Stepping back and taking a 50,000 foot view of the current state of things in the United States of America right now, I see an apocalyptic wasteland, crippled by financial uncertainty brought on by rampant disease. As it’s citizens attempt to protest inequality and racially-charged police brutality, additional racial tensions erupt and are made vastly worse by (wait for it… ) riot gear clad police violently lashing out at the citizens they are charged with protecting. All the while, the president encourages escalating tensions by threatening additional brutalities from the safety of the people’s White House.
He said he would run this country like his one of his businesses, right?
I have come to believe that people pray to God not because One exists, but because our Ego does. I believe Prayer works because it takes our most naturally destructive energies (intention, will, hope, judgement, etc.) and channels them outward, rather than back toward ourselves where they do the most damage.
After a few weeks of being hunkered down and working all kinds of weird hours doing mobile tech support for a couple of thousand users, I’m starting to get a chance to sit up and look around at where things are in the world.
But in doing so, I do so remotely. As do you, if you’re reading this. We have all been suddenly thrust into this strange new world that is partially shut down, and partially virtual.
For the first time in human history, we can continue to carry on large portions of the global economy through virtual methods. Virtual meetings, Internet-based commerce, digital banking, in-home entertainment, and the internet of things. Of course you can’t eat a Tweet. And the sooner we are able to get back to a more normal semblance of life, the better off we will all be.
But the reason I am writing this is to say thanks to a group of people that have been invisibly making large portions of what we do everyday possible at all. And that‘s because they’re the people who make all of our technology possible. From the network engineers, to the call center worker, including the electricians who makes all run, and the hardware repair folks who put it all back together when you break it at the worst possible time, even that annoying office tech guy who grunts every time he has to listen to you swear again and again that it’s not your fault that email hates you, all the ay our to the entire population of earth that is now available to me at the touch of a button on this powerful computer we still call a cell phone.
We live in a world that continues to move at an unprecedented speed, all doing so from our couches now. The whole thing takes a constellation of jobs and technologies to make it all work.
And for that, take a minute to just thank a tech person you rely on. And if you can, resist the urge to ask them a ‘quick question’, just this once.
During the mid to late 80’s I was in school full time for graphic arts, along with a permanent side track for Grateful Dead tour whenever possible. I was also one of those people who occasionally sold things in the parking lot at those Dead concerts. Sometimes I sold food, but more often than not I sold art-related things, shirts and posters mostly.
Back in the spring of 1988 I had started working on an idea for a t-shirt based off of a line in the song “The Eleven” by the Grateful Dead. The words as they are sung are, “Six proud walkers on the jingle bell rainbow”. I absolutely love the imagery of those words. Robert Hunter was by far the biggest influence to my writing. He had a unique ability to invoke powerful imagery, yet somehow leave the images formless so that they must be completed by the imaginer. Upon his death I posted this small, simple haiku that reads so plainly as to escape detection for the art it is meant to be. It was my personal ode to my mentor, and a master wordsmith. Simple, honest words, polished like a golden bowl – the finest ever seen.
Back to the shirt… So, I conceived of a piece of art. It would be bordered on all sides by ivy. And then, coming from the back and arcing toward the front would be the rainbow, but like a bridge being traversed by the walkers themselves. Each walker would be carrying a hand bell, shouting their message to the rooftops. All but one walker, he alone carried the jingle bells. It was an homage to an old friend who himself had to leave this world just to be able to once again walk the jingle bell rainbow.
Now, about the walkers themselves… Since it was the 80’s I drew a lot of eyeballs, little eyeballs with arms and legs. Yep, that was my thing. Most of the eyeballs in this piece looked pretty much the same, except for two of them. One of those two stood out in the crowd, he leans on a cane and has donned an Uncle Sam hat. There he stands, one foot on his soapbox, preaching his word to all who will listen. Every parking lot had a few of these folks, spreading their philosophy like Vegemite. The remaining eyeball was my friend Ken, his pate wrapped snuggly in a bandana, hawking some t-shirt in the parking lot (in my mind, it was the very shirts I was drawing).
Having letters that spelled out “Six proud walkers on the jingle bell rainbow” were also a part of my concept. Done in 60’s concert poster style, the letters snake and intertwine, leading the eye to new places.
When I came up with the design, I didn’t have the ability to do multicolor screen prints, but I could create single color screens. So, using what I had I decided to make the art to be a black and white line-art base that I would screen print onto the shirts first, adding additional color on top later. You can’t have rainbows in black and white!
Eventually, what I ended up doing was to using my airbrush to individually spray each individual color into the piece. Each leaf in the ivy had to be sprayed in green. Each color of the rainbow had to be sprayed along the arc of my rainbow road, each in perspective, hopefully coming from smaller point and getting larger as I went. And while I was spraying all that color onto my rainbow, I wasn’t supposed to be spraying it all over those cute little eyeball dudes walking along my rainbow road. In order to get around that problem, I tried to fashion cutouts that I could place over each eyeball to protect them from getting painted as I sprayed away. It sort of worked with mixed results, but it was a huge pain.
I think I only ever made one or these two shirts that I was happy with. So, after giving up on that method of coloring the art, a tie dye artist friend named Chris created some rainbow dyed versions, which certainly was in keeping with the spirit of the rainbow. But, in the end I sold a lot of black and white versions of the shirt. And after I had drawn it and made the screen, the original art was put in a portfolio and forgotten about, never to see the light of day again for another 32 years. In fact, until recently when my friend Andy sent me an old picture of him wearing one of these shirts (below is a blurry, partial shot of Andy wearing the black and white version), I hadn’t seen the art in decades.
Well, I was recently on one of those covid lockdown tangents/projects when I came across the original artwork for the “six proud walkers” piece in that old portfolio. I decided to scan it in so I would at least have a digital copy finally.
And then I got to thinking… You know, aside from one or two shirts that probably disintegrated decades ago, I never had a finished copy of this piece to keep. So dammit, with the help of technology I am currently airbrushing the color on to my black and white art as it was originally conceived to be done (see below, again). But I am also trying to do it in a way where I can be shared with others, and that maybe it will give a few other people a smile, I hope.
Doses spread like COVID in the parking lot bazaar. A little is a lot too much and the distance each is far. There’s Jerry’s Kids, or Bobby’s Boys, plus Mickey’s on his own. We take the trip and not return for Phil is in The Zone.
Between that company in Germany Trump tried to get to exclusively make a vaccine for a America, and this latest story about him asking 3M to start shipping everything to America instead of other countries… it’s starting to feel like the story of some kid who wants to steal the exam he forgot to study for.
The Renaissance came after the Dark Ages because people had started to engage in critical thinking and using something that became known as the scientific method. The natural result was to grow away from the teachings of The Church at that time, because the results science was getting threatened the validity of the Church itself, the authenticity of its edicts, and its iron grip on power.
Now the United States has a leader who is in a position of power he neither earned, nor deserves. And like the church, he is so frightened of being wrong and losing power that he is willing to put countless lives at risk just in order to appear as if he isn’t wrong.
And so, here we are centuries later slowly sinking back into the same dark abyss of magical thinking, selfish prayer and quack ‘cure-all’ medicines. We are again leaving behind rational observation and thought as we bound head first into cults of personality and brand identity, as if they offer something more substantive than a street gang mentality and some Second Amendment bumper stickers.