Saturday, July 31, 2010

A Conservative Reads Obama

I'm a conservative - a traditionalist - and so my political philosophy does not coincide with President Obama's.  But it never hurts to know something about the background of the man in the White House no matter who he is.

Most presidents write about themselves after they've left office.  Obama wrote of himself before taking office, giving us an opportunity to learn about his background early on. 

I was surprised at the size of Dreams From My Father - 400+ pages - since Obama was only in his thirties when he wrote it.  But I like thick books so I ploughed in.  It's well written and interesting, reading like a novel.

Shortly after Obama was born, his black Kenyan father had to choose between two college scholarships.  One was to Harvard, and one to another prestigious university.  The non-Harvard scholarship not only paid tuition, but would have paid living expenses for the family of three.  The Harvard scholarship only paid tuition.  Obama's white American mother was in favor of the one that paid living expenses as well as tuition.  As I read this, I sympathized with her.  That would seem to be the sensible choice for a family man.  But Obama's father told her he couldn't pass up a Harvard education, and so he abandoned her and the infant Barack so he could pursue this education without being burdened with a family.

Obama's early childhood was spent in Indonesia with his mother and Indonesian stepfather - she had remarried by this time.  The stepfather's religion was a mixture of Islam and local religious superstitution.  Eventually the marriage failed, and Obama, his mother, and his baby half-sister returned to Hawaii where Obama's maternal grandparents lived.

By this time Obama was ten or twelve years old.  His white grandfather sometimes took him along on visits to his favorite barroom that had pornographic posters on the wall and was frequented by pimps and prostitutes.  According to Obama, his grandfather was usually the only white man in the bar.

Obama's mother was a hard worker and - to her credit - did everything in her power to see that he got a good education.  I don't think she ever stopped loving Obama's father in spite of the fact that he had abandoned her and their baby.  She built him up to be a hero to the young Barack.

Obama's college days were spent in the company of "politically active blacks, foreign students, Chicanos, Marxist professors, structural feminists, and punk rock performance poets."  Socialism and black liberation theology were significant influences.  Since my knowledge of black liberation theology was scanty, I decided to do some research.  According to James Cone, a prominent black liberation theologian, this belief system includes - among other things - the belief that white people owe black people a lot; and if they (white people) want redemption, they must make material restitution.  This is a far cry from traditional Christianity.

Although Obama's community organizing in Chicago produced some small victories for the black community, I got the impression that the black communities in Chicago weren't much different after Obama left than they were before he arrived.  The people he dealt with while he was there were interesting.  They ranged from hard-working blacks with moderate views to radical black nationalists.  They all spent a lot of time discussing "black self-hatred," the unjust past, and their inability to move beyond it.  The idea that the answers to their problems lie in black unity seemed to prevail.  One of Obama's associates - a black teacher who led a mentorship program in Chicago's public schools said, "I teach them that Africans are a communal people."

Obama tells about his close friendship with Rev. Jeremiah Wright, a black liberation theologian; and he (Obama) praises the Black Value System that Rev. Wright's church adopted.  This value system is described as "articles of faith no less than belief in the Resurrection."

Obama traveled to Kenya and spent time getting to know his father's family.  His father is dead by this time.  His older sister, Auma, fills him in on the family history.  I thought this was the most interesting part of the book, and I found myself really liking some of Obama's Kenyan relatives.

Dreams From My Father was well worth reading.  It explains the development of Obama's collectivist, socialist views.  In light of the information he gives in this book, it is understandable that he wants to fundamentally transform America into a country that differs substantially from its roots of individual and personal liberty. 

Saturday, July 10, 2010

Rocky's Journal - Entry 2

This is the second entry in Rocky's journal.  His journal is dedicated to all animal lovers who like to indulge in attributing human traits to our furry and feathered friends. Although it's fanciful, it's not fiction. The events are real - just from Rocky's point of view. My apologies to readers who think this sort of thing is silly.

The vet was out here again last week.  I hung my head over the stall door and watched as the Doc and the two vet students who came with her examined Tesoro's back left foot.  When the vet came about three weeks ago, it was his front right foot.  He got lame in the back foot just a day or two after getting over the front foot.

They poked and pinched his hoof while he stood there eating hay - an extra ration, I might add, that Fay and I won't get.  But they thought he wouldn't mind being poked so much if he had something to munch on. 

After the poking was over, they decided to walk him around out in the pasture to see how his back foot behaved - and sure 'nuff, it behaved like a lame foot.  I could have told them that.  Then they brought him back in the barn aisle and decided to give him some shots - something called a nerve block.  At this point I decided not to begrudge him that little bit of extra hay.  After a few minutes, they said his hoof was numb and they took him for another walk in the pasture.  And guess what?  No lameness.  I think all this was to prove that the problem was in the hoof and not further up in his leg bones. 

Next they hauled the portable x-ray machine out of the vet's truck.  And poor old Tesoro got another shot -  a sedative so they could get him to put his two back feet on wooden blocks.  He sure looked silly with his back feet on blocks that made his rear end higher than his front end.  But he was so woozy he didn't care.  He didn't even feel like eating hay.

The vet seemed to be happy with the x-rays since they showed an abscess and not laminitis.  I didn't think it was anything too serious since I hadn't noticed any vultures circling the pasture - no more than the one or two regulars that are always patroling the neighborhood, looking for something to eat.  I'm glad I'm a horse and not a vulture.  It's a lot easier to find grass than it is to find old dead things.

They tied a plastic bag with Epsom salt water in it around Tesoro's foot and soaked it for a few minutes.  Then they put some of that slimy green paste on the bottom of his hoof and put a homemade boot on it.  This homemade boot is - you'll never guess - a disposable baby diaper - complete with cartoon characters printed on it!  I'll swear, I couldn't help snickering when I saw it.  Then they wrapped the diaper in shiny silver tape and, I have to admit, it looks right spiffy.

An hour after the vet left, Tesoro was over his wooziness so Jerry let us out in the pasture.  And - can you believe it! - we weren't out there five minutes before Tesoro came toward me and Fay at a good clip to run us off our patch of grass.  Sometimes I wonder if he doesn't fake these foot problems just for the attention. 

Saturday, July 3, 2010

Artist Trading Cards

It's amazing how you can rock along with your normal routine life and suddenly stumble on something that you didn't know existed.  The internet, of course, is a fantastic place to stumble on new things.  Like Alice falling down the rabbit hole, I've recently fallen into the world of Artist Trading Cards.  And believe me - it's a well populated world.  There are enough websites and YouTube videos about Artist Trading Cards to keep you busy for hours on end.  There are websites that facilitate the trading of ATCs.  There are websites that sell ATC supplies - boxes and albums for storage, plastic sleeves for protection,  and rotating stands for displaying.

The only firm rules about Artist Trading Cards - often referred to as ATCs - is that they must be 2.5 inches by 3.5 inches and must be traded, not sold. (There's a way around the "not sold" rule - more about that later.) Any medium can be used to create an ATC - paint, ink, chalk, colored pencils, rubber stamps, collage elements, etc.  Some ATCs are made of fabric and stitching.  Some have three dimensional features. 

I had lots of fun this morning creating the ATC pictured above.  The lighthouse scene is a rubber stamped image that I colored with watercolor pencils.  The sky was "painted" by dabbing a sponge on a blue rubber stamp pad and then dabbing the sponge lightly onto the sky area.  The water at the bottom of the card is a torn piece of aqua-colored paper.  The torn, ragged edge of the paper conveniently looks like surf pounding the rocks at the base of the lighthouse.  The pretty young miss was cut from the glossy cover of a mail-order catalog and glued onto the card with a glue stick.  I wasn't happy that the young lady was glossy and the rest of the card wasn't.  I remedied this by using a small artist brush to apply a thin coat of matte gel medium to the dear girl.  I'm pleased with the result.   As Dee Gruenig, the queen of rubber stamping, often says about her own creations, "It's so cute, I can hardly stand it!"  Is it really art?  I don't know, but it sure is fun!

I've created four or five ATCs in the last two weeks.  I have to confess that I like them so much, I'm not sure I want to part with them.  They may never be traded.  I've ordered a couple of ATC boxes for storing my creations.  Maybe when I've made enough of them, I'll be willing to part with some of them.   I think the only reason great artists are able to part with their work is that they are confident they can produce more good work.  When you're an iffy artist like I am, you're never sure you can pull it off again.

Now, back to the "not sold" rule.  It appears to me that if you want to sell your little works of art, you just call them ACEOs.  I'll bet you didn't know there's a whole 'nother world of ACEOs - Art Card Editions & Originals.  There's brisk commerce in the ACEO world - just search for ACEOs on E-Bay and you'll see what I mean.

Whether you call them ATCs or ACEOs, creating these little works of art is a lot of fun.  It's an inexpensive hobby, requiring few supplies.  If you're on a tight budget, you can cut your cards from cereal boxes.  If you want your cards to be a little more sophisticated, 100# Bristol board is perfect.  It's sold in tablets at Michael's and Hobby Lobby and is not too expensive.  Old magazines and catalogs are great sources for collage elements. 

One of the best features of this hobby is that an ATC is a small project that can be completed in one sitting.  And I imagine if I ever decide to trade some of my ATCs, I will probably make some new friends.