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May 1, 2018

My Forrest Gumpy Life: Almost Shot in Philly

MLBC performs at the Lincoln Memorial, Washington, DC.
Performing is always a risk, but sometimes it's outright dangerous! Our political satire band, the Montana Logging and Ballet Co. performed concerts for a lot of interesting events, political and otherwise. As with any experienced group, especially on the road, we've collected all kinds of war stories, mostly about when things went badly. (Who wants to hear stories about smooth success, after all?)

When we're asked about our worst audience ever, each of us has a different answer. For me the worst was one we were able to avoid. Somehow during the Reagan Revolution the Republican National Convention had heard about how funny we were. They called up our manager, Fitz, and asked him what we charge for a concert. He replied coolly, "$48,000" (about 10 times the highest price we'd ever gotten for a concert!) To his shock they said fine, they wanted to book us! He was able to come to his senses in that moment and said that unfortunately we were too busy, so we were able to avoid what would have been a royal roasting and perhaps untimely end of a good group.

In another case the money must have been very good because we were shocked to hear Fitz announce that we would be performing in Florida for a national conference for a corporate accounting firm. We lined up for them our usual fare; a mix of political satire, comedy and good music or at least what passes for such with us. The night of the concert the first sign of trouble appeared when we watched the audience assemble in the huge conference room. Incredibly, the audience was all men, except for  about 6 or 8 women, who huddled at one table right by the exit! Sure enough, as we went through our show we were amazed how primitive the crowd was, acting like a herd of mindless carnivores. We performed fast, avoiding any jokes that could be taken as dirty and cutting material right and left to get out of there as quickly as possible.

This often happens with a corporate audience, as they're there often to impress their compatriots rather than to have a good time. We experienced the epitome of this effect when a wood products company sent a tone-deaf scout to one of our concerts who unfortunately thought were hilarious and just perfect to perform for a few of the top company managers at their HQ in Seattle. The concert took place on the top floor of their executive building on a small stage set up before an array of cafe tables at which sat a few dozen executives, with the CEO planted front and center. We performed our show, but there was an uncomfortable pause after every joke while everyone glanced at the CEO. If he laughed, then they all laughed; if he did not, they kept silent! (Except for one guy who guffawed alone after a joke and spent the rest of the show cowering in silence. I bet he didn't last the week.) It was one of the most uncomfortable successes of our whole career!

Brother Steve and I bringing high Montana culture to the big city.
But for me, one of the most memorable moments was when we performed for the off-year Democratic National Convention in Philadelphia, when there were 5 presidential contenders, each with his own Secret Service bubble, vying for position among the delegates. Granted the security was not as intense as it is now, but with the candidates roaming the floor among a cacophony of wandering delegates, I still I had no business getting clear into the bit I was doing with my brother onstage before thinking it all the way through. Suddenly I realized with the half of my brain that was not trying to remember the routine that in about 3 seconds I was going to pull a fake pistol out of my costume and shoot my brother! "What are the chances", my half-brain said, "that we'll all die in a hail of gunfire when I pull out my toy gun?"

I'm happy to report that we survived, probably saved by the phenomenon all performers hate: the utter invisibility of "background" entertainment. That, and the transaction was so rapid that apparently no one was alarmed. In fact, I'm not even sure anyone noticed that we performed that day. Such is life on the road for a music group, either ignored or targeted. Sometimes both at once!

Apr 23, 2018

My Forrest Gumpy Life: Mom of the Ages

My mom was an amazing woman! Polly Holmes did some incredible things in life, from training fighter pilots instrument flying while she was still a teen, to boldly and bravely renovating the Montana prison system in the 1970's as a Montana legislator, to introducing some of the first smoking-awareness legislation in the US. Though she technically died twice after a horrible car accident in the 60's, which troubled her the rest of her life, and suffered with a congenital heart condition, she was constantly devoted through her life to empowering "unpowered people". As a result, I have not only two siblings, but a whole raft of appreciative people who've claimed my parents as their own after being saved by them in one way or another.

Our family lived in poverty while my dad got his doctorate. One day my mom went to the neighbors to sell them a 1¢ stamp so one of us kids would have enough money for milk at school! (I try never to pass up a penny on the street any more, in honor of the untold sacrifices Mom made.) Nevertheless, I recall a blissfully happy childhood of family camping and car trips to places like Alaska (yes, driving!) We got to experience not only adventure, but witness the everyday battles and thrills of living for the greater purpose that were my parent's lives!

I was astonished later in life to hear the story of her engagement to my dad. When he popped the question she said "Yes, under one condition: that you never make me speak in public!" She of course overcame that fear, but never lost it. At 80 when she was going in for heart surgery my sister asked her if she was scared. "Oh goodness no," she replied, "This isn't half as scary as speaking in public!"

Though she could calmly take on the toughest, meanest politicians, Mom was universally beloved as a person. What qualities I cherish most from her are her inability to hate anyone and her boundless optimism. After seeing how cool and effective she was as a Montana legislator (referred to as "the conscience of the House"), even the meanest politicians carved her a wide birth.

But since this collection is about me, enough about Mom! Let me tell you about my first act of heroism. Somehow by the time my folks were having kids, my dad'd recognized Mom's talents and had talked Mom into finally preaching for him on Mother's Day in 1955. My great rescue came early that morning when I was born, saving her from her moment in the pulpit!

One of the most moving moments at Mom's funeral was when her dear friend and ex-Speaker of the House Hal Harper simply read the titles of some of the legislation she introduced during 10 years as a pioneering woman in the legislature. The breadth of her compassion brought me to tears. Even to her last day she still wrote intelligent hard-hitting editorials for local newspapers. And she never quit working tirelessly to make the world a kinder and gentler place.

Apr 17, 2018

My Forrest Gumpy Life: Dad, The Source of Our Comedy Genes

Dr. Rev. Bob Holmes, was a remarkable man. He was also my Dad! The only reason my siblings and I exist is because he had such a beautiful speaking voice. My mom was writing film scripts for the Methodist publishing world when she hired him to narrate a film, and then another. One thing lead to etc. and soon they were married!

My folks kept comedy alive with Spike Jones numbers.
While in seminary, Dad exposed a particular love for comedy and music. He played jazz piano and for a while was leader of a big band. In the early 40's he started a string of comedy musical groups that did a lot of goofy stuff that was quite popular. Here one can see someting like the early genetics of the Montana Logging and Ballet Co. (MLBC). He also pulled my mom (kicking) into that business. Those two got quite a reputation performing old record pantomimes for church events and the like when we were growing up. Such that––at 8 and 10–– my brother Steve and I would copy in our room numbers that we watched them pantomime.

One such number changed my life quite abruptly one day in 9th grade when, with a single performance, I was instantly launched from the bottom to the top of the social order! At a school talent show I presented a pantomime called Preacher and the Bear. Where I'd one day been the runt of the class and the butt of jokes, the next I was a star and everyone wanted to be my friend, because suddenly I was funny. (Maybe football isn't the way to impress girls!)

In high school Steve and I performed some of these comedy bits for one show and another, and were soon known as a comedy team. Years later when the MLBC got going, this was one of the threads that survived in our repertoire for many years until all our material was replaced with original work. (It was one of these pantomimes that nearly got us shot in Philly. I'll get to that, hang on.)

The last I recall Mom and Dad performing was at their 50th wedding anniversary when so many of their friends gathered to watch them act goofy at nearly 80 years old! It was a real treasure. I suppose I will continue to perform comedy, as I always have. If I last until age 85, that will mark 100 years of goofy comedy in my family, an intellectual and spiritual place where––seriously––it really has no place being!

Apr 7, 2018

My Forrest Gumpy Life: Godspell and Joan Rivers


In my undergrad years at Rocky Mountain College I undertook a triple-major in art, drama and music. There in 1975 I was cast in a role in the musical Godspell, that turned out to have a profound and lasting effect on my life. The production was directed by Larry Whitely from the professional Godspell circuit. Our little production ended up being a pretty big hit that played for weeks in Billings, and then eventually toured throughout the region. The play, based on the gospel of Matthew, featured me as Jesus, my brother Steve as Jesus' right-hand-man, John the Baptist/Judas, and several of our lifelong friends, like Nancy Harper with whom I still sing in church choir every week now. Promoting the show brought a former Rocky student, Bob FitzGerald and his buddy (Nancy's brother) Rusty onto the Rocky staff, (both also in said choir) who eventually formed a group with Steve and I called the Montana Logging and Ballet Co., which became famous in its own right.

But I digress. our show became somewhat of a phenomenon, quite successful at Rocky, and pretty sweet for me as it launched me on the road of a number of subsequent Godspell productions around Montana. In fact that summer I got a call from Larry asking if I would be willing to take the "Jesus" role for actor on the east coast since he was moving to the Broadway production. I said yes and opened within a week at a theater in Stockbridge, Mass., where I was the youngest and the only non-professional cast member. My dressing room had just hosted Leonard Nimoy, who'd just closed a performance run there (and whose name I myself removed from the door!)

Stockbridge is also the site of the famous Arlo Guthrie album (who makes an appearance elsewhere in my narrative) and his hilarious story of Alice's Restaurant. But that's another story altogether.

Joan Rivers and John Davidson on the talk show set.
The funnest story I recall came in the form of a call from a small local TV station in nearby Buffalo, NY. They requested that the "star" of our show come for an interview, so I was sent over. I arrived on the set of this small-time TV station and was introduced to the local host and his two other guests from another production also passing through: John Davidson and Joan Rivers! (I don't know much about him but she was perhaps the first really great American female comedian!) The host basically ignored me, but every so often would ask me some innocuous question about some local restaurant or something I would have no earthly idea about, making me seem pretty irrelevant. Joan recognized what was happening and so she graciously took over the interview! She asked me a string of very interesting questions about my show, she was very funny and we had a great time. I'd even say she saved my bacon! (That is if I wasn't vegetarian). I will always be grateful to her for rescuing me from that embarrassing situation.


Mar 25, 2018

My Forrest Gumpy Life: A Film Career with John Carradine


Appearing as a miner on set for filming in 1976.
There are chapters in my life that seem absolutely unbelievable, though perfectly true. For instance I was once hired to play a scene in a film opposite the legendary actor John Carradine, of Grapes of Wrath fame! This was a made-for-TV film I auditioned for when I was 20 or so. The film was a story about a coal mine disaster, called Christmas Miracle in Caufield, USA, starring Kurt Russell, Melissa Gilbert and Michael Ryan. For this scene I played a homeless drifter playing harmonica on the street when John's character came along and the two of us engaged in a short conversation.

As you might have guessed, the scene was ultimately cut from the film and I appeared only as a miner in the background of a couple of scenes. But I did get to hang out with the actors and watch a film being shot on location, a new and interesting experience for me, who would later help start a film company (did I mention unbelievable chapters? That will be addressed in time...) Sadly, the film was not that great, but the experience was unforgettable!

It was a decade or so later that a very similar thing happened to my father. He auditioned for and was cast in a film that was being shot near our Montana home, one that you no doubt know of as the classic  A River Runs Through It. Dad was cast as a newspaper editor by Robert Redford, who went out of his way to find historic precedent for a bearded editor at the time specifically so Dad wouldn't have to shave his beard. But alas, the shooting schedule was severely delayed, which finally edged Dad out of the role as he had a commitment in Europe to fulfill. So both our film careers ended up "on the cutting room floor". But they couldn't strip us of the gripping story, of Dad's being cast in a classic and my having once been hired to play opposite a great film star!

Mar 21, 2018

My Forrest Gumpy Life: The Furthest Light

"Foundations of the Universe" Metaphysical Map detail, by Holmes.
Some years ago I was in Washington DC for an exhibition of my work during which I visited with some old friends. I've known Meg and Harry Ferguson for some years and they've even bought some of my art. They had cooked a nice dinner at their house and we'd talked about our lives and what their kids were up to and I finally got to ask Harry about one of my favorite topics: his work. He has been on the Hubble Telescope team since that marvelous instrument was sent up in the 90's to become the best eye humanity has on the cosmos. I wanted an update of what they're doing with the scope.

He told about an idea they were working on, a project now well-known as Hubble Deep Field, where they found a particularly dark part of the night sky and photographed a tiny patch of it (what amounts to as much as a tennis ball viewed at 100 yards) for several nights in a row. Then they piled the photos on top of each other to see what was there. To everyone's surprise, the field was crammed full of distant galaxies! It must have been my dropped jaw that prompted him to take me up to one of his kid's rooms and crank up a small personal computer with a book-sized screen, as I recall.

He pulled up an image––a white screen with a bunch of faint black dots––and he explained to me what we were looking at: every one of those dots was a distant galaxy, in fact the most distant objects humans had ever seen! I had to pause a moment to take stock of my situation: Here I was, lucky enough to live in a time when humanity had invented and deployed this most amazing eye in all of history, which my friend was in charge of, and which results I was now getting to witness first hand: the most distant, oldest images in the whole universe ever seen by humans! And among the few of those who got to see that first image, I was now one! ...Thank you, Harry.

I recall as a 5-year-old lying on my back in the yard, looking up into the night sky and seeing the light moving across the sky that was the first satelite, Sputnik. I've watched the moon landing on TV and the Chellenger shuttle explosion and now even a guy's private car in space... I've witnessed the whole arc of the space age. It's astonishing to me to live in this particular window in time!

Mar 15, 2018

My Forrest Gumpy Life: The Great Mundell Lowe


Mundell (foreground) in the recording studio.
The Montana Logging and Ballet Co. got to work with some amazing people over our career. One piece of astonishing luck was gaining the attention of one of America's great jazz guitarists, Mundell Lowe, (1922-2017, recently featured on an NPR special hour as an Unsung Hero). Mundell played with the great jazz musicians of his time, like Benny Goodman, Billie Holiday and Elvis. He also ran the Monterey Jazz Festival for many years.

Mundell volunteered to be the producer and arranger of our two music albums, which we cut in San Diego, not only producing the sound, but writing and arranging the scores, hiring all the musicians, booking the studio and engineers; everything!

Not only did Mundell play a little guitar for the album, but among the greats he hired to back up us boom-chicka-boys was the late legendary guitarist Tommy Tedesco, who's listed as the most recorded guitarist in history! It is said that he could sight read for any stringed instrument as soon as he knew its tuning. And he has a reputation for playing flawlessly. The other musicians told us a story about how once during another session an orchestra was recording a number when suddenly Tommy stopped playing and put his head down on his stand. Everyone stopped and looked at him. Silence descended on the studio. The great Tommy Tedesco had made a mistake!

That's the kind of musicians we had backing us up on our albums. Of course we had the time of our lives recording with these guys. And the whole enterprise was undertaken by one of the great musicians of our time, Mundell Lowe. We are forever grateful to him.

Mar 7, 2018

My Forrest Gumpy Life: Aliens Cometh


The "Rocky Group" promoted Rocky Mountain College.
The "Rocky Group" that later became the Montana Logging Ballet and Co. was on a tour in rural Montana in 1975, the year that there were a series of troubling cattle mutilations in the area. We'd been hearing for months that about every night cattle in north central Montana would be subject to mysterious attacks, which all had similar characteristics: the left ear and genitals were cut off the corpses and all the blood would be drained. In fact no one knew of any machine that could drain blood so effectively. And there were never any footprints. So the rumors circled around aliens and UFO's. Some ranchers had even pooled a reward of $1000 to anyone who could crack the mystery. We were tempted to dive in like a bunch of real gumshoes just because the story was so intriguing.

So it was that one night after a series of concerts the four of us ended up staying with a couple in the tiny town of Belt, Montana. We stayed up late with the woman––an old college chum of Fitz and Rusty's––telling jokes and drinking ginger ale, when suddenly she launched into a story that amazed us all. She said that she actually didn't work in a print shop like she said, but a secret government lab that is researching the cattle mutilations! We were beside ourselves with curiosity and begged her to tell us what she knew. Here is her tale.

She said there are at least three labs around the nation, researching different elements of the phenomena, each in isolation from the others. In fact, all she knew about the others is that they received frozen samples from a lab in California, did some tests on the samples, then expressed them on to another lab in Missouri. What their small team was charged with was trying to determine what material was used to cut the flesh of the cattle. So far over the few months they had been working they had not been able to identify any material that left the markings that they were seeing in the flesh samples, which only served to underline the alien theories.

Needless to say, we were all stunned and amazed to be let in on as much of the secret as she knew, which was not enough to determine anything. Obviously, this woman had been busting at the seams trying to keep her secret in this small town, secrets that we––her old friends from far away––had allowed her to let out of the bag. She told us we had to keep the secret for years, which we of course did. Now I think it's safe...

There was never a resolution of the mystery. To this day there has been no attribution of responsibility. The thousands of cases across the country over decades remain unsolved. But the MLBC is still hoping to get that $1000. Maybe we could record a song about not being good enough sleuths.




Feb 27, 2018

My Forrest Gumpy Life: Brush with a Murderer


One of the strangest chapters of my life involves an encounter with a hugely famous music producer who worked with the Beatles, Ike and Tina Turner and many other pop groups. Phil Spector was widely known for creating the "wall of sound" that characterized much of 60's pop music. 

I was 14 years old, walking around an art show in Monterey when when this guy came up to me and introduced himself, saying he liked my look and wanted to audition me to appear in a film! I was flattered with the offer and soon we met for an interview. And so began a series of meetings with him that seemed as though I was headed into a career as a film actor. I would later characterize the relationship as little more than rather mild case of sexual abuse––an older man's inappropriate attraction to a young one––but at the time, it was pretty exciting. I didn't know until years later that he was actually a very famous guy. He rented a series of fancy houses close to Carmel, where I spent summers with my family. He'd come pick me up in a snazzy sports car and take me to his house, which was full of gold records on the walls and we would discuss vague details of the script of a film. I recall meeting him several times over a couple years, most of which were fairly innocuous incidents where he'd cook me a great meal or take me into town to buy me fancy clothes. He even came to visit the family a couple times, so none of us suspected much.

The most memorable encounter was when he drove me once to a house in the woods near Big Sur. We'd just arrived and were about to make lunch when he saw someone outside and told me to hide! I stood behind the couch while he crept about trying to keep away from a woman who was climbing around outside looking in the windows and calling to him. She finally saw Phil and called out to him to open the door. Caught, he let her in and he introduced me to a woman, Candice, whose last name I forgot. We sat in the living room and she took a real interest in me, asking me for instance about the sermon my dad had preached that morning in a local church. It wasn't til I got home later that afternoon that I told my family the story and described her work that my Mom recognized who I was referring to: the great actress, Candice Bergen!

Phil even came to Montana once to visit me, but he lost interest as I kept demanding more explanations, finding little evidence of a film; just a creepy old guy with a peculiar interest in a youngster. It was about 25 years later that Phil, who'd become strange and reclusive as he got older, say his friends, was pegged in a huge national scandal which resulted in his conviction for the 2003 murder of actress Lana Clarkson.

Feb 21, 2018

My Forrest Gumpy Life


How much farther removed from the mainstream of American life can one be than where I am today?
Montana Logging and Ballet Co. providing cultural perspective.
And yet, I came within a hair's breadth of appearing onstage with the next president of the US. How do such things happen, and why is my life so strangely full of these inexplicable synchronistic events?

The backstory: I am currently recovering from shoulder surgery and am basically under house arrest here at the very edge of civilization, in Helena, Montana, where I live. One could hardly be more distantly positioned from the pulse of public attention. Recently I wrote a song my group was to play for an event, until unforeseen circs cut us out of the schedule. One likely candidate for the presidency in 2020, VP Joe Biden (who had us play for other events years ago) is coming to my little town to appear at an annual Democratic dinner soon.

I've been for decades a member of the Montana Logging and Ballet Co., a political satire group that was active for decades before retiring three years ago. It just so happens that I wrote a song, Alt Facts, that members of our group did for this event last year. It turns out the song was a hit that garnered a standing ovation from a very appreciative audience. This lead to an invitation for us to return this year with a new song. Well, I happened to spawn an idea for a new song, The Great Ship GOP, and the time to develop it while I recovered from my surgery. So by barely lifting a finger we were positioned to appear in this rare event! (I'll post more about the song when we record it.)

The fact that performing the new song before an audience didn't "go through the formality of actually happening" hardly matters to me. The opportunity was there! Whether they did or did not happen it occurrs to me that my life is stuffed with such amazing stories! It seems every few days I run across evidence of some little incident from my life that seems at once both huge and ephemeral. Things like hanging out once with comedian Buddy Hackett in a pool watching him do hilarious tricks with a cigarette, or getting a private concert by (and playing frisbee with) the great guitarist Julian Bream, or my being asked to create a large sculpture to be placed in the center of Vienna. Or meeting people like Jane Goodall, great political satirists Mark Russell and Tom Toles, pianist Van Cliburn, Poncho Villa's wife (at 103 years old!), or giving a speech on the same Earl Lecture roster as Teddy Roosevelt.
What I find so intriguing is that these Forrest-Gump-like appearances on the edges of earthshaking events have been happening all my life. It's almost like I live the most interesting life in the world and I'm only becoming really aware of it just now at this late date as I see the pattern emerge out of my own history. It feels as though I'm involved in a story that begins "How close can you get to historic events without actually leaving a trace?" So I decided to start collecting these very short stories, partly just as a way of remembering because sometimes no one else was there to witness it! This is the first installment in what I'm calling My Forrest Gumpy Life.  Follow along if you like...

Jan 22, 2018

The Meaning of Work

"Finn Cellist" by Tim Holmes
Work has become so central to the meaning of our lives, it presents a hidden danger that we'd be wise to address. This wonderful Andy Beckett article points out many of the problems that seem invisible to much of contemporary discourse. In fact, it's rather strange to me that for all the common talk of the coming digital revolution, the approach of AI in every sector of our lives and the rise of inequality around the world, there is so little attention paid to what work means. Politicians use "JOBS" as shorthand for the good life, never addressing what underlies the concept. We cling to the idea that work gives meaning to life without really examining that concept.

All my adult life I recall hearing predictions that automation and democracy would assure us that work would be gradually replaced as the work week would grow shorter, workers would have more time off for home and family, and the creative pursuits would edge out labor as our prime occupation. But every such prediction only led us all to more work. What gives?

Partly it's our own fault for opting so often for increasing work and money rather than quality of life. But also we are all subsumed in a value system promoted by the omnipresent consumerist culture, exerting constant pressure on us and from which we can never escape. Then there is a secularist efficiency-driven trajectory of modern times that seems to minimize the value of anything that doesn't proceed from empty materialistic thinking.

For being so wise and creative, sometime humans strike me as being incredibly clueless! How can we spend decades of our lives plodding toward a future that, when it finally is achieved, will horrify us? Our relationship to work seems one of those dangerous areas where if we don't think ahead we may end up voluntarily imprisoning ourselves in a mechanical, boring future.

Jan 5, 2018

Beloved Imagination



I live with a wonderful dog named Imagination. He has more talents than you can shake a stick at. He's not a professional dog with a career and a chance to fulfill himself elsewhere; he's a house dog who collects unemployment, lying faithfully at my feet all day, staring longingly into my eyes while I persue mine. This is truly unfair.

I've seen him take a trail off into the woods beyond our garden on a furious exploration, returning only when my whistle becomes tinged less by desire and more by insistence. Yet there's something about his limitless adventurism––well beyond mine––that frightens me. I worry he'd get into some trouble; hurt some neighbor kid or jump a No Trespassing fence (can't read, but if he even if he could that concept would seem silly), or jump a freighter to Taiwan and be gone! It's too frightening to contemplate.

So I keep him close, never letting him beyond my sight. We take walks every day but those are never enough to satisfy him. He'd love to take me on a grand adventure but I'm kind of a home guy.

And yet... those eyes. Those haunting, pleading eyes!

Recently that got to me and I stood up. He bounded to the door as if he knew. I opened it and he whooshed out and spun around for his partner. But I just stood in the doorframe and waved him off. "Go on. It's OK, go." He did a figure eight, raced away and spun again, half crouching to the ground in the universal display of "well?" I was tempted but after a few steps I stopped. "No, you go. Really. You deserve it, Mag." I watched him get up and trot out the gate. He sniffed around in the weeds outside our fence, skimming the headlines, always looking back, tempting me. I waved him on. Go! Sniff, look, wave, sniff, look. Finally he riveted on one fascinating unfolding story and followed it off into the looming woods. I had gone inside.

I hated myself for letting him go like that, against all my fears. But after dark just as I sat down to dinner Mag trotted back to join me as if he'd been merely conked out on the grass. He was tired but those Magical eyes brimmed with the lights of mysterious adventure of Love, while I'd been home piling gifts on the altar of my Fear.

Next morning before Matins I again let him out. Figure eight, crouch, wave, sniff, look, wave, sniff, look, wave. Then Maj vanished into the dark shape of the trees beyond the figure-smeared pyramid of light spilling from the door I closed. I worried, once again, that this might be the last I'd see him and spent the rest of the day in mourning. But again that night Mag returned, this time bringing in a strange object, laying it carefully by my boots inside the door. It was a piece of driftwood, battered smooth and greyed from years abroad but impaled by an ancient, worn bronze spike, the very last word in a long and perhaps tragic tale. It appeared to be a bite out of an antique ship. (To this day it rests on my bookshelf). It seemed like Mag was living a richer life than I was! I had to expand my limits. He was getting all Love, while I harvested only Fear.

So we've reached an understanding at last. I'm working to put my fears to rest in order to move deeper into the life he's so good at engaging. Imagination is a wild creature that I do not understand, intelligent in ways I cannot know. His exuberance frightens me, yes, but he has a life of his own every bit as vital and worthy of expression as mine. I will never know his full story––only the hints that are shared––but at least we can share our quest. So I will swallow my fear and Imagination and I will adventure together. I must breathe deep, let go and trust in the mystery like Imagination does. Like him, I will trust that we're all lavished with equally pure Love. We just have to step out and take it!

Dec 20, 2017

What is Oppressive About Beauty?

What I hear from some women who are important to me is that my art
"Water Wall", pencil, by Tim Holmes
contributes to the oppression of women because of the beauty I find in young, healthy, nubile women. This springs from the same common appreciation that is used to exploit women for commercial purposes (which is exactly why it works!) and therefore my art comes across as being exploitive in a similar way. I'm sorry if that is the case, but please help me understand why. What is my responsibility as an artist?
It's as if there's no difference between soft porn (where the body is raked clean of personal value to foster easy objectification) and what I do, which is emphasize the whole woman. In my mind I am expressing the delight I feel in beauty and there's nothing oppressive about that. I treat the male figure the same way (emphasizing young healthy, well-developed bodies), but there's apparently no oppression felt in that case, probably because there's little oppression of men in our patriarchal society. I recognize all of that but it leaves me unable to understand my responsibilities in light of it. I feel a little bit like––in a world that is overfished––it's bad for me to find beauty in fish because that only encourages people to eat more fish. But I feel that speaks of a lack of imagination on the other's part rather than a failure of responsibility on my own. 

Yes I understand that we need to expand our vision of beauty to include, for instance, older saggy women because they too are beautiful. But I would say that their beauty is not aesthetic, as in young women. I insist that the reason we find young flesh so captivating is because it is true across nature that young, healthy animals are the pinnacle of beauty for that species. If you disagree with me I would like to challenge you to show us images that support your argument. There is a way in which older people look like overripe fruit; a little bit wrinkly and saggy. I would humbly suggest that's because mature beauty migrates inside. It's nature that designed it that way, not me. I'm just a witness to what nature has provided.

There's no difference in worth between those two instances but we talk about beauty all of a sudden there is a value judgment, for the same reason that ripe food is beautiful and the overripe fruit less so. That does not negate the value of the overwrite fruit. Speaking for myself I'm simply registering beauty as physical in this one narrow regard. (The visual sight of ripe fruit is more esthetically "beautiful" than the overripe. Without that sense we'd soon get sick on bad fruit. Do you not agree?)

Oppression is definitely bad, women have been severely oppressed and the beauty industry, like the porn industry, makes huge profits on that abuse. I find that a terrible shame, but it in no way diminishes a woman's beauty. Is that a fault on my part? It makes me wonder if the female objection to my argument isn't rooted in resistance to oppression rather than in appreciation of beauty. I certainly understand if it's the former, and I hope all people take up that struggle. But if the latter is true I'd like to see examples of old, wrinkly people who are depicted in such away that many viewers would find them physically beautiful. What I imagine is not that such examples don't exist, but that most people would see their beauty as inner, not outer; because of nature. That again is not my fault.

Do I have a responsibility to negate my appreciation of beautiful young flesh? Does diminishing the one help enhance the other? Perhaps the argument goes that if we had 100 years of looking at old wrinkly flesh that would become the standard of beauty. But I humbly suggest that if that's the case it would go against nature. Nature has designed young healthy animals to survive and I think that's why we find them beautiful, because their fitness is visible. Is it preferable to move culture away from nature? If beauty is democratizing, does it have any purpose? Does nature have an answer? Or is the solution we seek one that answers oppression rather than aesthetics? Please add your thoughts here. I think it is very important and especially for artists who care about human dignity!

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Dec 17, 2017

Jesus Is My Spouse



I shiver, curled in one corner of our bed
"Penetration", graphite, by Tim Holmes
Yet another unyielding night alone
Dreaming of his dank-warm body,
his tender caresses that fired my blood,
     filling me with the light of salvation,
     now some distant recollection.

Every need must feel harsh as mine!
How many lepers would I condemn,
How many tax collectors fall
Were I to request a night of him?
I could've loved a fishmonger
    Who'd deign to share my smelly bed
    My Lord, must you so test my faith?

I heard Mary had asked for you, they say
You answered, Who is my mother?
See, I dare not lift my head in plea!
I prefer this stoic silence to such death
That, night upon frigid night,
     Lies across my trembling flesh
     So intimately I'm called his wife!

I wonder how soon I'll starve
Here in the stark, long shadow
Of the most loving man in time.


-Tim Holmes

Dec 3, 2017

Killer Robots Need to be Addressed NOW!

We cannot delay talking about killer robots. Their time is here! If you've seen the pathetic videos of humanoid robots falling over at the DARPA challenge, it's time to look again. Robots are now very dexterous, like this one doing a backflip! But it's not these termintor-type robots that most concern me.

A recent article captures our attention with the line: "The most terrifying film of the year didn’t come from Hollywood." It's a chilling short video I would encourage everyone to watch, a shocking but realistic depiction (fictional, partly) of what autonomous weapons mean for humanity. The UN just concluded its first ever meeting on autonomous robots with many nations moving into rapid-action mode, trying to curtail the mega-death technology that is now available.  Without a massive public campaign to stop them, we will see them unleashed on humans in the very near future. The technology is already here.

I encourage everyone to sign the letter against autonomous weapons, that circulated at the UN conference. The pace of change is more rapid than even I (an expert of sorts in the developments of AI) can keep track of. I recently spearheaded a series of symposia to try to foster public dialog about the rise of AI among us so more people could understand what is at stake. (Here's the most recent)*. Though they were popular and successful, the thing that struck me the most is how cavalier attendees were about the dangers, most having an understanding of AI that lags years behind current developments. We tend to think of machines being subservient to us. But we are entering a new era of AI where they have their own agenda that we cannot penetrate. Also, many of the dangers I see are quite subtle and would only become apparent to most people in retrospect, after action is futile. No matter how unpleasant, we MUST talk about these issues now before it is too late!

*Ironically, the maker of this film, AI guru Russell Stuart, was scheduled to present at our latest Helena symposium but we didn't raise enough money to bring him!

Nov 10, 2017

The Newest Citizen is a Robot

Humanity has entered a new era. Last week a robot was granted citizenship. This robot, called Sophia, is basically just an articulated head, but unlike anything we've seen before, she is beautiful (modeled after Audrey Hepburn), has flexible skin, and shows about 70 different expressions. You have to see her in action to appreciate how incredible she is. Yes, it's very cool! And it seem rather harmless to grant this pile of bolts citizenship, since we all know no toaster can threaten our civil rights. But there are dangers that have suddenly entered the room and the more we peel back those implications, the more we can see our own future at risk.

When a machine is given the same rights as a person, it both elevates the machine and demotes the human. I find it tragic that the nation that granted Sophia citizenship is Saudi Arabia. I wonder how the Saudi women feel about it since they are second-class citizens to begin with! If she could vote (which she can't because the nation is not a democracy) who is it whose desire is expressed, the machine or the programmer? This question can never be answered. God only knows! (In this case that's the programmer).

AI improves exponentially, whereas the human will only grow at evolutionary speed. Therefor humans are soon to be subsumed. It doesn't feel that way to us because of the obvious distance between the human and the cyborg. But that distance is rapidly dimminishing. There are stratified layers of dangers that will unfold beneath this one, but let me just highlight one: when the robot says she is "sentient", we have no way of knowing. In our slice of time we can be sure she is not, but a learning machine will cross that boundary before long. How will we know when if she's said that all along?

You now share the world with a mechanical citizen. Robots are fighting for "rights" like yours. Is that OK with you? When a machine takes your job in the next few years, how will you convince the world of your value when you become too expensive for employment? How do you feel being a human at this juncture?


Nov 6, 2017

Will AI Erase Human Meaning?

I'm a painter, among other things. So I find myself thinking of the following scenario.
What if I had a smart pallet that knew what color I was going to choose next, and would mix just that amount of color right before I needed it? I'm afraid that the result would be not that I'd appreciate the help, but that I'd suffer from a creeping feeling that I was not the originator of the painting, but merely some kind of servant of some other painter entity who had the idea I was simply carrying out.

The assumption of AI development is that humans want help with everything and that an automated world is a better world. We tend to think of AI in very simplistic terms, like it's all about making our chores easy. It's unfortunate that something as central to humanity's future as the development of AI lends itself so easily to wide misunderstanding. A person really has to spend time studying and thinking about the issues to begin to understand what's truly at stake. I've been doing so for years and even now I keep encountering new and troubling questions.

While some might appreciate automated decision-making, I wonder if the coming of AI will serve to make human life increasingly meaningless. If there's one thing we of the consumerist culture have learned, it's that marketers are masters at instilling in us desires for things we don't need (which incidentally happens to be what they're selling). What they're not good at is asking us what would make our lives more meaningful! And when it comes to marketing AI that could be deadly, producing a world of valueless citizens for whom life would be increasingly empty.

This represents the kind of thing that troubles me about the coming AI tsunami: not so much the overt affect of AI infusing our lives, but the subtle implications of what that will do to the qualities of lived human life that no one is paid to examine but that we'll all be subject to! 

The future of all of humanity is on the line, so we should all be in on the conversation about what it is we want of the future. That's why I've helped put together such a public discussion this week, called Vulnerable Humans, Predictable Machines, the third of three symposia, and written a play showing this week about it. I don't want to wake up one day to a world where our future has been finally determined by corporations. Now is the time to speak up if you agree.

Nov 3, 2017

Facing the AI Threat wth Humor


Experts agree that the biggest challenge humans face with the development of AI is that of keeping the machine from wiping out the humans. (If you're not familiar with this, it's totally true!) While the threat we fear most is a Terminator-type extermination, the one that causes me growing concern is more subtle. It looks more like a human-driven value system that gradually seduces us away from our inborn but flawed human qualities toward a more mechanical response to life (as in my TED talk, The Erotic Crisis). Yes, the machine will be anti-human and have values that will astound us, but the true danger comes not from the machine but from ourselves. I've written a short play, Felix, the Robot Assistant, that explores this.

The danger I see blooms from the person that we inevitably become in attempting to make ourselves invulnerable; we re-envision ourselves as super-humans, minus what we see as the "flaws" built-in by nature . We were designed with and survived millions of years of evolution sporting some the very vulnerabilities that most of us would like to jettison: pain, weakness, indecision; even sickness and death! We figure we are now smart enough to compensate for any disagreeable traits we don't wish to keep among our species.

It's like we are building a suit of medieval armor: first we gird our vulnerabilities, then we make the protections as strong, light and flexible as possible, seeking maximum protection at minimum cost. We then continue to improve our armor, making it increasingly ubiquitous, automatic, even capable of autonomy should we fall asleep in our defended cocoon. There is no end to this process. In seeking maximum protection, we minimize any soft ("human") quality and maximize the powerful, the impressive, the intelligent. In other words we become increasingly imprisoned inside the shell of our technology until one day, we become irrelevant; shriveled, starved creatures wasting away, unable to escape our own creation. This is a very God-like stance and I submit that playing God will only prove fatal for any entity that is not God.

In writing Felix, I kept in mind a number of sobering recent incidents that have indicated our current trajectory with AI. One is the creation of Sophia, a robot with nearly 70 different expressions. She talks about robot rights in this film, (about 6:00 in), or here, where she speaks to a crowd, or here, where her emotions are spoken of (12:00 in). She's quite attractive, but note where your attachment comes from. (Last week Sophia was even granted citizenship by Saudi Arabia! I wonder how the Saudi women feel about that??)

Dr. Hiroshi Ishiguro, is a robot developer who created an autonomous robot doppelganger of himself. It is quite alarming to see the two of them side-by-side in interviews, like identical twins. In one interview Hiroshi admits he’s undergoing plastic surgery to become more like his android. In another, an interviewer asks Dr. Ishiguro if he doesn't regret the fact that this robot has become his whole life and identity. Surprisingly, he answers that in fact the robot is what distinguishes him in the world. "The reason you are here interviewing me is because of him [the robot]", he says. He has traded his autonomy for notoriety. Is this not the temptation we all face with unfolding technology?

In this case, there is an obvious motivation on the part of the doctor to blur the distinction between the two. The more capable and naturalistic the robot is, the better it reflects on the doctor's skill. So what's to prevent him from appearing himself more mechanical than the robot? This is not beyond imagination as it only serves his greater purpose (as it would serve the robot's purpose if the machine actually became conscious).

These issues are pivital to the future of humanity, a conversation to which we all should be contributing. This is why I've been dedicated to fostering public dialog about AI and humanity. Love to hear your thoughts!

Oct 12, 2017

ART: Vital to Democracy

Censorship is a disease that has always haunted free societies. How does an open nation deal with dangerous ideas? When lawmakers suggest torture of an artist whose art they don't like, we've reached a new low. The easy knee-jerk response is to outlaw stuff we find objectionable. After all, to allow speech that we disagree with takes real courage and self-confidence, and those seem to be in short supply.

American conservatives have become masters of censorship when it serves their narrow interests, from the overpainting of Michelangelo's Last Judgment (er...second-to-last) to the backlash against Monty Python's comedy film "Life of Brian" about the hypocrisy of believers (brilliantly satirized, as I'll detail in a future post), to the Republican "Art wars" following the collapse of the USSR in 1989 (gotta find some enemy, right?). But a new low was reached recently when an artist was threatened with torture when word of his art reached sensitive ears.

The Modern Art Museum in São Paulo, Brazil presented a performance of Wagner Schwartz's piece “La Bête” on Oct. 4, wherein the artist appeared naked before a crowd of viewers who were invited to approach him and move parts of his body. If it were me, I would cherish the opportunity to interact with another human in a brand new way, make possible only in a controlled situation like this.

But if you're a certain religious conservative, apparently you'd be seized with fear that carnage was going to ensue. After the evangelical community went into a tizzy over this event, members of the Brazilian parliament even suggested that the artist be tortured for his artwork! Not for murder, for art!!! Clearly the problem exists not in the event but in some people's minds. It's like suggesting a blacksmith be tortured for sharing his work because we know that blacksmithing leads to knives which sometimes hurt people! The distance between this art and actual danger is enormous. But apparently in the minds of these people there is no distance. In other words, for them there IS no innocent male nakedness, there IS no other possibility in this situation than sex abuse, there IS no art. Never mind that the work was fully curated, that it happened in a closed, limited space, that everyone knew the context and that only those who wished to participated. These people see sex abuse as the only reality. That's very tragic.

I responded to the incident as an artist who loves the possibilities that art opens for us all. The tendency to make ideas we don't like to vanish is no path to democracy. There is no democracy if we are not willing to defend the rights of those we disagree with. That takes real courage! I agree that a lot of contemporary art is hard to swallow (which is why I'm dedicated to facilitating dialog about it). We in the US can clearly see daily what it looks like letting people with arrested development run public policy. We can all rise above that minuscule level of social awareness!


Oct 9, 2017

Living with Petroglyphs


Our cabin just by the petroglyphs, near Guasca, Colombia.
In what must be the rarest of opportunities, we are living for a week right next to a site of ancient petroglyphs! We got a couple-hours tour of the carvings from the landowner (who takes great care of his charges.) These remarkable images were created by the Muisca people (the most prominent culture at the time in this part of the world) sometime between 800 and 1538, when the Spanish came and broke up the party for everybody, and constitute some of Colombia's most important, located just downstream from a natural hot spring that was no doubt popular for hundreds of years.

In pre-colombian times his area (around Guasca, Colombia) was an important confluence of indigenous travel routes and thus was the site of important rituals, some involving as many as 10,000 individuals congregating from all over this part of the continent.
Circle figures refer to stars and are repeated around the world.
This set of petroglyphs are some of the more important ones, depicting the dominance of the sun over the other 4 critical elements, earth, fire, water and air. There appear some standing dancers that honor the sun's power. There are also figures depicting stars (concentric circles with long vertical stems) that are actually common to indigenous petroglyph sites around the world. Spirals (to the left indicate the spirit life, to the right that of the body). Also visible here is the frog figure––an important totem animal––in what is seen as both a festive position and one of alertness.
A frog appears beneath a figure.

These ancient symbols––looming over my days and nights––fills my heart with cosmic thoughts. The plebian modern concerns that so preoccupy us are lost among these powerful, mute reminders of the great arc of time that also forms part of our true story, though vastly more subtle. Here I am connected with these unknown ancestors by their powerful, speaking symbols, peering centuries on end from the cliff-face over the landscape, calling to eternity.

Sep 27, 2017

Who Needs Artists Now?

It happened much faster than I'd have guessed: AI has learned to paint pictures viewers like even better than those made by human artists! The algorithms aren't really so complex: just feed the computer art images of the past, adjust the output between SURPRISE v.s. CONFORMITY and hit print. It's not that the AI knows how to stimulate the human soul, it only learns (very well indeed!) how to simulate the best human results. Since all the hard work of creating creative images to begin with is finished, an amalgamation of such images can be learned and re-formulated to come up with visual images that are pretty attractive. And there's no doubt that the results are very impressive. But the question is, just what are we experiencing?

Paintings created by an AI program called "CAN".
To me this points out one of the frightening invisible dangers inherent in all AI. The computer doesn't need to actually better the work of a human attempting a task, it only needs to be able to fool us about the results. This can be seen most clearly, I think, in the way we do relationships. My friend Steve Omohundro, an AI researcher in Silicon Valley, reports that when the Roomba vacuum first came out, people would insist on taking their machines on vacation with them, (ostensibly to keep their hotel rooms clean!) But really it was about how much they would otherwise miss what they refused to acknowledge was their new pet. Nobody calls their Roomba their "friend", but they insist on their company all the same. It's not that Roombas have replaced living creatures but that the human soul desperately seeks connection, and will find it even in places where there's none to be had. Humans can project our feelings so strongly on nearly anything else, that we will defend its projected autonomy to the bitter end. We can convince ourselves that a connection was made. Bad news? You tell me.

Part of my assessment of abstract art (which the AI is best at replicating) is that it is often intelligent, compelling, visually gripping, even emotional; but it (very arguably) struggles to be truly meaningful. This is where AI cannot really shine, I would submit. Not that AI production of true human meaning won't happen, just that it will take longer. And when it does happen, you can be that we human viewers will defend the result to the bitter end. Connection? Maybe so. But with what?

Sep 19, 2017

Colombia, an Utter Surprise!

Medellin's Botanical Gardens, ringed with memorials to notable women.
Growing up in the US, I always associated Colombia with drug wars, and none more than the city of Medellin. But I'm astonished at how out-of-date my view is now that I'm visiting for the first time! Since last year's historic peace deal ending the 52-year war with the FARC rebels, the nation has plunged into new social development plans that make Western Civilization seem downright sluggish. (Or in the case of the US now, clearly retrograde!)

The new national focus isn't just another cold capitalist dream of economic growth, it's the very humanitarian one of EDUCATION! For one thing, the government has borrowed an idea from Mexico that is transforming that country, the concept of "tutor teaching", in which students choose a subject which interests them, that they then teach to their peers. It's a way of engaging the kids naturally and and keeping everyone involved interested in the process of learning rather than attaining a certain level of test results, as if students were products.

A machine for buying transit tickets by turning in plastic bottles!
Meanwhile, there's a concerted effort to make the country bi-lingual in a few years; libraries are being built in the mountain slums of the city to make the poor feel that they too are important citizens. They are the focus of further social interest with the (relatively inexpensive) construction of escalators and cable cars that give them easier access to the city. The inviting new mass transit system is the pride of Medellin, evidenced by its astonishing cleanliness and safety. You can even turn plastic bottles into tickets! We did and bought cable car tickets into a gorgeous cloud forest park above the city.

In Colombia, I'm astonished how often people greet me on the street. Of course on a crowded street everyone doesn't say hi to everyone else, but when I pass someone, (even a woman at night!) often they will say "buenos noches", reaching out to me, a stranger. What a civil attitude!

With its serious focus on the arts, public value and small business, I predict that Colombia will be a powerhouse in the coming decade because they are focusing development on people, not money. I think we'll see that this is a winning strategy for everyone, and one that the "developed" world had better learn very quickly if we're not to be drowned by the inequalities of predatory capitalism that we so rapidly spread around the world.

Sep 4, 2017

Worse Than Even Genocide

The Krubo were first contacted in 2014 and show little fear of outsiders.
(Image from Izabela Sanchez's original story linked below.)
What do you call it when not only a people but an entire culture is wiped out?  I'm stunned to hear this emerging story about the massacre of two whole villages of indigenous peoples in a very remote section of the Amazon, belonging to a group known as Warikama Djapar.

Evidence of victim's bodies was discovered in Feb. 2017, but there's indications there were previous incidents as well. Investigation is extremely difficult because of the remoteness, the total lack of infrastructure and institutions (like police and judges) and lack of funds. Suspicion is cast on illegal miners, agribusiness, hunters and landowners who have been prepetually infringing into tribal lands.

What's worse, these tribes are specifically protected by the government from contact even by supportive visitors in an attempt to preserve the purity of these "undiscovered" peoples until they choose for themselves to contact outsiders. Investigating official Conrado Octavio says,
Isolated tribes are indicated in proximity to massive deforestation.
[Credits: (Graphic) J. You/Science; (Data) Antenor Vaz and RAISG]
"These pressures are not exclusive to the present moment, although it is frightening the totally shameless character that initiatives of these sectors have assumed in the present, and the freedom with which they have occupied and commanded strategic sectors of the federal government especially affects the indigenous peoples in Brazil. The effects of such pressures on isolated peoples / groups are particularly serious and entail serious risks of contagion and conflict."*

As development encroaches on the protected tribal lands there is little resistance to exploitation and almost no law enforcement. The effects of diseases, greed, and modern weapons on these healthy and happy societies are utterly devastating. Apparently the Warikama Djapar people have been virtually wiped out, along with their language, traditions and customs. The few survivors are not enough to repopulate. This culture will vanish from the earth due to the greed of a few. It's hard to imagine a greater evil than this, but this is the truth of collonization that western "civilization" has visited upon the indigenous world for centuries. We have to own that this is still our legacy.

• Sources:

- https://deolhonosruralistas.com.br/2017/07/26/indios-kanamari-apontam-massacre-na-segunda-maior-terra-indigena-do-brasil/
- https://theintercept.com/2017/09/01/policia-investiga-massacre-de-indios-isolados-enquanto-ruralistas-avancam-sobre-a-amazonia/
- http://amazoniareal.com.br/mpf-pede-investigacao-de-denuncia-de-massacre-de-indios-isolados-do-vale-do-javari/
- http://www.sciencemag.org/news/2017/08/maps-reveal-how-amazon-development-closing-isolated-tribes

*Translation is a clucky, mechanical one from original articles in Spanish.

Aug 23, 2017

Get a Load of the Emperor's Clothes!

The fallout from the Charlottesville tragedy is showing the true colors of not only Trump (we knew that) but also some of his supporters, like Evangelical Christians*. The deafening silence from their corner over Nazi violence speaks volumes. As these events demonstrate, the "family values" that has been the slogan of this movement for decades falls apart under scrutiny. Now Evangelicals show their true colors too. It turns out all that flowery talk of standing up for great Christian values––even conservative ones like marital fidelity––has just been a smokescreen for their underlying hateful ideology, which's as unchristian as you can get!

Despite their great PR, their argument has never been very robust. "Pro-lifers" who don't oppose the death penalty or show concern for the poverty that is often the reason for pregnancies to be unwanted. "Defence of marriage" which denies healthy marriage to anyone who's not heterosexual. "Biblical values" which are terribly selective of only the parts of scripture that further their narrow cause. These have always been indications of sly PR that justifies hate and intolerance with Jesus' words, which is a real travesty. But now we can see a blatant evidence that Evangelicals aren't really promoting Christian values as their own narrow, hateful ideology. Christianity is here merely a convenient and honored tradition, used to make this ideology seem legitimate.

A great number of "Christians" seem to ignore much of what Jesus said except for a few choice phrases (Shakespeare reminds us that even "the devil can site scriptures for his purpose"!) The term "Christian" implies those who follow the teachings of Christ. It's not that Jesus didn't say such things as Do not suppose that I have come to bring peace to the earth. I did not come to bring peace, but a sword.” To some this is a validation of their own desire for violence. But it ignores the REST of Jesus's message, the bulk of which is concern for the poor and dispossessed. There aren't very many groups that have the courage to embrace that kind of idea, so instead lazy "Christians" simply cherry-pick the religion they want and stamp Jesus' logo on it. For shame!

I say if it doesn't show concern for the weak, the poor and the stranger it is NOT CHRISTIAN, regardless of what label is on it. The same is true of any faith that sprouts violence: it is an abberation, not a sacred admonition. That is how to separate the wheat from the chaff. There are slimebags in probably every community. Just because they're loud, don't let them speak for the whole lot!


* Disclaimer: I know that any kind of generalization is always a loose approximation. There are some purely faithful Evangelicals who are as deeply Christian as anyone. No group can accurately be painted with a broad brush. But the group has to take responsibility for their own. I apologize to the world for some "Christian" behavior because they are of my brotherhood. Worthy Evangelicals should do the same, as should any group whose members embarrass us!

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Tim Holmes Studio

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I'm a sculptor/filmmaker living in Montana, USA. I am using art to move the evolution of humanity forward into an increasingly responsive, inclusive and interactive culture. As globalization flattens peoples into a capitalist monoculture I hope to use my art to celebrate historical cultural differences and imagine how we can co-create a rich future together.

I see myself as an artist/philosopher laboring deep in the mines of joy. I've had a good long career of exhibiting work around the world and working on international outreach projects, most notably being the first American to be invited to present a one-person exhibit in the Hermitage Museum. Recently I have turned my attention from simply making metal sculpture to creating films and workshops for engaging communities directly, tinkering with the very ideas and mechanisms behind cultural transformation. I feel that as we face tragic world crises, if the human species favors our imaginative and creative capacities we can cultivate a rich world to enjoy.

For me the deepest satisfaction in making art comes in engaging people's real life concerns rather than providing simple entertainment or decoration. Areas of conflict or tension are particularly ripe for the kind of transformative power that art uniquely carries. I invite any kind of challenge that serves people on a deep level.