements were incorrect, mistaken, and downright lies. He knew better and all sentient beings around him knew it, too. Well . . . perhaps that term, sentient, requires qualification. The majority of Republican lawmakers in DC didn’t acknowledge Biden’s win, and many of Trump’s supporters appear to believe that he won, too.
The effort by our liar-in-chief to make facts—especially the hard facts of a ballot count—ethereal and inconclusive has been a success at least among his ardent supporters and the enablers riding his coattails (that’s you, Mitch McConnell). Again, his toxic influence over the country for the last four years has attempted to destroy another pillar of democracy: the election.
Since that day, the newspapers and other news outlets report that President-elect Biden has been putting together his staff-members, and assembling initiatives to deal with the Coronavirus crisis, which, as of today, has killed at least a quarter of a million Americans (today it killed 1900 Americans in 24 hours). Two different vaccines have been developed, and the Biden administration wants to prepare for their distribution, but there’s an obstacle. The Trump administration will not concede that he has lost and refuses to let Biden’s team begin the transition by gaining access to vital information about Covid vaccination policies and protocols. You would think saving American lives would be important to the pro-life President, but apparently not.
What can be done when a President goes into hiding from the truth (and from his job), as this one has? Who can tell him to do his job and stop sulking? Aside from a few trips to play golf, Trump has occupied his time doing little but settling a few scores by firing people who disagreed with him. For a man who thrives on being seen in public appearances, the ‘daylight’ that the election delivered appears to be as toxic to him as it would be to a vampire. It has been suggested that he put on his “big boy pants” and concede, but what we have on our hands is a President who would rather litigate when the truth comes at him from fifty directions. So, that’s what he’s doing.
By the time these vaccines begin to reach the general public, it will likely be the spring of 2021, which means that Donald Trump’s unwillingness to deal with Covid-19 like a leader who heeds science and the advice of experienced professionals has cost every single American a year out of her or his life. A year of panic. A year of lost loved ones. A year of missed school and lost childhood and estrangement from friends, security, worry, economic crisis and cultural stagnation.
And now he refuses to leave.
First day back on the subway train, and oh, boy! Never saw such a clean train before, and never felt so nervous as the train car got crowded, which it did around 4:45 on a Tuesday afternoon.
This is the new subway. Everybody wearing a mask. Well . . . sort of. There was a dude at the end of the car with his nose hanging over the top of his mask. There’s always somebody like that. Usually a man. Filled with the conviction that he’s performing a public service by keeping his mouth covered while his nose can breathe free. Perhaps he’s only breathing in? Perhaps he’s mastered a technique I crafted as a kid when I had a nosebleed—to breath in through my nose and out through my mouth.