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Sunday, May 30, 2010

The Sea-Horse Under the Moon

(click the picture to see it full sized)

Friday, May 28, 2010

Tom Waits: Singing for the Least of These - My TruthVoice Presentation

The music of Tom Waits is definitely an acquired taste. He won’t be appreciated by everyone. He is eccentric. His music is hard to define, difficult to pigeon hole. It’s not quite rock, not folk, not country. It’s jazz, or maybe it isn’t. It’s almost a burlesque when it’s not a waltz or a tango. It’s a “Cemetery Polka” . It’s a gypsy song with a gospel choir at the state fair or a field holler sung by a prison gang along a Texas highway. Alongside traditional instruments like the guitar, piano, and drums you’re likely to hear accordions, horns, clanking chains, wheezing calliopes, and hurdy-gurdies. Tom Waits doesn’t easily fit into any one category.

And that voice… He will never be described as a “good” singer. He would never have made it as an “American Idol” contestant. No. He sounds as if his voice has been pickled in brine for six month, then taken out and beaten with a meat tenderizer before being run over by the car. I’d like to be able to sing like him, but I don’t want to gargle with razor blades, and whisky and shards of broken glass.

But it’s amazing what he can do with that voice. I am continually surprised by the range of emotions that he can conjure through those vocal cords. He can growl and he can croon. He can in one track shout and scream and howl like the dogs of war and in the very next deliver such a tender and affectionate ballad as to make heaven weep - and both with that same gravel throated voice.

“Half of me” he says of himself, “I feel like a jackhammer. I love to holler and stomp my feet and throw rocks. But there’s another side of me that’s like an old man in the corner that’s had too much wine. I’m probably too sentimental for my own good sometimes.”

Though he has never developed a huge following, you are probably more aware of him than you realize.  In addition to his career as a musician, Tom Waits has also appeared in a number of movies, including a couple of my favorites: Bram Stoker’s Dracula directed by Francis Ford Coppola , (he played the lunatic, Renfield) and Mystery Men alongside Ben Stiller and William H. Macy (He played Dr. Heller – an inventor specializing in non-lethal weapons like the “Blame Thrower” and “the Canned Tornado.” He has a role in the recent film, The Book of Eli. You probably know the Rod Stewart song Downtown Train – Tom Waits wrote that, not Stewart.

And here is the portion of my talk where I would introduce the biographical information of my subject. I would tell you that Tom Waits was born on such and such a date in this or that city in that state. But those kind of details seem – at the least – irrelevant to the person, or rather, the persona under discussion . Instead I’ll relate a few of the things he’s shared about his life, and I’ll let you determine how factual, or true (and the two are not always the same) they might be.

“My father was an exhaust manifold and my mother was a tree.”
“I was born in the backseat of a Yellow Cab in a hospital loading zone and with the meter still running. I emerged needing a shave and shouted, ‘Times Square and step on it!’”
“I live at Bedlam and Squalor. It’s that way.” (point both directions)
“I didn’t just marry a beautiful woman. I married a record collection.”
“Let me fall out the window
with confetti in my hair,
deal out jacks or better
on a blanket by the stairs,
I’ll tell you all my secrets
but I lie about my past.
So send me off to bed forever more."
(Tango 'til They're Sore)

Tom Waits’ music is populated by all manner of unsavory characters: Tramps, vagabonds, hookers, criminals, strippers, arsonists, sewer-dwelling drunks, dwarves, and circus freaks. He sings of sailors on shore leave, and farmers staring out over their fields. His songs are about mechanics, run-down middle aged business men, and lonely housewives with ugly dogs. He sings of soldiers, home from the war and widowed soldier’s brides. While the rest of the entertainment industry may be celebrating the famous, the rich and the well dressed parading down the red-carpet, Tom Waits is singing of the poor and humble and the unknown. Tom Waits sings for the very least of these… and in doing so, I believe, he sings for God.

“…I tell you the truth, whatever you have done for one of the least of these brothers of mine, you did for me.” Matthew 25: 40

These then – the mentally ill, the tired, and the broken-down, the many varied and strange characters who inhabit his songs – these are the least of these, my brothers, the ones Jesus spoke about, and the ones Jesus came to serve. Jesus came, not for the healthy and wealthy, but for the sick and the poor. He left the ninety and nine who were safe and secure and went searching for that one that had wandered away and was lost.

He came for the woman in Tom Waits’ song: A Christmas Card from a Hooker in Minneapolis .

She’s the reason for the season, she and others like her who need the love and comfort that the savior of men offers. He came for broken, hopeless people on the precipice of despair. He came for those who look around at the world and who are afraid that maybe this is all there is.

DIRT IN THE GROUND

What does it matter, a dream of love
Or a dream of lies
we’re all going to be the same place when we die
Your spirit don’t leave knowing
your face or your name
and the wind through your bones
Is all that remains
And we’re all going to be
just dirt in the ground.

It doesn’t sound like scripture. But then again, maybe it does.  The last verse of that song says:

Now Cain slew Abel
He killed him with a stone
the sky cracked open
and the thunder groaned
along a river of flesh
can these dry bones live?
Ask a king or a beggar
and the answer they’ll give
is we’re all going to be
yea, yea
we’re all going to be just
dirt in the ground.

Tom could just as well be singing the words of Qoheleth, the Teacher:
“So I reflected on all this and concluded that the righteous and the wise and what they do are in God’s hands, but no man knows whether love or hate awaits him. All share a common destiny – the righteous and the wicked, the good and the bad, the clean and the unclean, those who offer sacrifices and those who do not.


This is the evil in everything that happens under the sun: The same destiny overtakes all.” Ecclesiastes 9: 1 – 2a, 3a

This is the evil in everything under the sun: the same destiny overtakes us all. Yeah, yeah. We’re all going to be just dirt in the ground. Can these dry bones live? Only you know, God, but God, I hope so. It seems that even though Tom sings a hopeless Ecclesiastes kind of song, even he believes that there is a glimmer of hope. Though often gloomy and on the verge of despair, his songs retain a hope, a light, a premonition that the future won’t be as bleak as the present may be.

A LITTLE RAIN

The Ice Man’s mule is parked outside the bar
where a man with missing fingers plays a strange guitar
and the German dwarf dances with the butcher’s son.
And a little rain never hurt no one.
And a little rain never hurt no one.

They’re dancing on the roof and the ceiling’s coming down
I sleep with my shovel and my leather gloves
A little trouble makes it worth the going
and a little rain never hurt no one.


The world is round and I’ll go around
you must risk something that matters
my hands are strong, I’ll take any man here
If it’s worth the going it’s worth the ride

She was fifteen years old
and she’d never seen the ocean.
She climbed into a van with a vagabond
and the last thing she said
was, “I love you ma.”
And a little rain never hurt on one.
And a little rain never hurt no one.

This is not the bright and sunshiny Joel Osteen –Your-Best-Life-Now-smile-all-the-way-to-the-bank kind of religion. It’s hard and it’s cold. It’s dirty from soot and it’s rough around the edges. It has calloused hands and dirt under its nails. But it is not loveless and it is not hopeless.

The first several times I listened to this song, I thought that the girl had been abducted or murdered by the vagabond. But I realized later that this isn’t a song of despair. This loss, her leaving her family was a “little rain” but not a hurt. She was leaving to find her dream. The family left behind is dancing and enjoying life – even with the sadness of her going away. There is love and there is hope. There are dreams worth chasing, and you must risk something that matters.

HOLD ON

Hold On is a love song, but not a warm fuzzy, romantic comedy kind of love. It’s not a pop song kind of love. It’s an irascible love. It’s a love that holds on through tough times, a love that perseveres, a love that won’t let go of the beloved - won’t let go of us – even when we’ve run away and we’ve cursed the lover. It’s a love for all the prodigal sons and daughters sleeping in the gutters and alleyways.

This is the kind of love found in the music of Tom Waits and in the gospels. And let’s face it; this is an unnatural kind of love. It’s natural to give up on love. It’s natural to let go. We strive to protect ourselves from hurt and pain. And humans, by nature, push away those who hurt and disappoint them.

But God’s love isn’t a natural love , and God does not give up or push away those who hurt and disappoint him. Instead, he continues to call us home.

COME ON UP TO THE HOUSE

Come on up to the house. Come back home all you runaway sons and daughters, the father still loves you. Come back home harlot brides, the husband still welcomes you. In my Father’s house there are many rooms. There’s one for each of us.

"Do not let your hearts be troubled. You trust in God, trust also in me. In my Father’s house there are many places to live in… " John 14: 1 – 2

And this isn’t just a pie in the sky some day in the great by and by eternal hope. The song calls us to “come on up to the house.” It’s a song and it’s an invitation for the right here and the right now. Come on up to the house, come into the kingdom. Yes, you’ve got trouble. And yes, I know you’ve got worries. But come on up to the house and we’ll get through them together. We’ll fellowship with each other. We’ll share our troubles and we’ll pool our resources – you and me and all the broken people of the world. This is a song of the Church – or the church as it should be.

The Church should be a haven (and a heaven) for the broken. The Church should be a refuge for the refugee and a place of comfort for the depressed and the grieving. Come on up to the house.

But (and there always seems to be a “butt” getting in the way…) sometimes it seems that the church has become more of a museum for the saints than a hospital for the sick. And the Jesus described in the Church seems to be a CHOCOLATE JESUS

He’s sweet and delicious. We receive him as a gift in an Easter basket full of fake plastic grass and plastic eggs. This chocolate Jesus is full of empty calories and gives us a sugar rush of frenzied energy – but he’s nothing more than a hollow shell of savior. This Jesus doesn’t do anything for us. He can’t do anything except make us fat. The Jesus of the gospels is not this sort of Jesus. And the Jesus we find in the music of Tom Waits is not this kind of Jesus. It’s a Jesus that many churches wouldn’t even recognize.

The Jesus of the gospels and of Tom Wait’s music wouldn’t be recognized in many of our churches today. He came without a name, without an entourage, without flash, and without pomp or circumstances.

“He had no form or charm to attract us, no beauty to win our hearts; he was despised, the lowest of men, a man of sorrows, familiar with suffering, one from whom, as it were, we averted our eyes.” Isaiah 53: 2- 3

He came to us without anything. He came naked into the world like us. He lived in poor and humble circumstances. He held no position, and owned no property. "Foxes have holes and birds of the air have nests, but the Son of Man has no place to lay his head." Luke 9:58

Sometimes I think we miss the vagabond Jesus, the son of man who didn’t even have a place to lay his head. Our churches miss the Jesus who was run out of town the time before, this Jesus who was arrested and executed as a criminal. This Jesus who, though he was fully and truly God, put aside his divinity to be one of us. He came to be one who needed a cup of cold water.

He came to bring comfort to those who were afraid. And there is plenty to fear in the world. Reports of natural disasters as well as human designed catastrophes assault us in the news. We cannot predict the future. And we fear the uncertainty. Waits sings of these eschatological and apocalyptic style fears.

Well, maybe “sings” is the wrong word. That voice – choked and strangled and mangled almost beyond recognition – tears a hole in the speakers and rips through the air riding on a percussive locomotive, not a steam engine, but an engine from hell powered by the screams and shrieks of the damned.

EARTH DIED SCREAMING

There was thunder, there was lightning
then the stars went out
and the moon fell from the sky
It rained mackerel, it rained trout
and the great day of wrath has come
and here’s mud in your big red eye
the poker’s in the fire
and the locusts take to the sky
and the earth died screaming
while I lay dreaming, dreaming of you.

It’s an ecological nightmare. It’s death, and ruin, and the collapse of human civilization.

It’s all the things we cannot control, cannot explain, and cannot contain. It’s forest fires and oil spills. It’s bomb threats at the high school and handguns on the playground. It’s missing children and it’s a lonely cancer ward. War in Iraq, War in Afghanistan, wars and rumors of wars, AIDs, Swine Flu, Floods and Earthquakes. The four horsemen of the Apocalypse have traded in their horses for Ford Mustangs and their engines are roaring at full throttle across hot desert highways.

There are “wars and rumors of wars” and people are afraid. The violence in “those countries over there” spills out and engulfs the world a seemingly endless conflagration. Our leaders appear unable to stop it. Instead, they often seem to be instigating and welcoming these conflicts. It’s not often that Tom sings politics – but the song OUT ON THE ROAD TO PEACE he wrestles with the complexities of the strife in the Middle East only to conclude that “maybe God himself is lost and needs help, out on the road to peace.”

This is, of course, a suggestion that will raise the hackles of many Christians. God does not need our help. And God, most assuredly, is not lost. This idea that God is lost and that God needs help is similar to another of Waits’ songs: GOD’S AWAY ON BUSINESS .

As a result of his concentration on the dark and bleak and all things “sinful”, many have accused Waits music of being godless. The Irish magazine Hot Press described his 2002 album, Blood Money, as a “Jesusless” album. In fact an interviewer once asked Tom about the “godlessness” of his songs.

Waits: “Godless? Really? Oh!”
Interviewer: “Wouldn’t you say?”
Waits: “I don’t know about that.”
Interviewer: “The absence of God.”
Waits: “I don’t know about that. Do you think so?”
Interviewer: “Well some of the songs. Well one explicitly “God’s Away On Business.”
Waits: “Oh, okay. Well he’s away. He’s not gone. He’s just away. You have to understand He was on business. A guy like Him has got to be busy, looking after a lot of things.”

Where was God? Why didn’t God…? These theodicean questions are often found in Tom’s music. It’s a question as old as humans themselves, asked in every age in every language everywhere. Why do we suffer? Why do we hurt? If God is good and if God is kind then why did my child die? Why did the tornado strike? Why?

GEORGIA LEE

Where was God on 9-11? Where was God during hurricane Katrina? Where was God during her miscarriage? Where was God during his parents divorce? Why do terrible things happen? Why do terrible things happen, even to people who love and fear and worship God? I don’t know. I don’t have any answer other than silence. Job asked these questions and he didn’t really get an answer. Jeremiah asked these questions and he didn’t get an answer. Tom Waits asks them too. I don’t think he expects to be the one to get an answer but it’s good to ask the question – it’s important to ask the questions anyway even if it seems that there is only silence as a response.

And in that silence I hear one last voice from one of the least of these… That last voice is the voice of an unidentified homeless man.

In 1971 English composer Gavin Bryars was working with a friend on a film about people living in one of the rougher areas of London. In the course of the filming some of the people broke out into drunken songs, little bits of opera and sentimental ballads. But one singer wasn’t drunk. He sang a simple religious tune. His voice was ragged and frail and you could almost hear the freezing cold of the street. But, ultimately, it wasn’t used in the film.

Later, Bryars realized that the recorded snipped of this man singing could be looped and played in an endlessly repeating loop and that his singing was in tune with the piano. Bryars composed a simple accompaniment for the voice.

I took the tape loop to Leicester, where I was working in the Fine Art Department, and copied the loop onto a continuous reel of tape, thinking about perhaps adding an orchestrated accompaniment to this. The door of the recording room opened on to one of the large painting studios and I left the tape copying, with the door open, while I went to have a cup of coffee. When I came back I found the normally lively room unnaturally subdued. People were moving about much more slowly than usual and a few were sitting alone, quietly weeping.

I was puzzled until I realized that the tape was still playing and that they had been overcome by the old man's singing

A further recording of the piece was made in 1993 with Tom Waits singing along with the unnamed tramp. And, I can’t think of anyone better suited to join this unidentified homeless man in his song. Tom’s connection to the poorest and surliest, the straggliest, and sweatiest of humanity brings an earthy dignity to this mans song, and a quiet trust and security. In spite of everything, in spite of trouble and calamity, in spite of death and loss, in spite of hurt and pain and ruin and loneliness, there is trust and there is hope. There is hope because “Jesus’ Blood Never Failed Me Yet.”

Tom might not be a great singer but I believe he’s singing for the least of these and that he is singing the song of the church, and whether he knows it or not, he’s singing for God.

Tuesday, May 25, 2010

Frank's Wild Years

This painting of mine - painted earlier this year - makes me think of Frank.  Frank first showed up in the song Franks's Wild Years on the Tom Waits album Swordfishtrombones (Island Records, 1983).  He appeared again later in more of Waits' work. 

Frank's Wild Years isn't one of the songs that I'll be talking about this weekend when I give my presentation - Tom Waits: Singing for the Least of These... but it's a song that I really like.  It's a dark song.  It's sad and cruel.  But it's funny too. 

Well Frank settled down in the Valley
and he hung his wild years
on a nail that he drove through
his wife's forehead.
He sold used office furniture
out there on San Fernando Road
and assumed a $30,000 loan
at 15 _ % and put a down payment
on a little two bedroom place.
His wife was a spent piece of used jet trash,
made good bloody marys,
kept her mouth shut most of the time,
had a little Chihuahua named Carlos
that had some kind of skin disease
and was totally blind. They had a thoroughly modern kitchen
self-cleaning oven (the whole bit).
Frank drove a little sedan.
They were so happy.

One night Frank was on his way home
from work, stopped at the liquor store,
picked up a couple Mickey's Big Mouths,
drank 'em in the car on his way
to the Shell station, he got a gallon of
gas in a can, drove home, doused
everything in the house, torched it,
parked across the street, laughing
watching it burn, all Halloween
orange and chimney red then
Frank put on a top forty station
got on the Hollywood Freeway
headed North.

Never could stand that dog.

(as always, click the picture to see it full sized. that is all.)

Monday, May 24, 2010

...and a Time for Every Affair Under Heaven

I worked on this small painting / collage this afternoon.  It is the one thing that turned out well today. 




(Click the picture to see it full sized)

Eat My Shorts














(Click the image to see it full sized)

Saturday, May 22, 2010

Tom Waits: Singing for the Least of These - a teaser

As I have mentioned, I am preparing a presentation for next weekend. I'll be one of the speakers at Truth Voice 2010 - a theology conference in Dayton, Ohio.  I was invited to speak last year, and now again this year, and I really am quite pleased to have been invited. I still stand in awe of the other presenters.  I've learned quite a bit from their writings and essays and books and what not.  I'm not always convinced that I should be standing with them.


I've nearly finished writing out my presentation.  There are a few places that need some elaboration, and I need to finish up the slide show that will accompany my speech. And I need to practice some of the songs.  Yep. I'm going to bring my guitar and play a few songs as part of my presentation.
Tom Waits: Singing for the Least of These...

I'm exploring some of the spiritual and theological issues in the music and lyrics of Tom Waits - that incorrigible dreamer and inveterate realist.  I'm going to talk about how his music reflects a very human reality and a deep abiding hope for the presence of God. And I'm going to sing.
You can't "talk" about music.  You gotta' sing it.



This isn't one of the songs that I'll be discussing, but it's one of my favorite.  Enjoy.

My Favorite Vampire Books

I spent a good portion of today in a bus full of teenagers and young adults.  We're heading to Omaha, Nebraska for a band trip.  (Why else would anyone go to Omaha?)  The bus smelled, of course, like teenage boys, gym shoes and beef jerky.  I tried to ignore it.  I spent part of the time writing my presentation material for next weekend's theology conference in Ohio (I know. I'm traveling everywhere.) and part of the time reading a new book:

Abraham Lincoln - Vampire Hunter by Seth Grahme-Smith (author of another recent favorite, Pride and Prejudice and Zombies)

And I am enjoying it very much.  I frequently read books about American History, and have read several about our esteemed 16th president, and it is fun to see how the fiction of this story weaves in and around the events of reality.  The telling rings true enough that I could will myself to believe it.

Facts

1.  For over 250 years, between 1607 and 1865, vampires thrived in the shadows of America.  Few humans believed in them.
2.  Abraham Lincoln was one of the gifted vampire hunters of his day, and kept a secret journal about his lifelong war against them.
3.  Rumors of the journal's existence have long been a favorite topic among historians and Lincoln biographers.  Most dismiss it as myth.
I'm a little more than half way through it.  I've heard rumors that Pride and Prejudice and Zombies is going to become a movie and that sounds cool, but Abraham Lincoln: Vampire Hunter!  Doesn't that just sound like a great movie?  Yes.  The answer is, Yes.

As I've been enjoying this vampire book, I've been thinking about others that I have read and enjoyed or not enjoyed.  Earlier this year I read Dracula: The Undead.  I didn't care for that one so much.  Strike that.  I didn't like it at all. I wanted to, but there was nothing good about it.

99 Coffins by David Wellington in a setting similar to ALVH.  Through a series of flashbacks we follow a unit of vampire soldiers in the Civil War discovered entombed in coffins beneath the Gettysburg battleground.  I've also read Wellington's Monster Island - a zombie novel, and I liked it as well.  I recommend both of these.

I read the entire Twilight series.  I know.  I know. You've just lost all respect for me.  I've lost all credibility.  But if you've been reading this blog in recent months you are aware that I'm quite willing to subject myself to godawful fiction on behalf of others.  I read Stephanie Meyer's books for the young ladies in my Sunday School class.  They were very excited about the series, and when they discovered that I like vampire stories they were quick to suggest them to me - to foist them upon me.  I read them and shared my impressions.  The girls were not impressed with what I had to say.   

There is of course, the great-granddaddy classic: Dracula. I first read this when I was 11.  I was engrossed. I loved it.  I read it late into the night in my basement room by the light of a small bedside lamp. And when I turned the final page, I closed it and started over again. 

In high school I read Anne Rice's Interview with the Vampire.  I actually read the entire series, but the only one that I really liked - the only one that really resonated for me was this first volume.  I understood Louis' despair, or at least I thought I did.  I was a gloomy, moody, lonely teenager. 

Stephen King's Salem's Lot is a wonder.  Wow.  Moving the vampire story from the Gothic and Edwardian London and Transylvania to small town America was such a brilliant thing.  We take it for granted now, but it was a bold shift in the vampire story.  No longer were they somewhere over there in cobwebby castles in countries with difficult names.  Now they were here.  I can't read that book without hearing (or re-hearing, rather, in my memory) the music of Gustav Holst The Planets Suite.  I listened to that over and over as I read Salem's Lot and now the two are permanently entwined for me.  I also can't read it without crying a little bit for Father Callahan.  I appreciate very much that he gets to find some redemption in The Dark Tower series.

Another more recent vampire story that I have enjoyed is The Historian the debut novel of Elizabeth Kostova.  I love everything about this book: the attention to historical detail, the slow deliberate pacing of discovery, the connection made between the reader (me) and the characters.  It's a vampire story, a detective story, a Gothic romance, a travelogue, and a historical thriller.  It's great.

Other great ones include I Am Legend by Richard Matheson (which has inspired 3 filmed interpretations, none of which have I enjoyed.)  And - chuckle all you want.  I like it. - Bunnicula by James Howe. That little vampire bunny was so much fun.

Thursday, May 20, 2010

I'm So Sick of This


I'm so sick of this.

Two - TWO - rejection letters in one day. Two less than an hour apart.  "It's not quite what we're looking for," says the editor at one, and "we wish you luck," says the other.  Yeah. Thanks for playing. Good bye and  Good luck.  Can we still be friends? 

All told I still have an acceptance ratio for the past 12 months of 31.82 %. If I were a baseball player, that would be a fairly decent batting average.


But  still, I'm so sick of this.

Perhaps I'm oversensitive.  Perhaps I'm just anxious about a couple of big projects in the next couple of weeks. I'm speaking at a theology conference in Ohio, and I'm intimidated by some of the other speakers, and by some of those who I know will be attending.  Who am I to be speaking? but I am.

And I did recently audition for a part in the local theatre group's production of the one act musical - The 25th Annual Putnam County Spelling Bee - and I did get a part, a big part. I could be excited about that, right?  right. But I'm nervous, now.  Almost wishing I hadn't.

I'm nervous and anxious and pent up and frustrated and excited and irritated all at the same time.  So sick of this.

(as always, click the image to see it full size. thank you.)

Smash and Grab at the Musee d'Art Moderne

Low-tech art thieves in France have stolen five works of art from the Musee d'Art Moderne
The stolen works include Pablo Picasso's "Dove with Green Peas"



















Henri Matisse's "Pastorale"
















Georges Braque's "Olive Tree Near l'Estaque"
















Amedeo Modigliani's "Woman on the Range" and Fernard Leger's "Still Life with Candlesticks"

The thieves broke into the museum by smashing a window. 


The value of the stolen paintings was first reported as 500 million euros, but has since been lowered to 100 million.  Still, that's 124.2 million dollars.  124.2 million dollars behind a pane of glass?!  Really?

Wednesday, May 19, 2010

The Dragon was a Luddite


The dragon was a Luddite.  He despised the factories.  He hated the machines.  He fought, in vain as it turns out, against the industrial revolution.  He was captured by the authorities while sabotaging a mechanic shop in London, and executed for his crimes.  The world is a sadder place without him.

(click on the picture to see it full size)

Tuesday, May 18, 2010

Brainwashed

I recently picked up from our local library the book Brainwash: The Secret History of Mind Control by Dominic Streatfeild - (2007 St. Martin's Press).  It's part of my recent inquiry into L. Ron Hubbard, Dianetics and the "church" of Scientology.  And though LRH's new religious movement is given only a few passing references there is much within this history that has connection to the practices and policies of Scientology.

Particularly the studies in hypnosis, sleep deprivation, and isolation.  These sound eerily like the accounts told by "blown" Scientologists - those who have fled the church.   Though Hubbard always denied the accusation of hypnosis in Dianetic "auditing" sessions, the state of reverie that he prescribes sounds very much like the very suggestible state brought about by hypnotists.  Accounts of sleep deprivation by former members of the Sea Org and the practice of cutting secluding members away from family members who might question or oppose the teachings of Scientology have followed Scientolgoy since it's inception.  It's not difficult to understand why they've been accused of brainwashing their victims...er members.

Streatfeild's book deals with numerous aspects of mind control - from the Moscow Show Trials of the 1930's, The CIA's development of LSD as a 'truth serum', the brainwashing of American POWs during the Korean War, Subliminal messages in advertisements,and thought control by New Religious Moments (a fancy euphemism for cults) such as the Unification Church and Scientology.  As a documentary filmmaker, Streatfeild is adept at interviewing his sources.  And it shows.  The book is a well written combination of narrative and pedagogy.  He tells the stories of the victims - and often of the perpetrators of thought control experiments -  with unnerving and disquieting acumen.

The chapter entitled Sleep was especially disturbing to me.  Steatfeild described the out-of-control psychiatric horrors of Dr. (Donald) Ewen Cameron.  His practice was surely the kind of psychiatry that L. Ron Hubbard so despised - indiscriminate use of Electro-Convulsive Therapy (ECT), aggressive prescription of powerful narcotics, and his "annihilation" therapy wherein he erased a patients mind through a combination of ECT and drugs and then, using endlessly repeating tape recorded messages, reprogrammed his patients.  Furthering this nightmare was Cameron's connection to the CIA's secret Project MKULTRA.

And though this kind of torture (not treatment) is rightly condemned... there is one aspect of Cameron's technique that reminded me of Dianetics.  Cameron would record psychiatric sessions with his patients.  Then he would snip out the portions of the tape where the patient had talked about the source of their issue and would force them to listen to this played back over and over and over and over again.

Similarly - during a Dianetic auditing session the auditor, when seeing a movement on the E-Meter's needle indicating an engram, will tell his patient (early Dianetics used the word patient, but later it was dropped from practice when it became apparent that LRH's techniques could provide no demonstrable health benefits) to "run that again" and again and again and again until there is no more movement on the E-Meter.

In the end Brainwashing and thought control is an impractical method of control.  While some forms have proved to have limited effect, they cannot be sustained long term.  Given time and a removal from the coercive practices used by totalitarian regimes (be they communist governments, unethical intelligence agencies, or religious cults) a person can regain their critical thinking abilities. 

Streatfeild's book is engaging and informative. I'd recommend it to anyone who values freedom of thought and critical thinking.

Monday, May 17, 2010

Mission Earth 10 - The Doomed Planet

Here it is,  The Doomed Planet, the 10th and final volume of L Ron Hubbard's arid and interminable Mission Earth Series.

I've been seeing these books in libraries ever since I can remember but had never picked them up.  And now, 1.2 million or so words later, I almost wish I never had.  LRH may have been a decent writer during his early years, writing adventure stories for pulp magazines, but by the end of his life he had completely forgotten his craft.  He was no longer a story teller.  The Mission Earth books are not about story - they're not even really about people. The Mission Earth  books were merely an excuse for Hubbard to spout his venom and bile in a nearly endless rant against anyone and everyone who had ever done him wrong.

LRH poison penned psychologist, psychiatrists, the FBI, the CIA, the IRS, Universities, Homosexuals, Punk Rock music, Religious leaders, Public Relations and Advertisers and, and, and, and...  The only people who don't receive this bitter treatment are the members of Godfather mafia styled organized crime family (LRH even named them the Corleone mob!)  It's curious that these criminals are the only one to be treated as righteous and noble.   Why is it that the only people LRH didn't despise were criminals?  Because he, himself, was criminal? 

Here in the final volume the series' hero, Jettero Heller, single-handedly restores the Voltarian Confederation's government after a violent revolution and forestalls the invasion that has been threatened in the whole series. And he does this simply by making an official declaration that the planet Earth does not exist.

Wait... That's it?  1.2 Million words to play ostrich?  1.2 million words to pretend that the things we don't like don't exist.?  Seriously? 

Monte Penwell, the very first investigative journalist on Voltar,  has, in the course of his investigation of this story, become infatuated with all the things from Earth that have never been used on Voltar - things like: psychiatry and psychology, drugs, Public Relation, Drugs, Sex, and Spies and so on.  Penwell is angry with Heller and the restored government for covering up the mission to Earth and concludes his work (ostensibly the books we've been reading...) with a hymn to encourage the people of Voltar to wake up and recognize the cover up that has been perpetrated and to take up the mission to invade earth.

ODE TO EARTH
Oh, Earth, oh, Earth, you luscious globe,
You beckoning, wine-fat treasure-trove,
You whet our hunger as you spin
And lure us with your wealth to win.
You saved my life with your PR.
I triumph now without a scar!
Your spy techniques are quite sublime
And can be used to undermine.
And who could think but to extol
Your psych and psych for mind control.
Who would refuse to cut their fug
If offered some divine Earth drug?
Who can deny that men will drool
For just one shot of good white mule?
And no musician would heed sneers
If he had Punk Rock to drown their ears.
And who, pray tell, would show aversion
To lovely butt and mouth perversion?
And Earth, you number in your riches
Sex that converts girls to (bleeepches).
Did I say sex? Oh, you excel!
Never has such concentration
Been levelled at self-gratification!

It goes on like this for another two pages.  But I can't take very much more... I'll skip down to the last couple of lines.

Don't plead, O, Earth, for mercy now!
Your time has come and this I vow:
Each thing you know we will suck up
And toast your death with blood in cup!
Surrender? No, it is too late.
Just weep while solders fornicate
Upon your grave up there so high,
So soon will be our Voltar sky.
But, cheer up, Earth! When soul has flow
It will in Voltar find its home.
Your wisdom wise like graveyard flowers
Will come to us and will be ours!
So, Earth, just bare to us your breast
And let us suckle you in death!
VOLTAR!  SEEK NOT MORE OF MY PERSUASION!
LAUNCH ON TIME THE EARTH INVASION!

THE (TRIUMPHANT) END!

I cannot comprehend how the adherents of the Church of Scientology could read these and still think that every word LRH spoke / wrote was genius. I cannot understand how the founder of their religion can be revered in the face of this series.  If Jesus of Nazareth had written something like this, I'm not sure that I could continue to call myself a Christian. 

The books of LRH's Mission Earth series should be a troublesome source of perpetual embarrassment to all Scientologists. I suggest that they should purchase and destroy every copy still in print and then, like Mission Earth hero Jettero Heller, issue a proclamation that the series has never existed. 

Sunday, May 16, 2010

Teeth and Tentacles

Teeth and Tentacles - from a doodle in my notebook.



Saturday, May 15, 2010

My Notebook

This is my notebook.  It's a cheap, two-for-a-dollar notebook that I carry with me just about everywhere.  I write in it.  I doodle in it.  I write notes to myself, jot down ideas, compose poems, scribble, and record those fragments of thoughts that flit through my head that would otherwise be lost.

This is my 6th or 7th of these notebooks.  I go through them pretty quick.  

I work out my sermons here, making notes to myself, writing down my questions, and occaisonaly trying to answer them.  My notes often time overlap each other.  There are layers of scribbles - a palimpsest of thoughts. 

This works for me.
It wouldn't work for everyone.  But it works for me.


It's lo-fi, requires no batteries, no outlet, no wifi connection.  It's light and not easily damaged.  This one, however, suffered some abuse and needed repair.  But duct tape is cheap.  And, unlike a notebook computer, if this notebook is lost it is inexpensive to replace.


Sometimes the doodles in these books become the subject of more fully developed artwork. The cat in this scribble became a painting.  The pterodactyl scribble in the bottom corner may soon become a work of its own as well.






I like this particular doodle.  I think that I'd like to make this into a large stencil.  I've been reading about street art and graffit artists and such.  This would work very well in that style.  Gonna' buy me a couple cans of spray paint....




These are some notes i wrote last night during a meeting.  They have nothing to do with that meeting, though.  I wasn't really paying attention. I was working on a presentation that I'll be giving in two weeks.

Thursday, May 13, 2010

A Shrine - Art, Religion and Pulp Science Fiction





I'm a member of an online community of artists. We share photos of our work with each other, ask for help or critiques, explore new techniques, and challenge each other to new projects.

Recently the challenge was to create a shrine.  This was my response.

The center piece of this tableau is actually several years old.  Mary stands inside a coconut shell that I fixed up.  It was textured with a clear gel and then painted gold.  The "lid" half of the shell fits back in to place, so I can display it closed or open.

St. Francis stands there to the left. He's been in a number of my paintings.  Usually accompanied by an octopus  or squid-like sea monster.  In front of him is a sea shell.  Perhaps the sea monster is lurking inside the shell?

Down center are some crosses, chains and rosaries. And a bottle cap.

Further right is a woman being menaced by a giant scorpion.  She is the cover of every pulp science fiction novel.  She is Andromeda menaced by the Kraken or Fay Raye threatened by King Kong. She is the woman in Revelation 12 pursued by the dragon...



There is something here about faith and fear, or about fear and faith. 

God give you peace.

Wednesday, May 12, 2010

A Stranger at the Mass


I had the opportunity to attend a funeral today - not an altogether uncommon occurrence for a pastor - but what made this funeral different for me is that it was a Roman Catholic funeral.  I've not been to one of those before.

The chapel was very beautiful and well lit.  The stained glass windows were bright even though outside it was cold and grey and raining.  Wood carvings of the stations of the cross were placed around the room, and the symbols of the 12 apostles and the 4 gospels at the front.  At the back there was a gurgling water fountain. 

The service began with the singing of a Catholic hymn that I'd never heard.  "Here I Am, Lord" by Dan Shutte.  I like it quite a bit, and will see if I can track down the music. I think that it's one I'd like to play.  I found this version on youtube:



This was followed by a reading from the (Apocryphal) book of Wisdom 3: 1 - 9


But the souls of the upright are in the hands of God,
and no torment can touch them.
To the unenlightened, they appear to die,
their departure was regarded as a disaster,
their leaving us like an annihilation;
but they are at peace.
if, as it seemed to us, they suffered punishment,
their hope was rich with immortality,
slight was their correction, great will their blessings be.
God was putting them to the test
and has proved them worthy to be with him;
he has tested them like gold in a furnace,
and accepted them as a perfect burnt offering.
At their time of visitation, they will shine out;
as sparks run through the stubble so will they.
They will judge nations, rule over peoples,
and the Lord will be their king for ever.
Those who trust in him will understand the truth,
those who are faithful will live with him in love;
for grace and mercy await his holy ones,
and he intervenes on behalf of his chosen.

Being a minister from the Protestant side of the Christian fence, there was much about this "Mass of Christian Burial" that I missed. I am unfamiliar with many of the traditions of my Roman Catholic brothers and sisters - when to rise, when to sit, when to kneel, when to sing the antiphon with the cantor, etc...  But there is at least one thing that we share - both Catholics and Protestants (and I would assume, Orthodox as well) - and that is the untimely ringing of cell phones during the service. (It wasn't mine.  I know to turn mine off.)

My one complaint is that much of the Mass seemed very rote, that is, the readings were read very quickly  and responses (which I didn't know) were given back just as fast and I'm sure I missed most of what was said. 

There is something wonderful to be said for tradition (just ask the fiddler on the roof) but when outsiders miss the import and meaning because they don't know the traditions - when the traditions themselves become obscurants then we've failed a little.

My complaint, it should be noted, is a relatively minor one - at least for me. I do know enough of Christian tradition that I was able to fill in the gaps.  When the priest said, "May the Lord be with you." I knew to answer back, "And also with you."  I was glad (as "glad" as you can be to attend a funeral) to be able to share this time with my friends and fellow believers, though I wish I could have participated more fully with them.

- The term "Mass," by the way, is derived from the Latin word missa (dismissal), a word used in the conclusion of the Latin Mass: Ite, missa est. (Go; it is the dismissal.)  Long ago the word simply meant "dismissal" but has in Christian use come to mean something more and implies a sense of mission.  I like this.
"Go in peace to serve the Lord."

Tuesday, May 11, 2010

She's Not Home

I'm being the single parent today and tomorrow.  My wife is away for some meetings and I am at home with the kids and the pets.  And everything is weird.

The wall are all in the same places,  of course.  The light switches are right where they've always been, the chairs and couches, beds and lamps and tables are all right where I left them, but everything seems wrong.

The kids have gone to bed - brushed their pajamas and put on their teeth like they do every night, their backpacks full of completed homework are ready by the front door. But ....

The dog also seems to notice that something is out of kilter.  She is pacing back and forth across the living room and the kitchen, her nails click clack click clack click clacking across linoleum floor.

We're all eager for her to return. Nothing is right without her.


Another new-ish painting - acrylic on paper -done right in my sketchbook.  The preliminary pencil sketch was done from a vintage photo.  His suit is the color that it is because I had made up far too much of that particular color for another painting and didn't want to let it go to waste.

The woman, exit sign, and the clock were last minute collage additions that give the picture more of a story than the man alone had.  You are free to create a story to fit the picture.  Where is the woman going?  Is she leaving him or coming back to him?  How long has she been gone?

Do you think any of this relates to the fact that my wife isn't home right now? Probably it does.

Click the picture to see it enlarged.

Monday, May 10, 2010

3 Recent Paintings

Here are some more recent paintings.  These are all acrylic on paper.





This uses the same stencil I used here.
It began as a test of the stencil, but instead of simply leaving it as a generic test, I went back and played with it some.











I have a fondness for sea monsters.  These octopus and squid-like creatures have been appearing in my artwork for a couple of years now.  My wife does not share my appreciation for these denizens of the deep.














My wife tells me that too many of my paintings are "creepy."  So I decided to paint something more rainbow scented.  And what could be more warm-fuzzy than a kitten in a field of flowers, right?

"A live cat" my wife suggests.







Click on the pictures to see them enlarged.

Sunday, May 9, 2010

Mission Earth 9 - Villainy Victorious and Lingering Lewdness

Villainy Victorious, the penultimate book of L. Ron Hubbard’s 10 Volume Mission Earth series begins with what are possibly the only true words LRH ever wrote.

“This bizarre, fallacious tale has not been made any more palatable by the introduction of a different narrator.”

We agree.

Volume 8, Disaster introduced one Monte Penwell – an unpublished and untalented author – to continue the story of Soltan Gris, Lombar Hisst, Jettero Heller and the Voltarian mission to Earth. Gris had been incarcerated, Hisst was taking over the Voltarian confederation, and Jettero Heller had escaped with the ailing and drug addicted emperor. Penwell prefaces the story but makes no further appearance.

Like the preceding 8 volumes, Villainy Victorious is a sprawling chaotic jumble with a lot of bile but little story. What narrative there is focuses on the exploits of the earthlings J. Walter Madison – a PR “genius” and Teenie Whopper – a teen-aged nymphomaniac.

Madison and Whopper proceed to infect pure and noble Voltar with the corruptions of Earth – psychology, psychiatry, drugs, perverse sex, public relations and advertising. Blah, blah, blah. This is the whole point of the Mission Earth series: to demonstrate in overwhelming and graphic detail the sickness and depravity of the planet Earth.

At one point early in the book, Teenie Whopper (who inexplicably came to be worshipped as a queen on Voltar) leads a “lecture” to instruct the prepubescent sons of Voltarian nobles in how to become catamites and sex slaves.

Then with one light finger she touched a spot at the lower center of the boy’s pubic hair. His eyes rolled up, his chin thrust forward, he gave an ecstatic groan.
HE (BLEEPULTATED)!

What the BLEEP? You ask.

This has been one of the running “jokes” in Mission Earth. According to a footnote in each of the books, the translating robots are forbidden to reproduce “cursing or lewd words.” This is ironic because the books are filled with descriptions of all manner of vulgar and disgusting – lewd- activities. That some words are BLEEPed out only serves to heighten them.

It seems as if LRH took pleasure in describing the many and varied perversions of earth. He certainly lingered over each one of them in loving and painful detail.

Teenie leaned over and touched his ear with her tongue.
ANOTHER (BLEEPULATION)!
The crowd went mad! (Villainy Victorious page 81)

Friday, May 7, 2010

Sister Sophia























Click image to view at full size.

Thursday, May 6, 2010

Do As I Say Not As I Do...

I have been in the last two months, as you might have been able to deduce from my numerous blog posts, curious about L. Ron Hubbard and his Church of Scientology. I followed the white rabbit and now, like Alice and Neo, I’m wondering how deep the rabbit hole really is.

I’ve begun reading LRH’s 1951 book, The Science of Survival, though the particular edition I am reading is from 2007 – after the repairs and corrections made by the Church of Scientology to restore LRH’s writings to their purest form.  I’m only 100 or so pages in so far, but a couple of quotes have really caught my eye, enough to write a little bit about them and to connect them to real life happenings.

The first is a little bit lengthy, and for that I do apologize. Please bear with me.

Handle the psychotic gently. Respect his rights to a whole brain and a future. Do not consider that he is your toy or your experimental animal for vivisection or strange sadistic “treatment.” Above all, when you are auditing, be a civilized human being. Don’t try to punish your patient because he “refuses to get well.” His engrams and general turbulence make your preclear very hard to reach. His basic personality is in there trying to help you. Smooth out entheta and make theta out of it and do so as gently as you can. Don’t loose your temper or resort to dramatic methods. Be civilized. Man can only be handled with reason, no by Hitlerianistic [sic] force. You can’t beat a man into sanity. If you feel so exasperated by a preclear that you would like to scold him or hit him, stop the session and go cool down. Don’t fill him full of sedatives or put him in restraints. By being as gracious and serene as you possibly can be, you will greatly increase your success in treating your fellow man. And you have to be first cousin to a saint to get the best results with a psychotic.

Any effort made to hammer a patient or scold a patient into sanity will meet with failure. … Don’t be convinced that you have rights of ownership or life-and-death powers over your fellow man. Leave that to the accomplished authoritarians, of whom we have unfortunately so many.” (Science of Survival page 35)
Here LRH is giving instructions to his followers about how they should use the Dianetic process to help clear people of their engrams (painful memories that affect the body and mind). His advice to them is really pretty good advice for counselors: Be civilized. Don’t hit. Don’t yell.

However…

By 1951 – the time of this book’s original publishing – LRH had already been accused by his two wives (not quite successive wives, by the way) of abuse – both physical and verbal. LRH told his second wife (Sarah Northrup) that he no longer wanted to be married to her but that a divorce would ruin his reputation, so she should kill herself if she really loved him. (Bare Faced Messiah – Miller, page 184)

These accusations from friends, family, employees and followers continued through the rest of LRH’s life. During his years at sea aboard the Apollo, he threw frequent tantrums, screaming at anyone and everyone. LRH aslo instituted harsh punishments for those who failed to please him, punishments like being confined to the ship's dirty chain-locker for days or weeks at a time and given only meagre meals, or being bound, blindfolded, and thrown overboard. Some of these punishments were even applied to children.

This is not being “civilized.” This is not the way to make the world sane. And it wasn’t just LRH. This kind of abuse continued in the Church of Scientology even after LRH’s death. There has been much in the news recently about the allegations of beatings and screaming fits and verbal abuse coming from the church’s leadership.

The second quote that has really caught my eye is shorter.

Around 1.1 [of the Tone Scale / Column G “Affinity”] we reach the level of covert hostility. Here the hatred of the individual has been so socially and individually censured to a point where it has been suppressed and the individual no longer dares demonstrate hate as such. He yet possesses sufficient energy to express some feelings on the mater and so what hatred he feels comes forth covertly. All manner of subterfuge may be resorted to. The person may claim to love others and to have the good of others as his formost intrest. Yet at the same moment, he works (consiously or otherwise) to injure or destroy lives and reputations of people and also to destroy property. (Science of Survival page 64)

LRH’s Tone Scale is a characterization of human behavior based on the obseravation that some people appear livelier than others. 0.0 is “Body Death” and 4.0 is “Enthusiasm.” LRH claimed that people around 1.1 on his Tone Scale were psychotic and covertly hostile. But, this strikes me as a bit of the pot calling the kettle black.

Scientologists have a policy called “fair game,” established by LRH in 1967. It states that SPs (Supressive Persons, or enemies of Scientology) “may be deprived of property or injured by any means by any Scientologist without any discipline of the Scientologist. May be tricked, sued or lied to or destroyed.” (HCO Policy Letter of 18 October 1967)

The Fair Game policy was offically rescinded in 1968, but (and there’s always a but, right?) in practice it still continues. Critics of Scientology are harassed, sued, stalked, sued, followed, sued, slandered, sued, and falsely accused of crimes. And sued.

Paulette Cooper – author of the book The Scandal of Scientology – was subjected to the Church of Scientology’s “Operation Freakout”  attempting to frame her for bomb threats against the Church of Scientology and the Arab consulate. The operation was discovered by F.B.I agents and brought to a halt.

See Scans of Church of Scientology Documents concerning Operation Freak Out
This kind of criminal and abusive behavior is not a one-off exeception to the general practice of Scientology. This is the general practice of Scientology.  Look at the history of the Church of Scientology and you’ll find ruined lives, and smeared reputations, lawsuites crafted to destroy and allegation after allegation of abuse and “Fair Game.”

Wednesday, May 5, 2010

Mission Earth Volume 8 - Disaster: What a Disaster!

Earlier this year I began reading L Ron Hubbard’s massive Mission Earth series. I’ve just finished volume 8 Disaster. I can see the end approaching. I’m almost there. Almost there….


LRH has lumbered through the first 7 ½ books like an angry drunk – more concerned with rants against his enemies (psychiatrists, psychologists, the FBI, homosexuals, etc…) than with coherent storytelling. But in this 8th volume of the Mission Earth series LRH finally gets around to tying up all the loose threads of his ‘narrative.’

…at least I think that he got them all. To be honest, LRH left so many subplots  rabbit-trails, and false starts along the way, I’m not sure if he wrapped up everything or not, but I’m not inclined to go back and check.

The 1st half of Disaster moves rapidly to a conclusion: the series’ hero, Jettero Heller, is successful in bringing down the evil oil companies controlled by J. D. Rockecenter and introducing a free energy source to the planet (in the form of a captured black hole placed in orbit around the earth!) and the villainous scoundrel, Soltan Gris, is captured and taken back to the planet Voltar to stand trial for his crimes.

Check and check.

But then, after 7 ½  books written from the viewpoint of Soltan Gris,  LRH introduces another character – one Monte Penwell, a struggling (and failing) author who decides to become the first investigative journalist in Voltarian history. Penwell (Get it? He’s a writer? Penwell? Nudge. Nudge.) continues the story for us.

Heller rescues the Voltarian Emperor from the clutches of Lombar Hisst (Gris’ superior) who had been keeping him weak and addicted to heroin in order to take over the Empire. Heller returns to earth to restore the emperor to health and to prevent World War III from beginning. The book ends with a cliff-hanger, of course.

Has Rockecenter
foiled the entire plan?

What will Hisst do
to retaliate?

Find out in
MISSION EARTH
Volume 9
Villainy Victorious
(page 333)

LRH’s idea of dramatic action packed writing was to string together a series of simple declarative sentences – one per line, with lots of exclamation points and WORDS IN ALL CAPITAL LETTERS! – and sometimes he couldn’t even be bothered to write complete sentences.

He could make out the outlines of a spiral chute going down!
A shotgun blasted again at the door.
Heller grabbed his satchels.
He threw himself on the spacetrooper sled.
The shotgun roared again!
Heller hit the controls.
The sound of the door bursting in.
The sled started out the window.
Another shotgun blast!
Something tugged at his heel!
He shot out into the dark night!
THE FIRST EXPLOSION WENT!
It sounded just like lightning had struck close to hand, a blasting, cracking roar that filled the night!
The sled bucked and twisted.
It plummeted earthward from thirty-five stories high.
THE SECOND EXPLOSION WENT!
Convulsively, Heller gripped the controls. The ground was coming up, unseen, but it must be very near!
He got the sled into a climb.
THE THIRD EXPLOSION WENT!
The sled slewed.
Heller got it straightened out!
A tree straight ahead!
Heller zoomed over it.
At least he knew where the ground was now.
He settled the sled vertically and played his light down.
He landed.
THE FOURTH EXPLOSION WENT!
(pages 317 – 318)

And it goes on like this through THE TENTH EXPLOSION WENT! Seriously.

I am almost finished with the series.  I have the final two books from the library now.  The end is coming soon, praise Xenu.

Tuesday, May 4, 2010

Two Paintings Without Names

I've been doing a bit of painting in the past couple of weeks. Not as much as I might like, but I've completed a couple of things, and - what is more - I'm pretty happy with the way that they've turned out.  I'm satisfied and that is a good thing.

The only thing I'm not really happy about is that I don't  have a title for them.  If you have any suggestions, I'd be glad to hear from you. 



This painting was inspired by two things: 1) an article in National Geographic Magazine about the Nazca Lines in Peru, and 2) a photo of a cow. Putting them together just seemed to work - at least for me.



This was an exercise with stencils.  I cut the stencil for the woman's face based on a pencil drawing from an old sketch book of mine.  The stencil of the poison bottles was derived from an illustration in an old first aid guide.

Monday, May 3, 2010

Child Dianetics: Don't Trust this Man with Your Children

In 1951 L. Ron Hubbard wrote a book entitled Child Dianetics: Dianetic Processing for Children.  Actually, "wrote" is not quite the correct word; compiled would be more accurate.  It's a short work derived from his earlier writings, his lectures, and the work and research of uncredited others. (Apparently the 1951 edition's first page included a list of "thank you"s but this page has been removed from subsequent editions.)

Here are a few gems from Child Dianetics:

How would you like to be pulled and hauled and ordered about and restrained from whatever you wanted to do?  You'd resent it.  The only reason a child "doesn't" resent it is because he is small.  You'd half murder somebody who treated you, an adult, with orders, contradiction and the disrespect given to the average child.  The child doesn't strike back because he isn't big enough..." (page 10)

Care for a child? - nonsense!  He's probably  got a better grasp of immediate situations than you have. Only when he's almost psychotic with aberration will a child be accident prone" (page 15 -16)

A child is perfectly logical.  (page 48)

Grandparents should not be permitted into the home of their grandchildren until they have learned to behave themselves dianetically. (page 48 - yet the church of scientology denies that they "disconnect" families...)
LRH didn't think of children as children. To him, they were already immeasurably old Thetans trapped in not-yet-adult bodies (though this book was compiled before the Thetan concepts of Scientology were fully developed).  Children didn't need to be corrected or restrained or disciplined.  Just loved.  LRH encouraged parents to let their children be fully "self-determined." 

But after reading some of the biographies of LRH's life (Bare Faced Messiah - Russel Miller, A Piece of Blue Sky - Jon Atack, L. Ron Hubbard, Messiah or Madman - Bent Corydon & Ronald DeWolf (a.k.a. L. Ron Hubbard Jr.) I'm not sure that I would trust this man with children.

LRH sired 7 children with his 3 wives. Of them -
-Ronald DeWolf (LRH jr) was cut off by his father and has subsequently spoken out against his father and the Church of Scientology
-LRH  kidnapped his daughter Alexis from her mother and fled with her to Cuba until her mother agreed to retract her claims that he had abused her.  When Alexis attempted to reconnect with her father as a young woman, she was rebuffed. LRH denied paternity and refused to see her.
-Quentin Hubbard committed suicide at the age of 22. Some who knew him say that Quentin was homosexual, and LRH did not have anything kind to say about homosexuals. When LRH was told of his son's suicide he is reported as shouting , "That stupid f***ing kid! Look at what he's done to me!"

For a period of years LRH lived at sea on the Apollo. During that time there were numerous reports of abuse to the children of Scientologists who lived and worked on the ship.  Here is one:




And that kind of abuse didn't end with LRH's death in 1986.  There is a veritable flood of recent news reports of child abuse and child labor within the Chruch of Scientology. This is just one.



Don't trust this man or his "church" with your children.

Sunday, May 2, 2010

Scientology is Funny - But to be Fair, So Is Christianty

Though it has been demonstrated that Scientology does have a strange sort of science-fiction story that is shared with only its upper level members, they will deny it.  They will dismiss it,  downplay its significance - will say that they've never heard of such things or say that story has no significance in contemporary Scientology.

It's easy to make fun of their story. It's a weird story - well,maybe not weird if you're reading it as a science fiction novel, or watching it as a movie (and LRH did draft a screenplay version of it entitled Revolt in the Stars) - but it is a weird story when one considers it as part of a religious faith.

But to be fair...

Christianity has its own weird story at its core.  Really.  God came down from heaven, impregnated a virgin girl, whose son grew up claiming to be God's son, was executed and then rose from the dead three days later and then floated back into heaven, but not before warning his followers that he would return.  This too seems weird.  And it's easy to make fun of it. Many have, and I'm sure, many will in the future.

But there is a difference. (There are many differences. I'm only going to highlight this one):  We will share our story with you.  It's not a secret. 

And we know that it's a wild story - an unbelievable story.  The apostle Paul wrote in his first letter to the Christians in the city of Corinth, "While the Jews demand miracles and the Greeks look for wisdom, we are preaching a crucified Christ: to the Jews an obstacle they cannot get over, to the gentiles foolishness, but to those who have been called, whether they are Jews or Greeks, a Christ who is both the power of God and the wisdom of God...." (1 Corinthians 1: 22-24)

We know that our story is irrational, that it is supernatural.  We know that lays beyond quantifiable certainty.  We accept that it is un-provable.    This is faith and we are unashamed to share it with you.

Oh, and we won't charge you for it either....

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