Saturday, October 31, 2009

Michael Jackson: Thank You for the Mirror- more thoughts about Michael and "This Is It"

Goodnight Michael.
Once again I stand guilty of not appreciating someone enough until they are gone never to return. And so it is with Michael. I call him by his first name now because I know him personally—but only so after his passing and only after seeing his movie “This is It.”

I finally understand Michael the man, both the human being and the creative genius, and I see the incredibly wide love for people and the planet… that came from this singular figure.
One listen to the lyrics of his songs will tell what the man was made of…

“Heal the World/ Make it a better place/ For you and for me/ and the entire human race/.There are people dying If you care enough for the living/Make a little space Make a better place.”

“When they say why, why? Tell ‘em that it’s human nature.
Why, why do you do me this way?”

“I'm starting with the man in the mirror
I'm asking him to change his ways
And no message could have been any clearer
If you wanna make the world a better place
Take a look at yourself and then make a change.”

I sat in the parking lot and cried for most of an hour after leaving the movie. I didn't know why. The tears were not voluntary. In the theatre I didn’t want it to end. I didn’t want to leave. I didn’t want the magic to leak away. I didn’t want him to be gone.

I felt the finality of that curtain call and realized...

Thursday, February 26, 2009

Art in the Service of Hope and Humanity

Chapbook of Poetry "We're All in This Together(c)"
Original artwork and copy by Barbara

Painting: "Vision of the Madonna"
Acrylic on board

Featured on Posters, book covers

This painting that is almost 5 feet X 5 feet hangs at the Christine Center
a sanctuary and spiritual retreat center in Northern Wisconsin.

"Gaia" the sculpture

Limited Edition
Gaia Sculpture
Cast from Ceramic Mold

Designed with sacred geometry and spiritual symbolism
(The pyramid shape denotes the spiritual alchemy of resurrection and ascension, the apex of this pyramid intesects the core of the earth, the four corners of the sculpture signify the four corners of the world the four major races holding up the world.)

The "Gaia" scupture made its inagural appearance at the Plenary Session of the Soviet-American Citizen's Summmit in Moscow in the nineteen eighties. Since then it has become an award for those who would, by their work on the planet, make the world a better place. It has graced the mantels of some of the most enlightened visionaries on Earth.

Pet Planet (TM)

Pet Planet (TM)
Remember the Pet Rock?
Here's a "pet" that is the biggest rock there is... "Pet Planet"

(Comes with "Care & Feeding Instructions")

1. Keep your planet's oceans, waters, lakes, rivers and streams teeming with healthy life and free from toxins, wastes, and pollution.
2. Do not explode nuclear, hydrogen or other destructive devices in your planet's fragile atmosphere. These devices threaten both biological life and the life of your planet.
3. Do not discharge any products into your planet's thin layer of atmosphere that might harm its protective layers including the ozone.
4. Do not spread toxic products on your planet's land, in its atmosphere or under its surface.
5. Make sure all of your planet's artificially produced energy and power sources are clean, secure and safe.
6. Respect the natural world of your planet and use the generosity of nature wisely. If you use the natural re­sources on your planet to enhance human life, do so in a respectful non­violent way and arrange for its replen­ishment.
7. Treat the human forms on your planet as though they are your own brothers and sisters with the same mother and father. In reality, they all came from the same source. The birthplace of human life is the cosmos; your planet was the terrestrial womb.
8. Do not allow conflict to come be­tween the members of your planet's global village or make war against any species--human or otherwise.
9. Treat all forms of life on your planet as if they are sacred species—possibly the products of a divine creation.
10. Do not concern yourself about how the various sub-groups of the human species on your planet explain the great mysteries of existence. They may recognize a supernatural, divine or creative intelligence, or a creator in their mysteries. They may call this creative intelligence or creator by different names and worship or prac­tice devotion to whatever they believe in different ways. This is as it should be and makes your planet a place of wonderfully interesting diversity and creativity.
11. Allow all species on your planet to live out their lives in the manner of their natural order. The human species is the only one which has evolved to a level of consciousness that allows for self-determination and will. This means that individuals, groups, or societies of these humans will live in ways that they themselves, determine. Understand that this is the natural order of their evolution and allow them to live as they choose so long as there Is no harm created.
12. Learn to respect and love all the mineral, vegetable, animal and human existence on your planet. And love your planet itself as if she were the mother and nurturer of all life. She is.

Artwork from:
"Harmony" annual Peace Concert
Lawrence Chapel, Appleton, WI

Sunday, February 22, 2009

Did You Get the Invitation?

The only way I can explain my obsession is to take you to the scene from Close Encounters of the Third Kind where Richard Dreyfuss is eating dinner with his family and he begins to sculpt Devil’s Tower in his mashed potatoes.

His family watches his antics, mouths agape as they begin to think he has just slipped over the edge of sanity.

The central theme in the movie is that everyone receives a message and it’s the same message but for each person, the form the message comes in is different.

The message is actually an invitation. The movie is about an invitation that the characters receive through their intuition. It’s an invitation from an unknown intelligence in the cosmos to be at a site near Devil’s Tower, Wyoming on a certain date and after dark. The movie’s characters don’t know each other, they don’t understand their own obsession with the image of the well-known landscape feature, and they certainly don’t understand what the message means. All they know is they are magnetically drawn to a place and share a compulsion to be there… at Devil’s Tower, one night in time, and at the same time.

My obsession, fixation and artistic compulsion with an image began in 1972 and it too, came right out of the cosmos—actually, from NASA. It was one of those moments that many people tend to remember vividly by recalling where they were in the first instant they witnessed something significant. It’s a memory trigger like… “Do you remember where you were when… “the planes hit the towers? ... “Kennedy was shot?” …”the Challenger exploded?” In a moment like that, in a brief second the breath involuntarily and violently sucks itself in, the belly tightens, and perhaps the eyes even began to water. The initial strike of awe from that first encounter may have since waned, but I argue that it was one of the most significant moments in modern history and a turning point for humanity. I also argue that this intuitive message was received by everyone on Earth the moment they first saw it. And it is still transmitting its invitation to this day.

Monday, February 16, 2009


Did you ever ask yourself...
Can one person change the world?

Can one person save the world?
The answer may surprise you...

-The story of Stanislav Petrov

If you are a human, and if you are living on Planet Earth, then you owe your life to someone you don’t even know. Yes, someone you have never met saved your life. If fact, he saved all our lives. Actually, he saved our whole planet and all life as we know it.

The answer is yes, one person can change the world. One person can save the world. In fact, one person you have never heard of did save the world. No, he is not able to leap tall buildings in a single bound; he doesn’t wear a mask or a cape and he has never appeared in a comic book or a film. Yet he is a superhero.

If you are not older than thirty, you won’t even know or remember the reason why the world had to be saved. If you are younger than 25, you will have to ask your parents or grandparents about what the world was like from the 1940s to the 1990s during the cold war. The term ”cold war” may seems a little innocuous and perhaps odd today, but for those who lived through it, the term conjures a feeling of dread, a chill or sensation in their solar plexus. Anyone who grew up during that time lived with a sense of dread and fear and anxiety. The cold war describes a time of tension, conflict, competition between two dominant world philosophies—Communism and Capitalism. It was a time of espionage, propaganda, posturing, weapons of mass destruction arms buildup, nuclear arsenals and a cloud of suspicion, distrust and imminent doom.

The world was divided and aligned with the superpowers—The United States and the Soviet Union. Each side wanted to export their philosophy and way of life—communism or democracy. Conflicts over these two ways of being in the world led to the Berlin Blockade and the Berlin wall, the Korean War, the Vietnam War, the Cuban Missile Crisis, the Soviet War in Afghanistan and multiple decades of holding humanity hostage in a perpetual state of fear and a resignation to the inevitability of World War III—and the end of civilization.

The world came close to annihilation a few times in the five decades that the cold war lasted. The Cuban Missile Crisis during President Kennedy’s Administration, was one such well known time when the world was on the brink of war. But there is another time that very few people know about. There was a critical moment when the actions of one man saved the world from nuclear war. On September 26, 1983, Lieutenant Colonel Stanislav Petrov was on duty in a bunker near Moscow when the early detection system alarm sounded indicating incoming missiles. Petrov’s job was to alert his supervisors to any impending nuclear attack on the Soviet Union.

The protocols at that time were to immediately launch a counterattack to implement mutually assured destruction of both countries. The incident could not have come at a worse time. The Soviet Union had just weeks earlier shot down Korean Airlines Flight 007 killing all 269 passengers on board, simply for flying into Soviet airspace. A U.S. Congressman had been aboard that flight. NATO was gearing up for able Archer 83, a military doomsday exercise interpreted as a first strike scenario by the Soviet KGB and military and Andropov, the Soviet Premier had an exaggerated distrust of America, convinced the U.S. would launch a pre-emptive strike against the Soviet Union. His mind, and the Soviet mindset at that time was perpetually braced for it—on hair trigger alert.

Petrov delayed his reporting because the system indicated only one incoming missile. He mentally dismissed it as a systems error. But then the system then read 4 more incoming missiles. The Soviet protocol was to launch upon threat not necessarily with confirmation of a strike. Petrov reasoned that America, if launching a first strike scenario, would launch an all out strike from multiple bases, not 5 missiles from a single site. Again he delayed reporting. The Soviet radar could not detect something beyond the horizon and the delay would mean if it were a real strike, the Soviet response time would be limited. He waited for ground radar confirmation which never came. As it turns out, the detection was of an unusual alignment of sunlight on high altitude clouds and the elliptical orbits of the detection satellites.

Petrov was both praised and demonized by his superiors. Subsequently dismissed from his post, he took early retirement after suffering a “nervous breakdown.” He lives now in Russia as a common pensioner. A modern hero, Petrov saved the world as that moment in history on his watch was probably the closest the world ever came to nuclear war and potential annihilation. A film about his life and this incredible story, The Red Button  was released in 2012 and was nominated by the Jury of the Uranium Film Festival in Rio de Janeiro for the Yellow Oscar award to best feature film of the festival. 

The Red Button tells the dramatic story of Stanislaw Petrov, the Russian officer who, in 1983, saved the world from atomic war. On September 26th, 1983, Stanislaw Petrov was in charge of monitoring American missiles that could potentially be sent to Russia to start a nuclear war. Shortly after midnight, Petrov noticed a missile on his screen. Several minutes later, things became much more serious: four more missiles appeared and a red warning sign “Missile Attack” began to flash. The future of the world was in the 44-year-old Russian officer’s hands as he wrestled with the decision of whether or not to use Russia’s atomic button. Fortunately for all of us, Petrov made the correct decision. Although Petrov had effectively saved the world from atomic war, he was reprimanded for not filling out the logbooks on that day, and a year later he was given an option to retire. Today, Petrov lives in a small town near Moscow in relative anonymity, surviving only on a tiny pension of $200 a month.
Film Producer:
Slawomir Grünberg directed and produced over forty television documentaries focusing on critical social, political, and environmental issues. From Chechnya to Chernobyl received a Golden Cine Award. Shtetl, the epic film that Slawomir photographed and served as second unit producer was awarded the Silver Baton for Excellence in Radio/TV Journalism by Dupont- Columbia University, and the Grand Prix at the Cinema du Reel Film Festival. The most recent of Grünberg’s films are dealing with LGTB&Q community in Poland: Trans-Action and Coming Out Polish Style. Several others films are on the Holocaust theme: The Peretzniks, In the Name of Their Mothers: The Story of Irena Sendler by Mary Skinner, Paint What You Remember, The Legacy of Jedwabne and Saved by Deportation. Portraits of Emotion, a film about autism, received an Expression Award at Brazil’s Disability Film Festival and Grand Prix at the Belgrade International Film Festival. His director of photography credits include, among others, Legacy, which received an Academy Award Nomination for the best documentary feature and Sister Rose’s Passion, which received an Academy Award Nomination for the best documentary short. Slawomir has also been a contributing director of photography and editor for the PBS series: Frontline, AIDS Quarterly, American Masters, NOVA, Health Quarterly, Inside Gorbachev's USSR with Hedrick Smith and People's Century as well as Lifetime and HBO.

Discussion Questions:

Can one person change the world? Can one person save the world? Can the world be saved by employing a reasonable and rational state of mind? Can the human race be saved from its own destructive devices? Is there such a thing as the right person being in the right place at the right time? Is there a man for the season? A woman for the season? Does a person have a calling? A life mission? A destiny? Could you save the world by your actions? Do you have a mission? A destiny? What do you think? Given your logical conclusions, what are you doing to contribute? Or as the poet Mary Oliver asks, "what will you do with your one wild and precious life?" Or: What can you do on your watch?

Friday, January 16, 2009

I Cry Because I Want my Face to Shine- A letter to President Obama

Mr. President,

I watched you at the Democratic National Convention and I watched you in Chicago's Grant Park after the election. I called my daughter in Denver (a block from the convention) and she wanted to know... "Mother, why are you crying?"

A few Thoughts...

When I think about it, my own life is no less rich and the living no less inspiring than my pioneering ancestors and I come from a long line of Indians and outlaws so don't ever turn your back on me!

Life is, after all, a slice of human consciousness lived from its place in human evolution. "From here to eternity" as it were-- from earth to the stars, from personal space to cyberspace, from a small local footprint to the world reduced to the size of a notebook and sitting on your lap!

As a child I lived with the perpetual and immenent threat of annihilation. That's child abuse! It wasn't a kid-friendly world and I couldn't understand why the grown-ups who were in charge weren't doing something?

So at age seven with my face in the window eyes turned up into the night sky and staring at the stars I made a vow: "When I am a grown-up, I will do something."

My writing is that something and I write to "simply change the world." If that sounds like a lack of humility it isn't because I know that one person absolutely can change the world and I've met some who have.

Kay Kennedy put together an anthology that puts the reader in the midst of history to view it from the inside out.

When I was in high school and even college, history classes were stale and boring featuring memorization and regurgitation of dates that coincided with events that had no human face, certainly no magic, and no life!

Anthologies are great fun and stores are rich remembrances. History books chronicle; stories are little narrative slices of living. History comes alive through story. I often think of my grandmother and her story, her life-- the history she lived. In her lifetime she saw humankind evolve from horse and buggy to man on the moon.

I was a sixties kid and for the youth of the sixties, turmoil, disillusionment, and revolution were everyday 'business as usual'. Like a radio perpetually on low volume, fear and death dronned on in the background. The superpowers threatened to extinguish all life on the planet, the Vietnam War was escalating and peers were being escorted home under American Flag blankets. The civil rights and equal rights movements were testing human civility, and faster than one could recover from one shock another real life hero would fall to yet another assassin. Despair was commonplace. Contrast that with a man on the moon... we could conquer space travel but couldn't make nukes or war obsolete! It was a time when youth needed hope because hope was scarce. When it was finally resurrected, it came in the form of idealism and a philosophy of brotherly and universal love. Perfect principles; imperfect execution.

For others who contributed to "Looking Back," the history is different for each because the "times" were different as well as the perspective of the individuals. The stories of human societal evolution are enlightening, heartwarming, poignant and spellbinding. They put a human face on the past.

And there are people now who are putting a face on the future...