Category: General

Updates… the future is here

Reconstructing my entire web constellation.

Reconstructing my entire web constellation.

As a reader of my Art For A Change blog and a potential user of my websites markvallen.com and art-for-a-change.com, you may have noticed that my tiny corner of the web universe is in dire need of technological renovations. If you have been paying attention to my web empire the last few days of July 2022, you witnessed inaccessible pages and other glitches… those are the growing pains of new, technically revitalized and redesigned websites. This ongoing modernization is long overdue.

Behind the scene an amicable digital genius is collaborating with me in reconstructing my entire web constellation. In the near future you can expect major updates in design, functionality, and content—with new paintings and drawings and a steady stream of my “Last Train to Snarksville” style of art criticism. It’s a long term project that will have noticeable effects coming just around the corner. Buckle up time travelers… the future is here.

The 4th of July cancelled in 2022?

This essay will focus on a current poster design for a July 4, 2022 event. But first, a few words about America’s Independence Day.

American revolutionaries announced the separation of the Thirteen Colonies from Great Britain when a resolution of independence was approved by the Second Continental Congress on July 2, 1776. John Adams, Founding Father and the second president of the United States, sent a letter to his wife about the auspicious occasion; he wrote:

“The second of July 1776 will be the most memorable epoch in the history of America. I am apt to believe that it will be celebrated by succeeding generations as the great anniversary festival. It ought to be commemorated as the day of deliverance by solemn acts of devotion to God Almighty. It ought to be solemnized with pomp and parade, with shows, games, sports, guns, bells, bonfires, and illuminations, from one end of this continent to the other, from this time forward forever more.”

As it turned out, after the independence resolution was passed it was drafted as a document that would explain the move to the people; the main author of the document was Thomas Jefferson. The Declaration of Independence document was approved by 56 delegates of the Second Continental Congress on July 4, 1776, the day Americans have come to joyously celebrate.

As a child the Fourth of July enthralled me to no end. The sky erupting in colorful barrages of pyrotechnical wonders captured my imagination. I have lots of childhood memories concerning the 4th; neighborhood parties with family, relatives, and friends, fireworks displays on the front lawns and backyards of people in my community. I was too young to understand the politics behind it all, I just loved the sparklers, fire fountains, firecrackers, and bottle rockets.

I was born and raised in Los Angeles, and I’m old enough to remember the temporary firework stands that sprang up all across LA weeks before July 4th. The stands were covered with red, white, and blue bunting, American flags, and signs advertising the types and costs of fireworks available for purchase. Some of the stands could easily service dozens of people at a time. During my first year in Jr. High School, groups of male students would come on campus with bags of bottle rockets, firecrackers, cherry bombs. These were freely distributed or sold for pennies.

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Black Cat firecracker label.

Needless to say my neighborhood was pretty raucous on the evening of July 4th., but that was true all across America. Jax the Cat was a familiar face in my community. He was the colorful logo of Black Cat Fireworks. As a kid my pockets would be full of Black Cat firecrackers on the 4th, but I also started to appreciate the artful packaging of fireworks, and I started to collect the garish, kaleidoscopic labels of fireworks manufacturers… but that’s another essay.

By the time I reached High School I appreciated the politics behind America’s July 4th Celebrations. I began to read about the Founding Fathers and eagerly studied men like George Washington, Thomas Jefferson, and Ben Franklin. Some radicals of the late 1960’s and early ‘70s began to speak ill of the founders, and to be honest I was influenced by their blinkered left rhetoric; but I was not influenced to the point of abandoning the founders. When the 21st century arrived the left had reduced the legacy of the Founding Fathers into an ugly canard of racist oppression, patriarchy, and colonialism.

The disparagement of the Founding Fathers was only the beginning of canceling Independence Day. In 2020 the Fourth of July was officially canceled in California by Governor Hair Gel, I mean… Gavin Newsom. Using Covid-19 as his excuse, Gov. Gruesome banned the display of fireworks across the state. He was joined by the Democratic Mayor of Los Angeles, Eric Garcetti, who also used Covid-19 as the excuse to ban all professional displays of fireworks in LA, issuing a “no fireworks” decree to the population of LA. On that Fourth of July the people of California and Los Angeles responded by setting off endless barrages of illegal fireworks from dusk until way past midnight. I never saw such a glorious display of pyrotechnics in my life. John Adams’ vision of a “memorable epoch” came to life that night.

Democrats tamped down the 4th of July in 2021 as well, with *President Biden canceling Independence Day fireworks at Mount Rushmore in South Dakota. For the 4th in 2022, Biden has once again canceled Rushmore’s fireworks. South Dakota’s Gov. Kristi Noem is suing the Biden administration for denying her state a permit to celebrate Independence Day with fireworks. Because of supply chain issues and labor shortages, fireworks displays have been canceled all across this great land, while Biden has sent over $60 billion in aid to Ukraine. For many Americans Fourth of July skies will be dark for the third consecutive year. But the worst part of this cancelation story follows.

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Arizona’s Pima County Democratic Party tweeted this "F**K THE 4TH" announcement on July 1, 2022.

Upset about the Supreme Court’s abortion ruling, Arizona’s Pima County Democratic Party tweeted out an announcement for a women’s march in Tucson. One graphic featured a woman’s hand holding a megaphone—out of which the following words were amplified: FUCK THE 4TH.

Now I usually edit the F-word on my blog, but the Democrats own this, and I’m giving credit where credit is due. That particular communiqué included the text: “July 4th. We are not celebrating until we get our independence back.”

A second tweet from the Pima County Democratic Party featured a depiction of the Statue of Liberty with fireworks going off around Lady Liberty’s head. Above her text proclaimed: “Let’s Mourn with—FUCK THE 4TH.” Below were the words, “Bring comfortable shoes, water, lawn chairs, posters, and your anger.”

The 2nd "F**K THE 4TH" announcement from Arizona’s Pima County Democratic Party, posted July 1, 2022.

The 2nd "F**K THE 4TH" announcement from Arizona’s Pima County Democratic Party, posted July 1, 2022.

Thats right, because nothing says Happy Fourth of July like boiling rage. Hours after the Democrats posted their anti-American screed, and likely received a considerable amount of feedback from offended and insulted Americans, the tweets were deleted. Ah! But the internet is forever, and like Old Glory these tweets will fly forevermore, come rain or shine.

With a crap-eating-grin the Pima County Democratic Party issued a non-apology:  “PCDP posted a graphic advertising a women’s march which, we agree, was in poor taste. We were eager to share the event, and in our haste we used the graphic provided by the event organizer. That was a mistake, and we will do better. Make no mistake, however. We support the event which will be on July 4 at 7 pm at Reid Park. The event was organized to help women in our community grieve for the loss of their bodily autonomy, which we consider an elemental right.”

Nice try… a “mistake.” Look, I understand the dismay over the Supreme Court ruling, but FUCK THE 4TH is not an unintentional error, it’s a platform, and Democrats have left a trail of evidence. Do they really not care about the Fourth of July? Do they actually hold the Founding Fathers in such contempt? Do they think there are no liberal democrat veterans who would be outraged by such a vindictive statement after having sacrificed so much for their country? Sadly this is not an aberration, a few shameless examples follow.

In 2019 the Mayor of Charlottesville, Virginia, Nikuyah Walker, led a campaign to abolish the city’s official paid holiday birthday celebration for Thomas Jefferson, Founding Father and principal author of the Declaration of Independence. On July 1, 2019, the Charlottesville City Council voted to cancel the Jefferson celebration. On July 9, 2019 Mayor Walker added insult to injury by posting the following to her Facebook account: “Removing Jefferson’s Birthday is not sanitizing history. I’m sure that he’s still able to celebrate his birthday in hell.”

Also in 2019, Nike announced it would release a patriotic sneaker design on America’s Independence Day celebration called the Air Max 1 Quick Strike Fourth of July. The rear quarter of the shoe displayed a small graphic of the Betsy Ross Flag, the 13 star American Flag made by upholsterer Betsy Ross under the supervision of General George Washington. At the time Washington was the commander of the Continental Army, which was waging a revolutionary war for independence from the British Empire; the flag was adopted by the Continental Congress on June 14, 1777.

Nike’s spokesman, former quarterback Colin Kaepernick, told Nike the Betsy Ross flag was offensive “because of its connection to an era of slavery.” Nike instantly pulled the red, white, and blue footwear from distribution, while liberals roared approval. Georgetown professor Michael Eric Dyson went on MSNBC to proclaim “right-wing white supremacists” used the Betsy Ross flag “as a rallying cry,” and that being clothed in that flag was akin to wearing a swastika..Never mind that Betsy Ross was a Quaker, and the pious Quakers—informally known as the Society of Friends, founded the Pennsylvania Society for Promoting the Abolition of Slavery in 1775. Ross and her Quaker associates built the moral case for the abolition of slavery. So much for Kaepernick’s reading of history.

“The Birth of the Flag.” Henry Mosler. Oil on canvas, circa 1911. German-American artist Henry Mosler (1841-1920) known for painting colonial themes, depicted Betsy Ross and assistants sewing the first American flag.

“The Birth of the Flag.” Henry Mosler (1841-1920) Oil on canvas, circa 1911. The German-American artist known for his colonial themes, shows Betsy Ross and assistants sewing the first American flag.

On June 15, 2020 a group of Black Lives Matter “protestors” toppled a bronze statue of Thomas Jefferson in front of Jefferson High School in Portland, Oregon. A few weeks later the New York Times ran an opinion piece that advocated the Jefferson Memorial in Washington, D.C. “be taken down and replaced.” In 2020 the frenzy of pulling down America’s public statues went far beyond tearing down Confederate memorials. The new totalitarians expanded their hit list to include statues of George Washington, Thomas Jefferson, Francis Scott Key, Ulysses S. Grant, and the anti-slavery abolitionists Matthias Baldwin, Hans Christian Heg, and even Frederich Douglass.

In Oct. 2021 I wrote an essay titled, Thomas Jefferson and the Michelangelo of Paris. It told the story of the magnificent bronze statue created in 1833 by French sculptor David d’Angers. It was gifted to the US Congress and today it sits in the Capital Rotunda. However, the plaster statue the bronze was cast from was gifted to New York’s City Hall in 1834; it was placed in the Governor’s Room. In 1915 it was moved to the City Council Chamber of NY City Hall where it stood until 2021. That was the year Democrat Mayor de Blasio and his liberal allies on the city’s “Art Commission” unanimously voted to remove the Jefferson statue.

A Democrat named Adrienne Adams, co-chair of the Black, Latino and Asian Caucus of the New York City Council, enunciated the regard Democrats have for Thomas Jefferson: “As it stands, we’ve been under the watchful eye of a slaveholder. Jefferson embodied some of the most shameful parts of our country’s long and nuanced history. It is time for the city to turn the page and move forward. It makes me deeply uncomfortable knowing that we sit in the presence of a statue that pays homage to a slaveholder who fundamentally believed that people who look like me were inherently inferior, lacked intelligence, and were not worthy of freedom or rights.”

Even National Public Radio couldn’t keep up their pretension of caring about the 4th of July. NPR announced they were breaking with their tradition, started in 1988, of reading the Declaration of Independence live on the air. The custom would be replaced with a discussion on “what does equality mean” in America today. How exhilarating, another opportunity to bash the USA, and on the Fourth of July no less.

The people of America are full of trepidation and worry regarding the nation’s future, and for good reason. Inflation is climbing, the economy is crumbling, energy independence has vanished along with the Southern border, and for goodness sake we’re now fighting a proxy war with Russia. Some 30 years ago in Los Angeles, every neighborhood park, stadium, High School and College athletic field, offered fireworks displays on the 4th of July. Cities along the coastline of Southern California all offered free fireworks displays to the public. This is no longer true.

While things are looking bleak for celebrating the Fourth of July and the Founding Fathers of America, I believe that John Adams’ idea of Independence Day “illuminations, from one end of this continent to the other, from this time forward forever more,” will ultimately win the day.

Hey, what’s that sound outside my studio window? Is that the boom and reverberation of fireworks? Happy 4th America!

Happy Halloween!

Some years ago I took this photograph at a place of honor and history, Copp’s Hill Burying Ground in North Boston, Massachusetts… established in 1659.

Spiders, skeletons, and school superintendents will give you a terrible fright!

Spiders, skeletons, and school superintendents... will give you a terrible fright!

To the kids, moms, and dads of Melrose, Massachusetts, where Halloween has been canceled in public schools in order to promote “inclusivity.” Do not be afraid of those goblins and ghosts, just look ‘em in the eye and say… BOO!

That’s The Way The Kamala Cookie Crumbles

This blog is dedicated to my views on art and culture, but on this rare occasion I must include the culinary arts. On her June 6, 2021 night flight to Guatemala on Air Force Two, Vice President Kamala Harris wanted to give a sweet treat to members of the truehearted media onboard, you know, for their loyal service to “the big guy.” An unnamed pâtissier provided the perfect baked goodie—the pastry chef conjured up a gourmet cookie bearing the likeness of the Veep herself. Of course, it is based upon the official Vice Presidential portrait photo.

“Kamala Cookie.” Photo of cellophane wrapped cookie passed out by VP Harris on AF2. The image is evocative of René Magritte's “vache” paintings. Don’t ask me, look it up on DuckDuckGo. Photo credit: @cmsub

“Kamala Cookie.” Photo of cellophane wrapped cookie passed out by VP Harris on AF2. The image is evocative of René Magritte's “vache” paintings. Don’t ask me, look it up on DuckDuckGo. Photo credit: @cmsub

This was not your typical small, flat, round, factory-made, lowly cookie you buy in a proletarian convenience store. This cookie was regal, a patrician cookie, a culinary masterwork to haunt politicos for eternity; though it may crumble under the slightest pressure. The cookie’s icing undoubtably contains synthetic food dyes Blue 1, Red 3, and BS 2020, which may negatively impact behavior in children, so I do hope none of the journalists give their cookies to their kids. The journos however are safe, as they have grown tolerant of BS 2020.

The oversweet Kamala confection—I am speaking of the cookie, is shaped like an emblem. While no one knows what it is emblematic of, the multitudes who love sugarcoated things will appreciate this badge-like cookie. In fact, it might be the only sacchariferous badge they will not defund. An average “foodie” may think the sugary glaze distracts from the visage of a faceless VP, however any connoisseur of oligarchical collectivism understands that sometimes “facelessness is usefulness” when it comes to the oblivion of politics—no matter how saccharine the taste.

Reports say a disgruntled member of the AF2 wicked kitchen staff smuggled a Kamala cookie off the plane. It was disguised as a double decker cheeseburger. Since the Veep embraces the Green New Deal objective of reducing meat consumption, it was easy to offload the “burger” and secret the camouflaged cookie to the last independent journalist in America, who by the way has been deplatformed. Fellow gourmets, do not worry, it will all be soon forgotten. Bon appétit!