And The Ladybug asks

Write about your favorite painting. Why do you like it? What’s the story behind it, do you know? And why is it special to you?

I know that they are millions upon millions of great paintings in our world. Many live in museums, while others reside in the private homes of the wealthy. Let’s not forget the millions of piece of art created by unknown artists who may have never shown their work to anyone outside their family circle.


I am, therefore, going to limit the scope of this answer to paintings I’ve seen personally … and specifically, to paintings I have hanging on the wall of my home.

Back in the days when both Garry and I were working full-time and earning good money, we loved art galleries and art. We bought paintings, photographs and happily hung them on our walls. Of course, my own photographs also hang on my walls, but they hang with oil paintings by many almost famous painters.

Same painting in my office

In this collection, there is one painting I love best. I know it’s not my husband’s favorite, though he likes it well enough, but it is mine.

Leonard Bergman Print living room

It’s a numbered lithograph of a watercolor by Leonard Bergman titled “Jerusalem” which captures a mood, the sunshine, colors, flowers. It is “my” Jerusalem, not necessarily real, but the sense memory of the years I spent there.

Is it a great painting? I think so. In any case, it’s the one I love.

There’s (just) one framed (used) copy available at a ridiculously low price ($25!) at Etsy. Only 325 prints were ever made.


Among the many things I collect, Native American fetishes are among my favorites. I have a lot of them and many are tiny and intricate. Which makes them difficult to photograph and that is why you haven’t really seen them thus far.

Today I tackled my largest fetishes, my Corn Maidens. I have four, each carved from a different material and by a different carver. And I added the bear because he seemed to want to be a part of the festivities.

Each piece is a work of art. The maidens are my favorites, but I also love my bears, eagles, bobcats, mountain lions and wolves. I would have even more, but I know I suffer from collection addiction. I had to go “cold turkey.”


All pictures were taken with my 60 mm f2.8 Olympus macro lens in natural light.


It isn’t just culture that divides us into classes. What we watch on television, see in the movies, and read also puts us into a category, often unfairly by people who don’t “get” why we like what we like.


I read a post about how dreadful — yet gripping — romance novels can be. The not-so-subtle insinuation is that anyone who reads them is probably not too bright. While it’s true that romance novels are the potato chips of the literary world (bet you can’t eat just one) that’s not the point.

double dip in bookcase

As a former editor of the Doubleday Romance Library, I assure you that research showed readers of romance novels are better educated than most readers.

They read romance novels because they are pulp. These readers aren’t looking to be informed or improved, to have their world expanded, reading-level or awareness raised. They want a book they can pick up, read, put down, and forget. If life gets in the way, they can just never finish the story — without regret.

72--cook books_07

I read each 3-book volume, every month. Three romances: 2 modern with a Gothic sandwiched between. Every novel had the same plot, the same outcome. They sold gangbusters.

Regardless of what we, as writers, would prefer people enjoy, people don’t always read good books. I often avoid “good” books. I don’t want to go where that book would take me. I’m not stupid or lacking in culture. I just don’t want to read it. Don’t enjoy the subject matter. Don’t need to be further depressed by the ugly realities of life or history.

Good books can be too intense, too serious, or educational for this moment in time. Too close to reality. I read to be entertained. I’m not seeking enlightenment through literature. Perhaps I should rephrase that. I am no longer seeking enlightenment through literature. If I ain’t enlightened by now, I’m pretty sure it won’t happen in this lifetime.

75-Books and stuffNK-1

The wondrous thing about the world of books is there are so many. Enough genres, themes, and styles for everyone. An infinity of literature. No matter what your taste — low-brow, high-brow, middle-brow, no-brow — there are thousands of books waiting for you. That’s good. I’d rather see someone reading a bad book than no book.


I’m not a culture snob. I think reading crappy novels is fine if you like them. Watching bad TV is fine too.

Snobs suck the fun out of reading. While I’m not a fan of romance novels, if you are, that’s okay with me. I love reading about vampires and witches. I’d be more than a hypocrite to act as if your taste is inferior to mine.

old favorite books

These days, I’m rarely in the mood for anything serious — except maybe a conversation. Tastes change over time. Life has been a very serious business for me. When I read, watch TV, or see a movie, I want to escape, Reality will still be there when I get back.

Finally, my favorite professor at university — a man I believe was profound and wise — was a big fan of Mickey Spillane. He said there was a much truth in those books. I believe for him, there was.


His paintings tell an all-too-familiar story. It’s our world, where the world is full of plenty yet countless millions struggle to survive even though they work full-time, sometimes more than full-time. Because America’s minimum wage is so low, no one can live on those earnings.


Jack Keough’s Work Series are paintings without faces. He says he doesn’t want this to be about one-dimensional or race issues. This is an issue that cuts across race, ethnicity, culture, education.

Says Keough “This is a ‘bottom of America’ issue. It’s about the minimum wage and making it possible for working people to support themselves and a family.” It affects every working man and woman in this richest country in the world.


He feels he’s a prime example of what happens. His business went under. 2008 was a bad year for a lot of people.

He figured out what working for a full year at $9/hour minimum wage would look like: A full year of hard labor would yield just over $18,700. Before taxes. After taxes and insurance deductions, take home would come to just over $9,70. Not enough to house and feed a single man, much less a family.

Jack Keough’s paintings ask, “Can anybody look at those numbers and tell me that’s fair?”


The 56-year-old Keough talks — and paints — about the harsh realities of life for working people. College graduate and father of two grown children, he’s a guy who saw his graphic design business which he built and grew for 24 years, go belly up when the economy tanked in 2008.

Scrabbling to survive in a hard economy, Jack paints while holding down 4 jobs — just to make ends meet.

His “Work Series” makes it clear Jack Keough isn’t going to waste time ranting on social media. He’s on a mission, using art to stimulate discussion about the minimum wage. About raising it so that it will be enough to live on.

He has a quest. Jack Keough hopes people will listen — and then work to make change happen.

Jack Keough’s paintings do a lot of talking.

72-Jack-Keough_Labor Day Show Poster


You can see Jack Keough’s work at a one day, one man show on Labor Day, Monday, September 7, 2015. At Boston City Hall Plaza. Bring the family and your friends. 



Odd Ball Photos are those great photos that you take which really don’t seem to fit into a common category.  We’ve all taken them and like them, because we just can’t hit delete and get rid of them.  

72-Jack-Keough_Labor Day Show Poster

This week, we spent some time in an art gallery. Most of the pictures from that will be in other posts, but these were interesting on their own. The preceding poster is to give you a taste of what’s to come … and what it’s all about.

From the back of the gallery look out to Main Street

From the back of the gallery look out to Main Street

Oddball? Maybe. But interesting, at least.72-Gallery-Wall-Jack-Keough_28

Art through aloe vera?

Art through aloe vera?

And then, there is Garry interviewing the artist, Jack Keough …




Love, Terror, and an American Family in Hitler’s Berlin

I have rarely been more conflicted about a book than I was about this one. It was gripping, sometimes mesmerizing. Simultaneously appalling and annoying.

William Dodd was made ambassador to Hitler’s Germany because no one else wanted the job — and because they didn’t want to put a “real” ambassador in a lose-lose position.

From the outset, it was the intention of Dodd’s bosses that he should fail. The U.S. government never had any intention of supporting him, of stopping the Nazi rise, or curtail the personal power of Adolph Hitler. You need to understand this in order for the rest of the story to make sense, if indeed it could be said to make sense.

The indifference and callously entrenched antisemitism of US State Department officials and their resulting tolerance for the atrocities of the Nazi government is hard to stomach.This is not an image of our government that would make anyone proud to be an American.

The failure of all western nations to do anything to stop Hitler while they could have done so with relative ease, is difficult to fathom. Their choice of Dodd, who was considered an amateur and not “one of the club” was an incredibly cynical move by the U.S.

Most of the people in the book are awful in one way or another. Dodd, the ambassador, ultimately grows to become, in his own way, heroic. He saw what was happening and tried — within the very limited power of his position — to do what he could. That no one listened to him is part of the tragedy. Dodd’s daughter, on the other hand, is a feather-headed self-absorbed brat. She is like a case of hives. The more you scratch, the more you itch.

Everyone acts in bad faith to one degree or another. Even more hard to bear are those who failed to act, failed to respond to Dodd’s repeated pleas for aid. Usually, it wasn’t because they didn’t believe him (although some didn’t), but because the majority of them were hardened anti-Semites who thought Hitler would rid Europe of the menace of Communism while wiping out the Jews. He didn’t get rid of Communism, but he did a pretty thorough job of wiping out European Jewry. Historically, I guess that would make the glass half full?

How revolting is it for me to learn this? I always rejected my mother’s suspicions on this score as paranoia. I refused to believe my government could allow — encourage — the genocide of an entire people. Sometimes, discovering mom was right is not heartwarming. This is one of those times.

To put the cherry on this dessert, the State Department’s little plot to allow Hitler enough latitude to “take care of the Jews” also led us into to the bloodiest war in human history, a conflict in which more than 30 million people — military and civilian — died.

The banality of evil has never been more terrifying. Read it and weep.

Evil intentions never produce good results. This book offers the ultimate cautionary tale.


It is not leftovers that have stayed too long in the refrigerator.


Typical famille rose design on an antique porcelain plate

You may know (or not) I have been a collector — in a small way — of antique Chinese porcelain and Asian art. As a collector, I love flea markets and yard sales. It’s part of the collecting mystique, that one day someone will be selling a great antique piece for a few dollars and I will be there to grab it.

It happened. Twice, to be exact. One pieces I got was a small, 200-year-old Qing dynasty pitcher. In pretty good shape. Got it for five dollars, sold it for $150. Ka-ching!

The other was a little dish which I’ve kept. It’s decorated with blue and yellow chickens. It’s a rice bowl, the sort of thing a working man might carry to work and use to eat his lunch. The piece fits loosely into the category of famille rose. Or famille verte. I haven’t decided if rose or green is the dominant color.


They are both a style rather than a dynasty, though the vast majority of piece in this category are between one and two hundred years old. Most of these pieces are elaborately decorated, but simple pieces were made for regular folks.

qing famille rose rice bowl

Chinese porcelain was secular. Art for art’s sake. Decorative. Non-collectors may assume Chinese porcelain was lavish. What I would call “imperial porcelain.” Certainly some very fine porcelain was made for the wealthiest members of society, but much of it was not. The Chinese were very egalitarian, believing that everyone needed art, the same way everyone needs food.

Food feeds the body. Art feeds the soul.

blue chicken on a qing dyn rice bowl antique porcelain

Art — dishes, figures, vases, ginger jars and so much more — was made for peasants, servants. Middle, and upper classes. Beauty was not a privilege of the few, but part of life for everyone.

The concept of art for everybody delights me. Too many people think art is a waste of money because it has no “function.” Merely being beautiful isn’t enough for them.


In this bowl indeed has a function, but it wasn’t painted to make it more functional. It would hold a man’s rice without hand-painted chickens. But me? I prefer it with chickens. In fact, I just love those chickens!