Pictures at an Exhibition

The time has come to reveal my latest avocation. I’ve been messing around with acrylic paints for the past month. There was a time back in my college years when I experimented with visual art — acrylics and oils. I didn’t go very far with it then, but for the past year or so, the urge had been building in me to try it again. I had a great epiphany: if you feel like painting, you don’t have to imitate photos. You don’t have to paint rustic barns, farm ponds, or covered bridges (though you can if you want). So in this month of March, I’ve taken up the brush again and decided to be as weird as I want.

Don’t expect too much from the images you are about to see. Think kindly of them, because I haven’t had any training whatsoever. I simply wanted to try a form of expression that’s different from writing — to exercise parts of the imagination that don’t necessarily get to work in the written word. And anyway, I think it’s good to stretch ourselves and to try new things now and then.

I’ve found painting to be extremely satisfying and relaxing. It’s a challenge of just the right sort. Well, I know you’re already scrolling down to see what I’ve got here and aren’t in the mood just now to wade through any more preliminary rambling. All right, all right! Scroll down, already! I’ll present each image, and then provide some explanatory notes.

The Uncanny City is a nickname some friends and I have for Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania. These first two paintings are intended as a diptych: a

The Uncanny City (I) -- Left

single image spread over two panels. At Pittsburgh, the Allegheny and Monongahela Rivers join to form the Ohio River. With three rivers and valleys and ravines yawning on every hand, Pittsburgh is, for one thing, a city of bridges: it has 446 of them — more than are in Venice, Italy. The city also has 712 sets of stairs, making up more than 24,000 vertical feet — a greater vertical distance than you’ll find in San Francisco, Portland, and Cincinnati combined! My impressions of Pittsburgh are of steep, wooded mountainsides receding into the mist; ancient, often little-used stairways ascending and descending, often in the most unexpected places; crumbling

The Uncanny City (I) -- Right

 stoneworks — actually old foundations and cellar entrances, I’m told, but reminiscent of portals into subterranean realms. At night, there are winking lights on the towers, on the bridges, on the slopes, and reflected in the water. It’s a city once choked in industrial grime, but now considerably cleaned up for a new era. It’s called a “renaissance city,” reborn from the ashes of fiery forges, and now growing in many new and exciting ways.

My paintings here are meant to reflect the Pittsburgh that I see, like Middle-earth, a place built over the ruins of the past, with half-buried  secrets showing through the leaves: a place of whispers, echoes, moonlight, ghosts, and things uncanny . . . where dark doorways stand open, and stairs might lead anywhere.

The Uncanny City (II) -- Left

The Uncanny City (II) -- Right

Kind of fun, huh? When I was doing the first set of those, I didn’t like them until I put in the stoneworks and stairways floating in the sky. That element is what, for me, laid in the intangible quality of Pittsburgh that I was trying to capture — something like what Neil Gaiman described in Fragile Things as “a room that’s locked but isn’t there.” If you put each pair side-by-side, the left panels line up with the right, continuing the image. It’s a popular thing to do with fantasy book series, for example: to have a picture that extends across all the covers when the books are laid out adjacent to one another — and/or possibly another image that runs across the spines.

Anyway, here’s one I call Shadowland:


The somber figures troop in a weary file through a country of gloom and shadows. Beneath a gap in the clouds is a forest aglow with sunlight. The figures react to it, but trudge past; it is not on their path — they are either unable or unwilling to go there. Do they regard the lighted country with longing, despair, awe, consternation, terror, or a vague uneasiness? I’m not sure what to make of the fact that the walkers’ legs are more canine than human.


I like the colors and composition of this one. Dirigibles, gears, pipes, dials, steam, mysterious strangers in Victorian garb, and a pocket watch — what else is there to say? — Steampunk!


Heh, heh! — But which figure is the self-portrait? Or are they both? Is the picture a kind of mirror? That’s a wall and window dividing it down the center, if you can’t tell. The faun is dancing in the moonlight outside the cottage where the writer listens, watches, and scribbles by the light of a lamp and candles — taking the dictation of the summer night. Let me show you the components of this one up closer:

Self-Portrait (Detail)

Self-Portrait (Detail)

March 2010

No, this one’s not a painting. It’s a picture of me painting at my aunt’s house, where I was visiting in Illinois this month. I’m grateful to my aunt and uncle for sacrificing this room: for a few weeks, they couldn’t really walk through it, with all the painting supplies strewn everywhere.

My Work Table

The House of the Worm (I)

A ripe, autumnal fruit is honeycombed with arches, passages, and stairs: the delvings of the worm, who sits in his easy chair, visible through an upper window as he smokes his pipe. Through another window, a portrait of a worm is visible hanging on a wall. The worm has made this fruit his home. This painting and the variation which follows were inspired in part by William Blake’s poem “The Sick Rose.” Are these pictures purely whimsical, or are they pretty dark in theme? You decide!

The House of the Worm (II)

In some ways I like this refinement better: I wanted the fruit to be more clearly an apple, and this version is less cluttered than the first. Here we have the addition of the ladder, welcome mat, and mailbox, and the worm’s head is visible. But he looks a bit too much like the caterpillar in Alice in Wonderland, which I don’t intend. I like the way the shapes of the arches look very much like crawling worms themselves. I like to nest images one inside (or atop) another, as in this next one:

Cassie's Summer

Cassie is my aunt and uncle’s border collie. She’s not really green — I took some artistic license on that point. Aunt Alice requested a portrait of Cassie, who is my daily walking companion when I visit. (Don’t miss the clouds!) Wouldn’t this make a good Cricket Magazine cover?

Still Life

In this one, the eerie faces emerged first. I knew it was about them, but I didn’t have the context — the juxtaposition that makes for an interesting painting. Just when I thought this picture would be a lost cause, I realized what it needed: lots of ordinary fruit to give the faces their place as sources of disquiet.

Now here are the two that, for the present, are probably my favorites:

The Dawn Engine (I)

It’s probably best if I don’t even attempt to explain. Make of it what you will. Again, I had to paint a second, alternate version:

The Dawn Engine (II)

This second rendition makes me think of Lovecraft’s Cthulhu stories. . . .

And let’s end on a more comforting note:

House of God

I’d like to try something else along these lines when I’ve gotten a little better; it uses a wash technique to simulate light shining through stained glass. The statues along the bottom were painted in shades of gray and blue, then covered with a thin, watery layer of another color once they were dry; I like how the highlights show through. I like the compositional balance of the picture. Yeah, I know that one window looks an awfully lot like a dart board. . . .

So there you have it — my first round of acrylic pictures. I intend to keep working at this, so I’m really curious to know what you like and what you dislike about these.

Of course, I’m not really a painter, so 1.) you won’t hurt my feelings if you hate them, and 2.) I’d better turn back to some writing one of these days.

Until soon!


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56 Responses to “Pictures at an Exhibition”

  1. Danny Kaye Says:

    Pittsburgh? What is it with Pittsburgh? My wife has this thing for Pittsburgh. She spent some time working there and kind of fell in love with the place for some odd reason. (I’ll definitely pass this blog entry on to her!) We almost wound up living there after my postdoc in New Orleans ran out and her office closed there as well. We had a choice: Boston or Pittsburgh. I am kind of glad we wound up in Boston, but Pittsburgh was actually a nice city. I kind of like it too, but not as much as you freaks!

    Your artwork is very nice! I am impressed with some of your “human forms” despite no formal training. In my years of doing cartoons at various university and city newspapers I struggled with that. Cartooning lets you get away with a lot more latitude in human forms, so I was able to gin up a workable format for my artwork.

    I agree with the desire to experience expression through different means. Over the past several years I’ve experimented with recorded music which I now stash at

    While I recognize that my stuff actually sucks badly (I tell people I am “weaponizing music” and use it mostly to torment Rita and the dogs), but it is fun to “feel the expression”. It is fun to feel what it must be like for an artist in a different medium to feel when they do their stuff.

    And of course you will never be able to improve in a new area expression until you actuall _start_ to express in that area! So good on ya!

    • fsdthreshold Says:

      Thanks, Danny! I knew they’d let you do something in Heaven other than read movie novelizations!

      Seriously, I appreciate your kind words — and now I’m intrigued by your recorded music — I’m going to pursue that link.

      “Weaponizing music,” eh? I think it’s a growing, wide-open field. I’ve encountered some music that’s been downright debilitating. (I’m not talking about yours here — I haven’t heard it yet!)

      I remember your little experiment with backmasking back in the day, and the subversive message you attempted to plant in the minds of unwitting listeners!

  2. Catherine Says:

    That stained-glass effect is absolutely gorgeous. I didn’t think about dart-boards until you mentioned it, but then, I’m not one to notice things like that.

    I think there’s something very brave about your work — and, with the bright colors, something childlike (you know, to do with invisible worlds and crayons and coloring outside the lines and all . . .) I think it’s beautiful!

    • fsdthreshold Says:

      Thank you, Catherine! Your comments really cheered me up!

      I think you have touched upon an important point here about creative output of any kind: we have to be brave — or maybe it’s not even bravery, maybe it’s just being childlike, as you said. We have to forget that we “can’t” do things and just do them.

      That’s a trait I’ve inherited from my mom. She would just plunge in and try different things. For most things, it’s probably good to get some training, too, at some point. But I guess the heart of it is just throwing caution to the wind and not being afraid of looking silly.

      Is it crazy to paint when you don’t know how? Of course! The only thing crazier is then posting those paintings on a public blog! Wheeeeeee! 🙂

  3. I cannot draw a square Says:

    …but I appreciate those you can. Remember Quyen’s relation (was it cousin)? He had that kind of ‘line here, line there, shape here, presto!’ talent that has always amazed me.

    I agree with Catherine that the stained-glass effect is incredible! I also love Cassie’s Summer, and, yes, that would be a great Cricket cover! You should think about submitting it, since you have an ‘in’ at Cricket!

    I thought for sure we were going to see some Untowards or their carts …

    • fsdthreshold Says:

      Heh, heh! Thanks! I’d like to try another stained-glass picture now that I’ve done it once.

      Yes, I remember Minh’s artwork! Remember that map he did for us of our D&D continent? We were all speechless with awe, and he was like, “Oh, you can have it. I don’t want it.”

  4. Jedibabe Says:

    Great work Fred! The Uncanny City pics are really enticing, they have a little bit of a Suessian feel to them, with the stairs going all over- so fun! They make me want to go climb the stairs and do some exploring. The Self Portrait is great and I LOVE Cassie’s Summer! You could have a future in whimsical pet portraiture! Catherines right, your bold colors and fanciful imagery are confident and audacious. Way to go! I’m to much a chicken to attempt oil painting, I remember the horror of my one childhood attempt with embarrassment to this day.

    Sounds like you had a fun break; I’m glad to hear it. I’d wondered where you had disappeared to last month, welcome back.

    • fsdthreshold Says:

      Thank you, Jedibabe! On those Uncanny City pictures, I first did the first pair more as “realistic” landscapes, but with the ghostly (vampiric) figure and the “full moon” (?) rising behind the arch. Something seemed to be missing. I realized that it was stairs going more places than just up and down the mountains. The stairways had to lead off into the sky, into the stars, and there had to be more yawning stone entrances and crumbling ruins than just in the foreground. When I let those elements grow wild, I found what I was trying to show about Pittsburgh.

      Thank you for your thoughts about some of the other paintings, too! (Maybe you should try painting again, too — I know I could never be a realistic painter. But I’ll bet pictures of natural settings seen through your eyes would be fascinating!)

  5. jhagman Says:

    Your painting is as good (in my humble opinion) as Jason Van Hollander’s, or even the work of Hannes Bok. The lurid colors work very well indeed.

    • fsdthreshold Says:

      Eek! Thank you, jhagman, but eek! Jason is a professional artist who has won the World Fantasy Award. I don’t know Hannes Bok’s material, but s/he probably knows what s/he’s doing, too!

      Yeah, lurid colors are nice. I think watercolors would be too anemic for me. “Be Italian,” right? “Live each day as though it might become your last!”

  6. John R. Fultz Says:

    Wild stuff, Fred! A little Clark Ashton Smith, a little Jason Van Hollander…definitely you have some “weird” influence there…which is a great thing. Great use of color, too!

    • fsdthreshold Says:

      Thank you, John! Here’s a really dumb question: did Clark Ashton Smith paint? Or do you mean that the ideas are Smith-like? I’ve only read his Zothique, but yes, he certainly was an influence on me — it was in those impressionable early-teenage years when one can truly escape into books and live inside one’s own head for a lot more of the time.

  7. Daylily Says:

    Thanks for sharing your unique view of the world via acrylics! I especially appreciate your view of Pittsburgh, since I lived there for four years. I think that I would like to spend some time exploring your Uncanny City and then some more time exploring the houses of the worms. I am quite taken with Cassie’s Summer; I like the peaceful feeling of the work and the imaginative view of dog as wooded mountain.

    • fsdthreshold Says:

      Thank you, Daylily! It might be dangerous to explore the houses of the worms. But then again, it’s just an apple — how lost can you get inside an apple, right? 🙂

  8. Lizzie Borden Says:

    I love looking at people’s art when it’s full of, well, bizarrely creative ideas. I think we should all strive to express ourselves and our more unusual thoughts in ways that are easily accessible to friends/family/everyone around us.. And WOW, Fred, I don’t know why it surprises me but I was really taken aback at how creative you are with paint.

    Definitely don’t let this slide off as a passing phase again, you’ve got such an unusual “eye” for things and, well, I can’t quite think of the words I want to use other than “immensely unique”. I loooove looking at them.

    I particularly like The Dawn Engine(s)- the colors are engrossing, The House of the Worm I – I especially like your depiction of the worm- subtle, comfortable, with his pipe, and your self portrait- it’s got such a whimsy to it. Fantastic. Don’t you DARE stop painting.

    • fsdthreshold Says:

      I’m really honored (and embarrassed) by your reaction here, Lizzie, because you’re an actual artist! (You were probably surprised by these paintings because you’ve seen how badly I do with just a pencil. The advantage of painting is that the paints themselves have beautiful hues, especially when they’re glossily varnished, no matter who puts them onto the canvas or how!)

      But thank you!

  9. Zoë Says:

    The worm has a mailbox!! I wonder if he gets birthday cards…
    Wow, your paintings are as intricate and unique as your writing! I love “The Dawn Engine (I)”, especially the use of color. The way the orange is set right next to the turquoise brings forth the feeling of some sort of giant forge. The faces in “Still Life” remind me of people I know. “Cassie’s Summer” reminds me of a really beautifully painted children’s book illustration. The worm houses look like fun places to live. The shadow people look like they’re dancing, although it’s sad that they have to look at a beautiful place they can’t enter. These paintings are all really colorful and interesting, and they all seem to tell a story, which I think is a good quality to have in a painting.

    • fsdthreshold Says:

      Thank you for those kind words, Zoe! I’m still just beginning to learn how to use colors, but I had fun with these paintings and hope to continue. Yes, that’s my idea of The Dawn Engine, too, that these giant “engines” (whatever they are) under the ground are what’s lighting up the sky to produce dawn above ground.

      I really appreciated hearing your thoughts about each of the paintings — thank you!

  10. Scott Says:

    These are wonderful. I can see you branching out and painting your own cover art for your books. I agree with the others about “Cassie’s Summer”. You should write a story to go along with it and submit it to Cricket.

    • fsdthreshold Says:

      Thanks, Scott! If I had the same emoticon arsenal here that I have in Hotmail, I’d use “embarrassed” right about now!

  11. Marquee Movies Says:

    I like Fred’s opening, as well – “The time has come…” the walrus said…. Fred, I really enjoy looking at these paintings. They’re very interesting to look at, and they sure stir my imagination. People’s responses of how much they’d like to be in one of your paintings reminds me of a question that some interviewer or magazine used to ask of its subjects – What painting would you like to live in? (It might have been visit.) I didn’t (still don’t) know enough about the painting world to recognize many of the paintings that were stated by different subjects, but I always thought it was an interesting twist on the What book or movie would you most like to visit. So – I ask Fred’s many guests – what painting would you like to visit? In all of world art, modern, classic… just occurred to me that I should have an answer of my own to wrap this up with – I’ve thought about the mural that is painted near the end of “Pleasantville,” and a Raphael painting that’s on our refrigerator (yes, an actual original Raphael! – attached there with a magnet featuring Audrey Hepburn from “Roman Holiday”), but I think I’ll go with one of Van Gogh’s evening street cafes. So beautiful, so peaceful, and I can read, or look at the starry sky, and order drinks.

    • Chris Says:

      Bruegel’s “Hunters in the Snow”. Or maybe “Triumph of Death”, the latter only a brief visit from a distance.

      • Marquee Movies Says:

        Chris, I looked at both paintings. Hunters in the Snow is terribly beautiful, with much, much to look at, and marvel at – I confess some confusion as to why you’d want to visit, even briefly, even from a distance, Triumph of Death. But both are fascinating to see! (If you want to respond, I’ll be on the ice in the first painting, or maybe under one of the bridges. Can’t stop thinking about bridges since Fred’s painting and talk of Pittsburgh.)

      • Chris Says:

        I like “Triumph of Death” (and often have it as my desktop on my computer) because it is a very moving painting. I don’t think I’d want to “live” there, but just as Bosch paintings of various weird hells it’s fascinating to look at. To wonder what it must be like to see it live….not live there, however.

        I don’t know if you recall one of the earlier posts from Fred (I wish I could find it again, but can’t, so I’m kind of going off memory here), was asking the reader to reply what place they would rather read about. While I would never want to be in hell, I think the images of it in art are far more compelling than the images of heaven. Certainly in Bosch’s paintings!

        Heaven is, as I’ve written before here, kind of a dull place to imagine or describe. If one is in the midst of a “hell on earth”, of course any place else would be heaven and would be preferable.

        That is what art serves for me. To allow me to feel that which I don’t necessarily want to “live in”.

        That’s why I like dark gloomy paintings that are sad. Even Bruegel’s hunt scene is, at it’s heart, kind of sad. The grey cloudy sky. I love those sad kind of days. Kind of dark, not sunny or really “happy happy”.

        Don’t get me wrong here. I know I often come across as somewhat unhinged but this is part of what art is for me. The chance to “experience”, however briefly, the unhinged, the sad, the “intensity of feeling” aspect.

        (And to be perfectly honest I did kind of stretch it on this question since I technically don’t want to LIVE in the kind of hellishness depicted in “Triumph of Death”. But to see it would be kind of fascinating…and then to escape.)

        Why do we love watching parts of Lord of the Rings (the movie) but to see the awesome power and scariness of the hordes of Mordor?

        Yeah,yeah,yeah, we can see the pretty horsies of Rohan and the big plains, and it’s all beautiful….but getting a chance to see the scary Black Gate of Mordor was waaaay cool.

        The Black Riders were hardly interestings until they got those scary flying lizard things!

      • fsdthreshold Says:

        Pieter Bruegel the Elder has long been one of my top three or four favorite artists of all time. (Incidentally, his name can apparently also be spelled Breugel or Breughel. Anyone for Brueghel? He’s like William Shagspur, I guess. Shakspir? Shakespeare?)

        But anyway, Bruegel’s paintings suggest thousands of stories that could be written about any one of them. They offer such colorful, whimsical, bawdy, eerie, and sometimes terrifying glimpses into the life of the Middle Ages. And they make me worry, too — did people and animals really LOOK like that back then? The characters could be out of an H.P. Lovecraft story — people descended from monsters.

        Also, the illustrator of the Arkham House Dragonfly, Mr. Jason Van Hollander, has said that Bruegel has had a huge influence on his work as well.

        And Chris, you do have an excellent point there: I’m intrigued and attracted by, say, a Dore illustration of Dante’s visions of Hell — but does anyone know a famous painting of Heaven? Have artists even attempted that?

    • fsdthreshold Says:

      Marquee Movies, that’s a great question about what painting we’d like to visit or live in! I need to think about it more. . . . My first reaction is that there’s a Middle-earth painting by Ted Nasmith called The Glittering Caves of Aglarond that I can just stare and stare at. Legolas and Gimli are walking there on their tour together after the War of the Ring is over, when people can breathe and enjoy the world again. Gimli agrees to try to appreciate the woods more, and Legolas agrees to see just what’s so great about the underground. But anyway, it’s a beautiful painting — the caverns depicted in minute detail, glittering and infinitely receding into untold depths, and with more space descending beneath crystal-clear water. Yep, I would love to go there!

  12. tandemcat Says:

    I was prepared for this, but unprepared. I had heard about some paintings, and had the impression there were maybe three or four….

    Yes, as artistic expression exists in this century, and given Fred’s talent, he could just as well do this as write books, although there is the long curve of recognition to consider–probably better to stick with the writing, but OTOH there is the story of the doctor who kept experimenting with conducting an orchestra, and finally decided to take down his shingle and pursue the musical road to the limit. His patients were dismayed, but he dismissed their disappointment and continued. Anyway, the pictures are very much reflective of the same person who writes the stories.

    I like the Pittsburgh pictures, of course–will get back to that in a moment–as well as the self-portrait, ‘Cassie’s Summer,’ and ‘House of God.’ To me ‘Steampunk’ appears to be an alternate look at the underground world of ‘Dragonfly’–the Jolly Jack is now blue, and there are all of the pipes carrying the poisoned water to fountains on the surface–those gauges are doubtless counting how many thousand gallons of regular instilled and premium nightmare. Dragonfly herself is all dressed up as an aviator, ready to take her place in the wheelhouse of the Jack. Carrying Grandfather’s cane, Hain is standing in the background, contemplating it all.

    Pittsburgh–my birthplace–I returned here by choice, taking a call to teach in a school (now closed) two blocks from the hospital where I was born, on East North Avenue, and now work from a school bus garage at the opposite end–West North Avenue–right on the banks of the Ohio River, across which is the gaping mouth of a huge mystery tunnel, with its bottom half walled off, going nowhere that I know of, not connecting to any road or rail line–no one that I’ve queried so far knows anything about it.

    • fsdthreshold Says:

      Thank you for your kind words about the paintings! I’d forgotten that you were born in Pittsburgh! So you have made a geographic circle — very interesting.

      That’s fascinating about the mystery tunnel, and that’s exactly the sort of thing I was trying to express in the pictures. The Uncanny City is just full of things like that, still whispering and echoing among all the newer construction.

  13. I cannot draw a square Says:

    I note, with the amusement that comes from long knowledge, that the artist depicts himself barefoot. So true to character …

    A good friend of mine is originally from Pittsburgh. I showed him your paintings and he loved them. I have only been through the city, and that was at night on a long car trip, so I was unable to appreciate it, but it must be something, because everyone raves about it.

    For me, the city is Chicago. I love the architecture, the culture, the Cubs, Da Bears, the Hawks, Da Bulls, the museums, the lake, the pizza (1,000 words would not do it justice), the music scene … etc. Although it is a six-hour drive, I am back ‘home’ no less than twice a year, often more. You can have New York and LA … I’ll take:

       Hog Butcher for the World,
       Tool Maker, Stacker of Wheat,
       Player with Railroads and the Nation’s Freight Handler;
       Stormy, husky, brawling,
       City of the Big Shoulders:

    • fsdthreshold Says:

      Oh, absolutely! — any self-portrait of me that shows my feet would have to show them barefoot!

      I’m delighted that your Pittsburgh friend liked the Pittsburgh paintings!

      Yes, Chicago has its attractions, too. I mostly remember how cold it was, how the windy canyons among the big buildings downtown were like ice caves . . . and I remember being amused at the completely unintelligible announcements on the “El” train: “Next stop, Fzghltmx! Fzghltmx!” (Well, I guess that’s not “completely unintelligible,” because I knew the conductor was talking about the next stop. . . .) But for all that, I love the Field Museum of Natural History and the Shedd Aquarium! Remember the poem I wrote about Chicago years ago? It began, “I think a Beast/ Lives under Lake Street/ And fumes and groans/ And eats bones.”

      Yeah, Sandburg did a much better job! (Is that Sandburg you quoted there? And am I spelling his name right?) There must be a lot of Chicago in me, after all, because I often think I’m “Hog Butcher of Teaching ESL.” My colleagues have Master’s degrees and have studied all sorts of theories of language acquisition. I just go in and try things. Heh, heh.

      • I cannot draw a square Says:

        Yes! I remember the “Lake Street” poem, but I always thought the monster was under State or Wells. Oh, well, somewhere under the city a beast fumes and groans and eats bones.

        The museum park is a favortie haunt for me and I can spend a full two days between Shedd, Adler and Field even though I have been to all three umpteen times…

        For the Pittsburgh crowd out there: I was the hometown beat writer for the new Pirates starting first baseman, Jeff Clement. I know both Jeff and his family quite well and he is an incredible talent and even better person … a real gem for the Bucs. Hope he works out and becomes a star at PNC!

  14. I cannot draw a square Says:

    May the love and mercy of the Risen Christ be with you all as we celebrate Our Savior’s victory on Easter!

    And for the non-Christian and non-religious visitors to this blog: May you have a pleasant day filled with the love of family and friends.

    Veni Spiritus Sancti!

    • Jedibabe Says:

      Amen! Very well said. A joyous day to all!

      • fsdthreshold Says:

        Thank you two for the Easter greetings! From me, too, a blessed Easter to all! Over here, it’s already Easter afternoon. After several days of rain, the sun is out today, and the sky is a cloudless blue (but the weather is still much too cold). I spent as much time as possible outdoors today. Maybe spring will eventually find its way to this part of the world, too!

  15. I cannot draw a square Says:


    • Jedibabe Says:

      Square, you are right on! Maybe we will have to resort to writing the blog ourselves with a progressive story. Fred, o Fred, where have you gone? We miss you. Hope you are well.

      • fsdthreshold Says:

        Hello, you faithful friends! Yes, I am still here, watching and listening. I’ve been in a fairly dark emotional place lately and haven’t felt at all like writing public blog essays — as the poet says, “April is the cruelest month” and all. But I do think every day about getting back and writing something . . . anything! I miss you all. I will do my very best to write something by this weekend — thanks for caring about this ol’ gathering place!

  16. I cannot draw a square Says:

    “April is the cruelest month?!?” Nay, good sir, ’tis August that burdens the soul …

    (this should fire some people up…)

    It was my honor to attend a Tea Party rally April 15 on the steps of the state capital in Des Moines. I brought two signs with me … the first read: “This is the USA, not the EU!” and the other (which a friend held most of the time) “Hey MSNBC: How does being anti-socialist make me a racist?”

    • Chris Says:

      Personally I am more than happy to pay as much as I need to in taxes here in the U.S. Probably even more than I currently do! We are the richest nation known in human history, we have some of the best places (parks, roads, etc), some of the finest police and fire departments anywhere.

      My wife and I have no kids but we have, in the past, voted FOR tax increases _on ourselves_ that would have improved education in the towns we lived in. We don’t have kids in those schools but we realize the power of a strong, good, public education system.

      Personally I’ve worked for a grass roots organization that, had they been effective, would have provided “single payer healthcare” in Cali that would have likely increased my taxes…but I was happy to support it if it meant fewer Californians without healthcare (and knowing that at any time one of those people coulda been me!)

      Yup, I’m all for more taxes and paying my way. I live in the greatest country on earth and I am getting a real “deal” paying as little as I do.

      I’ve travelled in the EU and I’m quite jealous of their systems as well. I realize the stability of their systems comes at a cost. And the people pay it. They don’t seem to be in misery (at least in the U.K./Scotland, Norway, Finland, Spain or Iceland circa mid-90’s where I’ve travelled).

      Tax me more!

      • I cannot draw a square Says:

        And now California is on the brink of bankruptcy, thanks to the liberal left. You want taxed more? I would be happy to have you pay my taxes. And while you are at it, you can pay taxes for some of the over 40% of the population who pay NO net tax, or the 18% who actually come out ahead because of all the benefits they receive.

        Every human being alive has the right to expect emergency medical care. However, having health insurance is NOT a ‘right’ it is a priviledge. And if those wonderful EU systems were so great, why do those who can afford it flock to the U.S. for care?

        The English system is bust; the Danes are close to broke and Iceland already is.

  17. Marquee Movies Says:

    Fred, I check here almost every day hoping for a new blog. Don’t fret over our having to wait – we loyal fans and friends will wait as long as it takes. I sure hope you’re feeling better, and we’ll happily read whatever you post, whenever you post it. In fact, I’m giving you permission to wear whatever you want as you post it! (You’re welcome!)
    Ah, Brown Snowflake – you’re the thrown rock trying to start the ripples in the pond, you’re the yell trying to trigger the avalanche…..
    OK – here’s a genuine question – no hidden agenda. I freely admit I don’t understand this concept. Aren’t libraries one of the many results of socialism? The government taxes the citizens – a lot of the money is wasted, no question, but a lot of it goes to the common good – like libraries, public schools, rural electrification, the GI Bill. I don’t understand the argument against socialism when it’s spoken of as if it’s a clear-cut line in the sand, when governing 300 million people has proven to contain needs that are (sometimes) met with limitless hazy areas of political definition. Thanks! (Again, I’m honestly not trying to trap you. I really don’t understand.)

    • Jedibabe Says:

      Marquee, you are braver than myself! I am to much of a socialist to actually comment on this, but I look forward to watching what comes forth out of the can you just opened! Hurrah! for the brave and the curious.

      Fred you are in my prayers; I hope you are feeling better soon. I hope, at the very least, that your April is as full of flowers as mine seems to be. We will wait, but if the kids are bored for to long, beware the chaos that transpires ;-)! (You may have to return with band-aids.)

    • Chris Says:

      When I look back over American history I’m cognizant that labels like “socialism” are hard for most of us to bear. But “Progressives” have indeed helped balance out the excesses of an unbridled market.

      The good things we have as a nation are by and large “shared burden” type things. Libraries (your example) are a great example of this. But it doesn’t stop there. It’s 40 hour work weeks, it’s worker protection programs, it’s controls on the possible excesses that pure free-marketeers might be prone to pursue.

      We see our current mess no doubt due, in part, to our letting our “controls slip” a bit.

      In the town I live in our library has taken a brutal funding cut and it pains me. I got into the habit of relying on it quite a bit now they have limited hours and fewer staff.

      What is important to us? Is it our ability to _hope_ that we can leverage our personal hoard of cash to enact our wildest personal dreams? Or is it our understanding that few if any of us will be as rich as our “dreams” but if we pool a bit of our “gold” together we can make the entire society richer and we can enjoy that richness.

      As Americans we pay a lot of lip service to the former, but I think deep in our hearts we are really more of the latter. But it’s so hard to see our money go to “the Gubbermint”. We see the waste and we see the things we wouldnt’ buy personally.

      But in the end we are still an amazing society the likes of which has never been seen before. And a great deal of that is due to the opposing forces of “free market” and “Progressivism”.

      Personally I’m a progressive. I realize I’ll never be “rich” but I hope I can be part of something greater than me. That something is my surrounding society.

  18. jhagman Says:

    Actually I think libraries predate socialism by thousands of years. Here in the Antelope Valley we’re having a wonderful display of desert wildflowers, and all at the price that a bookseller like myself can afford ,,, free! I also met this month the rarest of rare teachers in the U.S. An iaido sensei who has trained in Japan! Fun!! And $50 a month tuition! A bargain to learn a koryu. Fred go out and have fun, quit moping.

  19. Marquee Movies Says:

    Thanks for the compliment, Jedibabe – but I’m really not being that brave – just curious. (Curiouser and curiouser!) I believe Brown Snowflake will be happy to calmly explain what I don’t understand. And jhagman, of course libraries have been around for eons – my raised question is merely why people are so furious at any semblance of socialism when in fact (it seems to me) that various degrees of socialism are naturally part of the tax-the-people, everyone-gets-to-share something tenet. Speaking of libraries, can we all give it up for my main man, Benjamin Franklin, who started America’s first library? And also, I’m planning to create a new film presentation (really) called Libraries in the Movies. So I’ll start hunting down great library moments in the movies. Not sure what I’ll find, but it’ll be fun looking! Oh, and Fred, yes, by all means, do something nice/fun today – treat yourself!

  20. fsdthreshold Says:

    I was going to bring up Ben Franklin, so I’m glad you did, Marquee. As I understand it, there weren’t really lending libraries before his innovation, were there? (Correct me if I’m wrong, you historians.) Sure you could use a library if you were a monk, etc. — but to go there, check out a stack of books, take whole worlds home with you . . . as I understand it, we have Ben to thank for that.

    Libraries in the Movies? Very cool! The Name of the Rose, for sure! I know of no film that captures the excitement of a library so well — the scene in which William and Adsol have finally gained access to the hidden library, and they’re racing from room to room, discovering how vast it is, and William is giddy to be discovering rare treasure after treasure — titles he’s heard about but never held in his hands!

    jhagman, I never mope.

    The exciting news is that I have begun the new novel at last! After a positively explosive planning session this afternoon, I spent about 4 1/2 hours this evening writing the opening scene of The House of the Worm — 2,427 words so far! Very exciting!

    Yes — if that title sounds familiar to you — this book was partly inspired by my own painting(s) of the same name. Historical note: it was on April 23rd of last year that I began writing The Sacred Woods. I started THOW a day earlier — today, April 22nd. As Chaucer put it, I guess this IS the month that makes people want to go on “pylgrymages”!

    Oh, and Happy Shakespeare’s Birthday (April 23rd)!

  21. I cannot draw a square Says:

    Hoorah for action on the blog! Relax, Frederic, we can take the ball for a bit if you have other needs/duties to attend to …

    I KNEW M.M. would respond, and I thought Jedibabe might. What surprises me is that Chris has been so quiet — he usually loves to stirring the eldritch stew a bit, too.

    When I say “socialism” I do not mean using taxpayer money to build bridges, defend the nation, lay sewer lines, etc. I mean “transference of wealth.” Federally mandated health care is a perfect example.

    Let me put it this way: as a conservative I view the U.S. Consititution as a contract the people have given the federal government, one that says (see 10th amendment): “you can only do what these papers say; everything else belongs to the states and the people thereof.” Big government liberals see Mr. Madison’s work of genius as the government telling the people “here are some things we promise not to do, but we reserve the right to do anything else we please.”

    That argument has been brewing since 1789 and will continue until the end. The brilliance of America is that the people (most of the time) have been able to reach some level of compromise between the two views.

    But really, I do not want to start another political fight … I just wanted to get people writing in again …

    P.S. — I saw Clash of the Titans at the 9:45 p.m. show on Sat. April 17. I had a free pass and still felt like I deserved my money back …

    • Chris Says:

      I am on a tear today responding thrice now!

      “Transference of wealth” is such a “charged term” in our current political millieu. But in a sense, isn’t that what _all_ of it is? I’m willing to transfer my wealth to the fireman down the street in exchange for his service, yes, but the amount I pay is really for the service to everyone in my district. I’m willing to transfer my wealth to the poor people camped out in Grape Day Park here in Esco if only so that they are made more healthy and my town looks nicer and is generally safer.

      I’m more than happy to transfer my wealth to take care of the healthcare of everyone because I don’t want to one day find myself unemployed and without healthcare.

      Everything I “fund” helps make my society be stronger and safer and better overall. Just like your tithing to your church helps strengthen the work of the church…even if you don’t get the priest coming to your home to conduct personal Mass for you. It helps clothe the poor and feed the hungry.

      I think, in general, even the Tea Partiers (note my restraint in that term! I’m one of the “nice” libruls!) feel much the same way. I think the big difference between the sides is that the Tea Party movement has issues with specific allocations of cash.

      Libruls on the other hand are less easily offended by line-item expenditures knowing that in the end if we fund the less desirable things our personal funding desires might be met (communal reciprocity, if you will).

      But I think in general we all want the same thing. We just differ on who all we are willing to see “supported” by the system.

      • I cannot draw a square Says:

        OMMOG, where to start? I am not taking the bait…it KILLS me, but I do not have the 30 minutes my 1,000 word response would take…there is a reason why the KGB dossier of the American Left (focusing largely on the Peacenik/Disarmament fringe and yes, the progressive tilt among university faculty) uncovered in 1994 and released to the public by Boris Yeltsin, had the title “Useful Idiots”

      • Jedibabe Says:

        Chris, you have my vote! Well spoken. I feel exactly the same way as you and could never put it quite as civilly as you have, though I am working hard to be more civil as I am thoroughly convinced that our country and our culture are both at stake if we can’t manage to be more civil with one another. Thank you for speaking up on this matter for those of us who might not trust ourselves to do so. May I learn to speak as diplomatically as you!

  22. I cannot draw a square Says:

    Jedibabe (from episode IV):

    “Don’t be too proud of this so-called gift of speaking civilly Chris appears to have. The ability to discuss difficult matters diplomatically, to unit the culture and country in glassy-eyed compromise, is insignificant when compared to the power of heated discourse!”

    • Jedibabe Says:

      Well Brown Snowflake, it appears we have lost you to the dark side…

      “I’ve always felt that a person’s intelligence is directly reflected by the number of conflicting points of view he can entertain simultaneously on the same topic.” —Abigail Adams

      And how tactfull and respectful one can remain while discussing them. —Jedibabe
      (oh, hurry back Fred)

      • I cannot draw a square Says:

        I was delighted to see Abigail Adams quoted! She is and always has been my favorite woman in American History. WAY before her time. In 2000 there was a exhibit that traveled around the Presidential Libraries of gowns worn by First Ladies, and in the collection were two from Abigail Adams. (She was what today would be considered a size 3 or 4!)

        I have not gone over to the Dark Side, I just think it is the bad guys who always have the coolest lines …

        And yes, hurry back Frederic…

  23. jhagman Says:

    All I have to say is ,,, that everyone mopes! Did not Rene Descartes say “Je mope donc je suis”? Or was it “mopito ergo sum”? Did not Eve (after a certain amount of temptation) eat from the tree of moping? Hence we now live in a condition of “mope”. Well it is 1:49AM (west coast time) and I have to be up in 2 hours, it has been fun reading!

    • Daylily Says:

      April is indeed the cruelest month. Not only is it tax time (shudder!) but we have no blog post from Fred. But, on the other hand, we have the new novel to look forward to, at some point . . .

  24. Nicholas Says:

    I love seeing the acrylics, Fred–hope you keep posting them!

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