Future of Earth, Future of Art

ARTECHOUSE Washington

Renewal 2121 at ARTECHOUSE Washington is about how nature survives in an over-developed and technology focused future. The photo above and the two videos below are from the main gallery which features a vision of Tokyo 100 years from now. The visual design is by Yuya Takeda, music is by Mario Hammer and the Lonely Robot. The exhibit is timed to coincide with cherry blossom season in Washington.

This appears at first to be a static scene but as I get closer flowers begin to rain down and as I come closer still you can see the outline of my body.
Part of Abandoned View installation by ARTECHOUSE
Part of ATH20XX printed mural by Dragan 76
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Wednesday’s Word: cheddar

cheeseburger
(Fidel Fernando)

Nothing ambiguous about this word. Cheddar is cheese. The kind of cheese you put on a cheeseburger. An excellent choice for a grilled cheese. And what respectable macaroni and cheese doesn’t include cheddar.

The typically straight laced Merriam Webster definition of cheddar is: “a hard white, yellow, or orange smooth-textured cheese with a flavor that ranges from mild to strong as the cheese matures — called also cheddar cheese.” Really?

So why is the woman in the Capital One commercial talking about saving cheddar when she shops on line? Because cheddar is also slang for money, a slang that is commonly used in rap songs. Like this one:

cheese
(Daniel Costa)

Is there a connection between cheddar the food and cheddar the cash? You betcha. It goes back to a time when Americans found certain benefits like welfare or food stamps embedded with a hunk of cheese. While it may not be one of the options at the local deli to add to a sandwich order, there is something called government cheese. This is an orange processed substance similar to American cheese. It was acquired by the government as part of an effort to subsidize the dairy industry, something that originated in the 1940’s.

By 1981 the government had stockpiled enough of this stuff that they could have provided 2 pounds to every American. President Ronald Reagan announced that the government cheese stockpile should be distributed to the needy. California was the first state to raise its hand. It got a first shipment of 3 million pounds which it distributed to welfare, food stamp and social security recipients. You can well imagine some of those folks saying, “just give me the cheddar.”

There are some other uses of the word cheddar. In the world of sports there is more than one and neither involve strange odors in the locker room. If a baseball pitcher serves up some cheddar it means he threw a fastball, and a good one at that. In hockey if you shoot the puck into the cheddar it goes into the top of the net under the crossbar. 

No doubt thinking of the money definition, there is an online business news service called Cheddar. I have focused on cheddar the noun. There is also cheddar the verb, cheddaring being a cheese-making process.

Perhaps it is best summed up In the words of Ice Cube:

“See we down for whatever 

It’s all about the Cheddar” 

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Once a Factory, Once a Prison, Now It’s Belle Isle

James River

This island in the middle of the James River in Richmond, Va., once housed the Old Dominion Iron and Nail Works, producing nails, wire and horseshoes beginning in the early 19th century. During the civil war the island was used as a prison for captured Union soldiers. In 1863, there were 10,000 soldiers being held here. In the early 20th century the Virginia Railway and Power company operated a hydroelectric plant on the site.

Be the mid-20th century, the island and the river itself were in a state that was all too familiar for rivers that ran through industrial areas. It was severely polluted with few healthy fish or other wildlife and access to the river was prohibited.

Today, Belle Isle is the most popular part of the James River Park system. It offers hiking and biking trails, sunbathing on the rocks, a skate park, a granite wall for rock climbing and a wheelchair-accessible fishing pond. But mostly the beautiful island has returned to its natural state. Mother Nature has erased the vestiges of jailer and industrialist alike.

Belle Isle map
footbridge across James River
Footbridge to Belle Isle
Footbridge to Belle Isle
Remains of Belle Isle factory
Remains of the Belle Isle Milling and Slitting Manufactory, in operation from approximately 1815-1900
Ironworks storage shed
Storage shed used by the Old Dominion Iron and Nail Company
Belle Isle hiking trail
Hollywood Rapids
The Hollywood Rapids are named after the Hollywood Cemetery, visible on the opposite side of the river.
Belle Isle hydroelectric plant
The hydroelectric plant
Belle Isle
Headgate cleaner
This headgate cleaner strained the water flowing into the plant.
Belle Isle
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Wednesday’s Word: goober

Do you know what a goober is? I’ve only associated the word with some uncouth expulsion of a bodily substance. Is a goober what you pick out of your nose. Or, if you were to hold your finger over one nostril and shoot something out of the other one is that a goober? (Something I’ve never done by the way.) Or, maybe it is a goober that you spit over the railing while you’re sitting in a rocker on your front porch with an early morning can of beer. (Also something I’ve never done. My porch is screened in.)

nose picker

You can imagine my surprise when I looked up the definition of goober and didn’t find anything about snot rockets. A quick Google search brought up two definitions.

  1. A peanut
  2. A foolish person
Bill Clinton

So if you’re short and a fool it’s sort of a double goober. There’s also a regional thread as you are more likely to be a goober if you are from Georgia or Arkansas. I was looking for a word for Newt Gingrich. And what about when that goober from Arkansas dropped a goober on Monica Lewinsky’s blue dress.

But that’s not all. There is a disgusting concoction of peanut butter and fruit preserves that goes under the brand name of Goober and another Nestle product called Goobers which are chocolate covered peanuts.

fool


As usual, I turned to the Urban Dictionary for more elaboration. There I found “basically a goober is just a kindhearted, rather oblivious goofball. It’s a term of endearment really. It comes from the ancient Scottish verb ‘to goob’, which has to do with doing a dance and smiling sheepishly while doing so, exposing the goubs in one’s teeth. Basically a goober is just a kindhearted, rather oblivious goofball.”

Unpacking all that leaves you with a vision of a doofus doing some sort of jig with a big smile on his face so you can see the stuff stuck between his teeth. That brings us back full circle to the uncouth bodily substance issue.

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Wednesday’s Word: bogart

If you were a college student in 1969 there’s a good chance you saw the movie Easy Rider at least once. Dennis Hopper and Peter Fonda riding through the South on their choppers were the Marlboro Men of the counter culture.

And if you were moseying or truckin’ across campus at the time you may well have had the music of Easy Rider recycling in your head, including the song “Don’t Bogart Me” by a group called the Fraternity of Man (who are remembered for very little else). The song is best known for the first line of its chorus: “Don’t bogart that joint, my friend.” Lest you aren’t familiar with the term bogart, the next line of the song “pass it over to me” makes the meaning pretty clear.

This was my introduction to the word bogart, an antonym to the word share. Or, to use it is a sentence:

“Jeff Bezos, don’t bogart the world’s wealth.”

“Don’t bogart that search traffic, Google”

or

“Rich countries, don’t bogart those COVID vaccine doses.”

Up until the time I walked out of the movie theater humming that Fraternity of Man tune, my only encounter with the word bogart involved the famous actor Humphrey Bogart. Turns out there is a connection between the guy who played Rick Blaine in Casablanca and selfish behavior involving a joint. Bogart was known to dangle a cigarette out of the side of his mouth without actually pulling on it. While surely few would want to share that cigarette, this is the behavior that came to be christened “bogarting.” The actor Bogart, by the way, died of esophageal cancer.

Humphrey Bogart

Frustratingly, spellcheck refuses to accept bogart as a word. Merriam-Webster knows better. The meaning is pretty straightforward: “to consume without sharing,” adding the variations bogarts, bogarting and bogarted. The Urban Dictionary definition is a little more expansive: “to knowingly and covertly attempt to consume a larger share of the communal weed than is proper, at the expense of one’s homeboys/girls.” Living as I do in a state that recently legalized recreational marijuana, I’m expecting my homeboys/girls to bring the verb bogart back into fashion.

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Spring Comes to the Sculpture Garden

Grounds for Sculpture, Hamilton, N.J.

March 21, 2012, the first day of Spring

Grounds for Sculpture
Cuckoo's Nest, Zoran Mojsilov
Cuckoo’s Nest, Zoran Mojsilov
Regeneration, Kang Muxiang
Regeneration. The Taiwanese artist Kang Muxiang produced this from steel elevator cable from the skyscraper Taipai 101

Seward Johnson died a little more than a year ago in March of 2020 at age 90. He was the grandson of Robert Wood Johnson I, the founder of Johnson & Johnson. He worked for the family firm for a bit before he was fired by his uncle Robert Wood Johnson II.

Johnson is famous for his giant and life-sized bronze statues, often castings of living people engaged in their daily activities. He was the CEO of the Atlantic Foundation which created and opened the Grounds for Sculpture in 1992.

Erotica Tropicallis, Seward Johnson
Erotica Tropicallis, Seward Johnson
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Virgil Ortiz’ 1680 Fantasy

Virgil Ortiz is from Cochiti Pueblo, New Mexico, where he was born in 1969 and where he still lives. His grandmother Laurencita Herrera and his mother, Seferina Ortiz, were both renowned Pueblo potters. While Oritz works in several mediums, he primarily considers himself a potter.

Victor Ortiz pottery

His creations are focused on a historical event that occurred in his part of the world in 1680. The Pueblo Rebellion that took place in that year has been called the first American revolution. Pueblo tribes throughout the province of Santa Fe de Nuevo Mexico banded together to drive out the Spanish settlers, a goal they accomplished, ridding the province of 2,000 Spaniards.

Oritz tells that story through the creation of sci-fi characters leading the rebellion in the year 2180. In Ortiz’s story, Tahu, a young blind woman, leads the Venutian soldiers in a futuristic rebellion. With forces that include an army of blind archers and aeronauts she leads her people on a quest to find a new safe place to live after their homeland has been destroyed.

Victor Ortiz figurine
Kade, Cacique of the Horseman Tribe
Victor Ortiz character
Tahu
Victor Ortiz costume
Aeronaut costume

Photos are of Virgil Ortiz works on display at the Montclair (N.J.) Art Museum. You can see more of his art at https://www.virgilortiz.com/.

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Play

A Wordless Wednesday gallery of pubic domain photos.

blocks
(Markus Spiske)
play
Lukas
playing guitar
(Lorri Lang)
fiddle player
(William Recinos)
video game
(cottonbro)
roulette
(meineresterampe)
playing cards
(Radu Florin)
chess
(Egor Myznik)

Images downloaded from Unsplash, Pixabay and Pexels

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Impeached in America: Samuel B. Kent

Samuel B. Kent called himself the Lion King, King Kent, the emperor of Galveston. He liked to tell anyone who would listen that he was the government. History, however, will remember him by another nickname, the sex judge.

Samuel Kent

Born in Denver, but raised in Houston, Kent was all Texas. At 6’4″ he was part of a state champion basketball team in Houston, attended the University of Texas in Austin where he was an English major, and later graduated from UT Law School. After graduation he moved to Galveston where he worked for a private law firm. A member of the Republican Party, he was nominated by George Bush and confirmed as U.S. District Court Judge for the Southern District of Texas in 1990. While it is common for district courts to have multiple judges, Kent was the only show in town in Galveston.

In a 2009 story in Texas Monthly (Perversion of Justice), Skip Hollandsworth, describes Kent’s behavior: “As the most powerful jurist in Galveston, Judge Samuel Kent intimidated everyone: the lawyers who argued cases before him, the defendants and plaintiffs who appeared in his courtroom—and the female courthouse employees he groped, kissed, and forced himself on when no one was looking. Imperious, charismatic, and seemingly above the law, he almost got away with it. Until one woman decided to fight back.”

That woman was Kathy McBroom. McBroom, a married woman with three children, was hired in 2002 to be Kent’s case manager.

Based on her later testimony in court and in Congress, Hollandsworth describes what happened:

“Almost exactly one year after she’d taken the job, on a Friday afternoon in August 2003, Cathy was walking down the hall when she saw the judge, who had just stepped out of his private elevator. She snapped to attention. He was returning from a long lunch with friends, and as usual a courthouse security officer was accompanying him to his chambers. The judge saw Cathy and waved at her. ‘I hear there’s a new exercise room somewhere around here,’ he said. ‘Want to show it to me?’

“‘It’s right here,’ said Cathy, opening the door to a small room that had recently been equipped with a weight bench and some free weights. It was barely ten feet from the command center where the security officers worked, and she quickly led the way in. Suddenly, before she could utter a cry, the judge grabbed her, holding her head with one hand and lifting her up to crush her mouth against his. With his other hand he yanked up her blouse and bra, then tried to force his way into her skirt, tearing at her panty hose.”

Hollandsworth goes on: “It became a predictable cycle: After several months of model behavior, the judge would suddenly make a move. Pin her against a wall. Grope her through her clothes. Tell her that he wanted to give her oral sex and have her return the favor. The following day he’d apologize, promising with a shrug that it would not happen again.”

McBroom shared her story with Kent’s secretary Donna Wilkerson. Wilkerson’s response, “Me too.” McBroom filed a complaint in 2007. A year later Kent was indicted on three counts of aggravated sexual abuse. In 2009, a federal grand jury added three additional counts including another count of aggravated sexual abuse as well as abusive sexual contact and obstruction of justice.

As rumors circulated that there were some six other women ready and willing to testify against Kent, he entered a plea bargain, pleading guilty to the one count of obstruction of justice for lying to the court about his abuse. He also had to issue a statement acknowledging that he had “non-consensual sexual contact” with McBroom and Wilkerson. He was sentenced to 33 months in prison.

Kent’s lawyer, Dick DeGuerin, appealed to the court that his client suffered from “depression, alcoholism, diabetes and bipolar disease.” He asked that rather than resign, he be allowed to claim disability. That would allow him to collect his $169k salary for the rest of his life. One response came from the Houston Chronicle editorial writers “Cry us a river. Judge Kent’s predicament leaves us completely unmoved. He put himself there and deserves the ultimate constitutional penalty for misconduct by a federal judge—impeachment by Congress.” 

After that appeal was denied, Kent submitted his resignation, dated one year from the date it was submitted. It is that forward-looking resignation, one that would allow Kent to collect his salary for a year while in jail, that prompted impeachment proceedings in Congress.

CNN covered the proceeding before the House Judiciary Committee. DeGuerin issued this statement via email: “”Judge Kent and I refuse to be part of the circus. All sexual misconduct allegations against Judge Kent were dismissed in court. The highly exaggerated, yet salacious and scandalous testimony of his former personal secretary and his former case manager is irrelevant to the grounds for impeachment and served no purpose other than to allow a few politicians to posture publicly.”

Rep. Lamar Smith of Texas offered a different view: “Judge Kent receives $465 of his taxpayer-funded salary every day he remains in office. We are here today to put an end to Judge Kent’s abuse of authority and exploitation of American taxpayers.”

Kathy McBroom and Donna Wilkerson sat side-by-side and testified before the committee. The result was that the committee voted unanimously to send four articles of impeachment to the full house. The proceedings were chaired by Rep. Adam Schiff, who would later fill the same role for the Trump I impeachment. Two of those articles referred to Kent’s abuse of the two women, the other two concerned his false statements and obstruction of justice. Three of the articles were approved unanimously while the fourth received one “present” vote.

Schiff brought the articles of impeachment to the Senate for trial. On June 25, 2009, Senate representatives went to the facility where Kent was being held to serve a summons to appear at the trial. Instead, they got a new resignation letter, this one to take effect June 30. The House then passed a resolution asking the Senate to end the proceedings, which they did.

Meanwhile, the deposed judge was finding that in jail he was no longer King Kent. Kent had unsuccessfully appealed to have his sentence reconsidered, arguing that as a prisoner and ex-judge, he suffered inhumane conditions akin to torture in correctional facilities in Florida and elsewhere. In 2010, Kent filed a petition for a rehearing, arguing that he had been unjustly shunted into solitary confinement, forced to hear the screams of another inmate being raped and ordered by a ‘cruel’ sergeant in the Florida prison system to do calisthenics in the nude. The petition was denied. (Chron.com)

Kent served 29 months of his 33-month sentence. He was released in July of 2011 and was confined to his vacation home in West Texas for the remainder of his sentence. Little information about Kent is available after that, but apparently he led a quiet life in his West Texas home. 

Following the Kent case, the Galveston bench was eliminated. Both McBroom and Wilerson got similar jobs at the federal courthouse in Houston.

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Light

A Wordless Wednesday gallery of public domain photos.

sunrise
(Benn McGuinness)
sunlight through the trees
(Claudio Schwarz)
car lights
(Paul Volkmer)
traffic light
(Riva Ferdian)
string of lights
(Irena Carpaccio)
city lights
(Victoriano Izquierdo)
lightbulb
(Christian Dubovan)
still life
(Free Photos)
candle
(Pexels)
lighthouse
(TheOtherKev)
moonlight
(Clay Kaufmann)

Images downloaded from Unsplash and Pixabay.

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