Archive for February, 2008

Where’s The Outrage?!

Monday, February 4th, 2008

Is this the most bizarre Presidential election or what? If you’re not angry over what’s going on, WHY NOT? I’m not talking about anything specifically Democrat or Republican here. It’s more about the collusion of both parties to transform the debates and our elections.

It all began when the Democrats and Republicans conspired together to take the national Presidential candidate debates away from the non-partisan League of Women Voters. Both parties hated having their candidates surprised and embarrassed by tough and unexpected questions. Plus, there was the very real threat and looming danger of the rise of third party candidates. Remember Ross Perot beating the first George Bush in one of the primaries? That sent a shudder through both parties.

Once the Democrats and Republicans teamed up and wrested control of the debates away from the League of Women Voters, the debates were no longer debates. For one, all of the candidates now have the questions in advance. The candidates no longer debate in true debate format. Everything is now geared and timed to accommodate sound bite answers. There is no in-depth discussion of any issue. There is also very little real direct confrontation between the candidates.

OK; this is not absolutely current news. But look at what our complacency has allowed in this election:

For the first time in the history of the U. S. primaries, Democratic candidates (Dennis Kucinich & Mike Gravel) and a Republican candidate (Ron Paul) have been excluded from their own party’s televised debates.

For the first time in the history of the U. S. primaries, a viable candidate’s name was taken off one of the state’s primary election ballots (Dennis Kucinich in Texas)! Coalitions have been formed by the other Republican candidates to keep Ron Paul’s name off of ballots.

Never before have so many primary candidates been marginalized by the media. If you’ve watched TV and read newspapers over the past several months, you’d think there were only two Democratic primary candidates (did you know that Mike Gravel is still running?) and just three Republican primary choices (did you know that Ron Paul came in second in Nevada — beating John McCain — and has a chance of winning Maine? Did you know he is one of the most successful grassroots fundraisers in history and that he has raised more money on the internet than any of his Republican rivals?).

WHERE IS THE PUBLIC OUTRAGE?!!!

Whether or not you support either of these candidates, their highly individual voices and ideas still need to be a part of our national political conversation.

This is a very dangerous precedent. The 1992 Democratic primaries began with about eight candidates. Jerry Brown began at the bottom; he was often the butt of the other candidates’ jokes. Particularly amusing to them was his using this new thing called the Internet to raise funds. Internet Jerry — what a hoot! Well, Jerry nearly had the last laugh because when the smoke cleared and the dust had settled after the initial primary elections, there were two candidates left standing: Bill Clinton and Jerry Brown.

If this were to replay today, Brown would not have been allowed in the debates and attempts would have been made to get his name off of state ballots.

Activist Al Sharpton was in the 2004 Democratic Presidential primaries and their debates. It was clear from the start that he was not a truly viable candidate, but his original thinking and keen critical remarks cut through the thick fog of all the canned soundbites. Sharpton stimulated fresh thought and kept the other candidates on their toes. Something like that couldn’t happen during this election.

Please don’t allow this ideological rape and stifling of our democratic system to continue. Make yourself heard. Write your local newspapers and TV stations. Call your local talk show stations. Protest! Get attention!

Do your homework and find out what each of the candidates believes. Don’t settle for soundbites. Then, finally, Vote (demand paper ballots and a vote receipt where possible; we need that paper trail!). Hundreds of thousands of courageous Americans have died and shed their blood so that you could have this privilege.

Thank you.

Heads Up!

Saturday, February 2nd, 2008

Wow! Two Journal entries in two days! I’m on a roll…

This is just a quick heads up: The March 2008 issue of Natural History magazine will have a six page full color spread on my recently completed murals for the San Diego Natural History Museum. I’ve seen an advance pdf of the well-written article by Richard Milner and it looks terrific.

If you can’t wait to glimpse some of the murals, go to the San Diego Natural History Museum website (www.sdnhm.org) or pick up the current issue of Prehistoric Times. The PT images are sadly teensy (despite a huge cover blurb), but there’s a lot of them and they’re in full color.

I just returned from a three day PR trip to San Diego where I did a multitude of TV, radio, internet and newspaper interviews promoting the San Diego murals. I even did three of my interviews in Spanish, for a Spanish language TV news show, radio show and newspaper. My interviewers were ve-e-e-e-ery (mucho or muchissimo, actually) patient with me and my Spanish!

While at the San Diego Natural History Museum I talked with museum publicist Delle Willett about coordinating a mural talk/event at the museum involving Comic-Con International while I’m down there (if you can, please let Comic-Con personnel know that you’d love to attend that kind of program). I hope we can all work something out! Meanwhile, my book on the murals (planned to debut at Comic-Con) is coming along. I finished the text and sent off all of the picture files to John Fleskes, my publisher. The next step is for my friend and ace designer Randy Dahlk to assemble the stuff I sent and design the book. I’ll keep you posted…

Rejection

Friday, February 1st, 2008

Today’s Journal entry is about rejection.

Please let me clear up any of your possible misconceptions that I lead a charmed life and that getting my work rejected is just something that never happens to me. Au contraire, as my French friends say.

The California Art Club is the oldest art organization west of the Mississippi. I’m a Signature Member and have been on their Board for years; I’m currently on their Advisory Board. Their Gold Medal Exhibition is the club’s most important show of the year. I just found out today that “Amazing Grace 2”, a painting that I consider to be one of the finest, if not THE finest, I’ve ever painted was just rejected for exhibition by the Gold Medal Exhibition committee of the California Art Club. To his credit, Peter Adams, the president of the CAC, called me personally to apologize for the exclusion.

I always felt that “Amazing Grace”, a painting of mine from about 18 years ago that depicts a breaching humpback whale in the Southern Ocean, should have been larger. So, I painted a new 6 ft. by 4 ft. version specifically for this exhibition. Signature Members are allowed to submit two pieces, so I threw in my small study for the San Diego Natural History Museum’s Oligocene mural as an afterthought. Of course (apparently after a very heated debate), that small study was the painting the judges chose for inclusion in the show (the rules allowed for them to include both).

My wife is really pissed off. She (and quite a few of the people I’ve shown this work to) thinks it might be my best painting. She asked me why I still even belong to the CAC and suggested I resign. Although not normally prone to conspiracy theories, she thinks it was rejected out of jealousy. It’s an extremely powerful painting (I intended it that way) and it would certainly dominate the show (I intended that as well).

My own first reaction was laughter. This wasn’t the first idiotic insult I’ve had to endure; I’m sure it won’t be the last. Another of my whale paintings, a huge painting of a sperm whale battling a giant squid (in my mind easily among the best five paintings of my life), was rejected by the Society of Animal Artists for inclusion in their annual “Art and the Animal” exhibition a few years ago (ironically that painting was accepted into that same year’s CAC Gold Medal exhibition).

I submitted my best illustration works for years to the (NY) Society of Illustrators; up until two years ago they rejected every single one of them (while happily taking several thousand dollars in submission fees from me in the process). Those rejections even included several entries that won Gold Medals from the Society of Illustrators of Los Angeles.

Everyone who loves fantasy art annually sees my work in SPECTRUM. When you see those three or four pieces in each annual collection, what you don’t see are the twenty to twenty five pieces of mine that are rejected each and every year.

Art judges are funny (I can say that, having been a SPECTRUM judge myself; I know I’m a REAL funny guy!). One year I had compiled my SPECTRUM entries. I think I had either 23 or 29 — some odd number. As an afterthought, to round out my number of entries, I added a magic poster I had done that year. That afterthought of an entry — the magic poster — won me my first SPECTRUM award. So, ya never know. Not Everybody likes Everything. And the stuff you think is just OK other people (like judges) might just go nuts over. Once the art is signed and out of your hands it begins its own life.

A couple of years ago a great book came out: The Rejection Collection. It consisted of New Yorker magazine’s best contemporary gag cartoonists’ favorite rejected cartoons. These were the cartoons these cartoonists thought were their best work yet somehow were inexplicably rejected. That book collection was so successful it spawned a recent second volume.

So, the moral of this particular Journal entry, this spontaneous essay, is DON’T GIVE UP! EVERYBODY GETS REJECTED at one time or another. There will always be a diversity of taste amongst people (look who’s President!). Stupidity will never stop happening (look who’s President!). And if you’re as good as you think you are, there will be plenty of chances in life to show these Bozos just how wrong they were.

If you’d like to see “Amazing Grace 2”, check out my website in a couple of weeks. I’m putting my money where my mouth is; I am making canvas prints of this baby (I’m checking the proofs today). They’ll be for sale in my bazaar catalogue and at Comic-Con. I think it will be one of my biggest sellers.