Ladies & Gentlemen of A.D. 2088:
It has been suggested that you might welcome words of wisdom from the past, and that several of us in the twentieth century should send you some. Do you know this advice from Polonius in Shakespeare's Hamlet: 'This above all: to thine own self be true'? Or what about these instructions from St. John the Divine: 'Fear God, and give glory to Him; for the hour of His judgment has come'? The best advice from my own era for you or for just about anybody anytime, I guess, is a prayer first used by alcoholics who hoped to never take a drink again: 'God grant me the serenity to accept the things I cannot change, courage to change the things I can, and wisdom to know the difference.'
Our century hasn't been as free with words of wisdom as some others, I think, because we were the first to get reliable information about the human situation: how many of us there were, how much food we could raise or gather, how fast we were reproducing, what made us sick, what made us die, how much damage we were doing to the air and water and topsoil on which most life forms depended, how violent and heartless nature can be, and on and on. Who could wax wise with so much bad news pouring in?
For me, the most paralyzing news was that Nature was no conservationist. It needed no help from us in taking the planet apart and putting it back together some different way, not necessarily improving it from the viewpoint of living things. It set fire to forests with lightning bolts. It paved vast tracts of arable land with lava, which could no more support life than big-city parking lots. It had in the past sent glaciers down from the North Pole to grind up major portions of Asia, Europe, and North America. Nor was there any reason to think that it wouldn't do that again someday. At this very moment it is turning African farms to deserts, and can be expected to heave up tidal waves or shower down white-hot boulders from outer space at any time. It has not only exterminated exquisitely evolved species in a twinkling, but drained oceans and drowned continents as well. If people think Nature is their friend, then they sure don't need an enemy.
Yes, and as you people a hundred years from now must know full well, and as your grandchildren will know even better: Nature is ruthless when it comes to matching the quantity of life in any given place at any given time to the quantity of nourishment available. So what have you and Nature done about overpopulation? Back here in 1988, we were seeing ourselves as a new sort of glacier, warm-blooded and clever, unstoppable, about to gobble up everything and then make love—and then double in size again.
On second thought, I am not sure I could bear to hear what you and Nature may have done about too many people for too small a food supply.
And here is a crazy idea I would like to try on you: Is it possible that we aimed rockets with hydrogen bomb warheads at each other, all set to go, in order to take our minds off the deeper problem—how cruelly Nature can be expected to treat us, Nature being Nature, in the by-and-by?
Now that we can discuss the mess we are in with some precision, I hope you have stopped choosing abysmally ignorant optimists for positions of leadership. They were useful only so long as nobody had a clue as to what was really going on—during the past seven million years or so. In my time they have been catastrophic as heads of sophisticated institutions with real work to do.
The sort of leaders we need now are not those who promise ultimate victory over Nature through perseverance in living as we do right now, but those with the courage and intelligence to present to the world what appears to be Nature's stern but reasonable surrender terms:
Am I too pessimistic about life a hundred years from now? Maybe I have spent too much time with scientists and not enough time with speechwriters for politicians. For all I know, even bag ladies and bag gentlemen will have their own personal helicopters or rocket belts in A.D. 2088. Nobody will have to leave home to go to work or school, or even stop watching television. Everybody will sit around all day punching the keys of computer terminals connected to everything there is, and sip orange drink through straws like the astronauts.
- Reduce and stabilize your population.
- Stop poisoning the air, the water, and the topsoil.
- Stop preparing for war and start dealing with your real problems.
- Teach your kids, and yourselves, too, while you're at it, how to inhabit a small planet without helping to kill it.
- Stop thinking science can fix anything if you give it a trillion dollars.
- Stop thinking your grandchildren will be OK no matter how wasteful or destructive you may be, since they can go to a nice new planet on a spaceship. That is really mean, and stupid.
- And so on. Or else.
Tuesday, October 14, 2014
Saturday, October 11, 2014
Tuesday, October 7, 2014
Sunday, October 5, 2014
Friday, October 3, 2014
Winnogrand rose to fame for capturing the American Life in the early to mid sixties, shooting the Bronx Zoo and Coney Island, the people on the streets of New York and forays into the South and the West of the country. People in everyday life were the subjects and his photographs are a beautiful reminder of an America that was struggling to find itself.
His photos are down and dirty, plying the murky waters of the depths, searching for that spark in the dark.
Poor Iraq! I feel so horribly sad for the people of Iraq, they have had war, bombings, civil war since the early 1980s, how much more can these poor people take?
Tuesday, September 23, 2014
In New York City
New for him and new for me
I had never before taken the subway with a baby
or more importantly, a stroller
He seemed to like the place
and they all seemed to like him
they smiled and cooed at him as he passed
like a celebrity
at least that is what it felt like
they couldn't resist smiling at him
like a fan couldn't resist an autograph
His eyes were full of sight and his ears of sound
the honking horns and the vendors and the traffic
a symphony a cacophony a treasury
of sound a music to the ears
In all honesty, I am sure he did not know the difference between the subway in Manhattan and the Canada Line Skytrain back home in Vancouver but I like to think he was like, "this subway ridin' is the shit, Dad", or "this is the shit, this whole subway thing."
He won't remember being there, but we remember him being there.
He fit right in.
Monday, September 22, 2014
I once was stopped at the U.S. Border and reprimanded for bringing my art across without the proper documentation. I mean, here I was, some schmuck, taking his art down to Seattle to show in some shitty little gallery and I was stuck at the border because I didn't have the right documentation to bring the paintings that I had painted, back into my own country. I was supposed to have a little receipt that the U.S. border guards had given me 3 months prior, when I had taken the paintings down there. I had forgot the receipt and that presented a real problem. Undocumented art. you cannot just have art out there, floating around, without the proper paperwork to go with it. Oh, Canada...
the rain falls on the roof loudly and makes it impossible to hear
the radio is all we have and yet nothing
the new now is the new normal and we don't want it
the filtered songs and air flow freely
all the birds are locked up with the sunshine
the flowers and the opinions seem to find enough light to grow, though
it is all a show put on by us for us
we all want to see it and then we turn away when we don't agree with it
or at least we pretend to
all the headlines in the world could never get my point across
like a fog that never lifts, I show up again
at the perfect time to make everyone uncomfortable, yet loveable
at the same time
it could be St Valentines every day
if I had my say
It would be flowers every day
in a heart shaped box