Winter Solstice

For those of us on the northern hemisphere of our temporary little home in the universe, this year, by the Gregorian calendar, winter solstice will arrive at

2010     21     11:28     21     23:38

Those of us residing at more northern latitudes will note it more, as the days shorten, or for friends in Norway or northern Canada, simply cease to be for a while.   It seems our kind has long tracked this local astrophysical reality, and through many cultures, have established celebratory occasions to mark it.

Amaterasu , Japan

Of course, those on the other half of our hemisphere will be enjoying the longest day of summer.  And those near the equatorial belt will hardly notice a thing, their days staying half and half, almost the same all through the year.

Where ever you are, whatever latitude or longitude, here’s to another spin around our little sun.  Happy travels!

In the depth of winter, I finally learned that within me there lay an invincible summer.

Albert Camus (1913 – 1960)

Feliz Natal, Clarinha

[A little further note: in N. America there will be a visible lunar eclipse for those with clear skies to see it.]

Sicilian Suites (1)

In a small church in Modica, Sicily, I came across this work of what I would think qualifies as folk art.  There was no information, and I assume it is an unheralded example of anonymously made religious handicraft, which by the handles on its side seems to suggest it is likely taken out during celebrations, during Easter.   Lacking all academic instinct I did not inquire, or even note the name of the church (or town).  Instead I marveled at its lively, cinema-like orchestration; the vivid characterizations (clearly out of keeping with present “politically correct” views).  And I took many pictures.

Nearby, another work, clearly done by similar hands, revealed a truly moving sense of pathos and defeat.

While scarcely the equal of “fine” art – Donatello, Bernini, Michelangelo – there is something in the crude and primitive qualities of this tableaux which cuts deeper in an emotional sense.   This Christ is far more believable to me than those of Michelangelo’s wet-dreams, such as that in the Chiesa di Santa Maria sopra Minerva in Rome.

[If anyone reading this can identify the church in which this work is located, I’d much appreciate knowing.  I think it is in Modica, and if I were there I think I could readily walk right to it but a Google map doesn’t seem to get me there.]

American Pastoral #14

Tea Party Express, NevadaVoting, Lexington, MissouriClosed manufacturing plant, MichiganHouse stripped by brick thieves, St Louis, Mo.

Buffalo, New YorkMiami, James EgglestonBasel/Miami Art showPavement plays Williamsburg, Brooklyn Ocean Park #117, Richard Diebenkorn (sold for 6 million, 2009)
Chicago Stock Exchange (destroyed), detail, Louis SullivanAspens, ColoradoMountain top Massey coal mine, West VirginiaPentagonKentileInmate processing centerJasper Johns, NumbersFBI file of John Lennon’s fingerprintsMohamed Osman Mohamud, 19 year old American “terrorist”New Mexica, Mexico borderWalker Evans, “Damaged”Norman Rockwell, Rosie the RiveterGeneral Petreaus slumps at Congressional hearingGas line infrastructure explosion, San FranciscoDeer in the headlightsUnemployment office, San Diego

As winter solstice approaches, America seems sinking ever deeper into a season of discontent.  The election over, the victorious Republicans and their Tea Party adjunct promise to bring the government to a halt if they don’t get their way all the time.  First in line is continuation of the Bush tax cuts for America’s richest few, and if that is not offered as alms by Obama, then no extensions of unemployment for the millions now jobless.  Obama, following his pattern of the last two years shows every sign of capitulating on this one.  He’ll say it’s a compromise and he’s reaching across the aisle, but he’s just getting the shit kicked out of himself.  Official unemployment hovers near 10% while the un-fudged real one is closer to 20%.

Far away in Afghanistan the war grinds on, gobbling up billions of dollars a month, while America’s infrastructure steadily collapses.  Despite the revelations of the Wikileak State Department cables, bluntly out-lining the massive corruption of our “allies” there and in Pakistan, we’ll continue painting a face on Obama’s chosen good-war pig.  Afterall, it is not only our allies who are wallowing in riches, it’s our own military-industrial-complex, and our privatized mercenaries and suppliers also feeding at the trough.  In America this lop-sided arrangement expresses itself in a Federal Budget which finds half of the national spending to be for an increasingly over-stretched imperial force, while calls are made to make deep cuts in programs for education, medical care and Social Security.  The military budget remains sacrosanct, even if we spend 5 times the rest of the world on armaments, and we’ve contrived to have only a small small percentage actually serve.

Out on the 24/7 political circus of pundits, opinion page scribes, talking heads, and bloggers, the air is shrill with accusations of treason, and we are treated to the spectacle of the truly unserious being accepted as potential presidential timber.  The timbre has descended to the level of reality TV shows and the likes of American Idol, where a roll of the dice might come up snake-eyes and you still get the prize.  De Tocqueville foresaw this some century and a half ago, predicting that our egalitarianism would drive us towards the lowest common denominator and in due time we’d elect an idiot for President.  We have done that already, and apparently are trying to scrape lower next time around.  Meanwhile our present President, while clearly intelligent, seems to lack some essential capacity to act as a leader, and appears to be led around by a hidden force of military-industrial-media-complex handlers who make sure he behaves just like a run-of-the-mill corporate Republican.  In two fast years he’s hugely disappointed most of his base of American “liberals” and been raw-meat for the hysteric Right.  And instead of responding in any meaningful manner he’s put on his best Rodney King imitation while being pummeled into the ground.

And so we exit the first decade of the new millennium, traumatized and scarred, the Neo-con dream of another “American Century” crucified on the realities of their own 8 years of hubristic practice, and instead of a triumphant America uber alles, we are an America in a surprised and hasty retreat, with all the bad elements of an empire in terminal decline – wealth concentrated to a sliver, the hoi polloi drunk on trivia and decadence, gone fat and stupid, as the ship of state swirls wildly in the foamy white water of the blind practice of the Free Market Economy which has stripped the country of its productive means in the name of fiscal profit for the controlling few.  Caligula is waiting in the wings with his horse.

Joseph Cornell, American Rabbit