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  • From Photo Hobbyist to Featured Artist at an Art Gallery

    This is going to seem more like a journal entry than a blog post, but it's been a fun weekend and I wanted to share my day in the sun.

    Two months ago, I walked into a beautiful art gallery, the?Silver Sycamore Gallery of Fine Arts in Sainte Genevieve, Missouri. It's a beautiful art gallery located about an hour's drive south of St. Louis, Missouri. After looking at some of the work then on display, I showed the gallery manager (Leon Basler) some of my own work on my iPhone.

    To my surprise, Leon took an immediate intense interest in my work and offered to display my photography, further offering to designate me to be the "featured artist" during ?a citywide celebration: "The Ste. Genevieve Annual Holiday Christmas Festival." ?Of course I said yes. ?Leon eventually decided to display all 30 images that I hauled down in a van earlier this week. Displayed, they took up half of the gallery. What an honor! The gallery owners and the people stopping by the gallery treated me like a celebrity, which is serving as an antidote for my bout of imposter syndrome. More about that below.


    The opening was this weekend. If you click on the title to this article, you will find a gallery of many photos from this weekend, including some of my displayed photos.

    Also on display this weekend were dazzling paintings by at least three other artists who were in attendance, including 90-year old?Charles Rhinehart and 92-year old illustrator/painter, Don Langeneckert, who still paints every day, and who will be the featured artist in an upcoming show. ? were also on display. Leon, who also works as a pilot and an engineer, has explored so many styles of painting in so many ways, that you would be certain that a room filled with his work was actually the work of 5 or 6 different artists; check out his website. ?Also at the gallery, across from my photos, one can admire?the exquisite paintings of Ali Cavanaugh.? It's truly stunning work, which you will see if you visit her website.?

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    Carol Carter Explores South Saint Louis in New Exhibit

    Earlier this year, I attended a short beginner's water color course, where I learned how difficult it is to get the paint and the water to behave. And that's assuming you know where to put the paint. That little course has allowed me to more fully appreciate the complexity of Carol Carter's work. I've been an admirer of Carol and her work for years. Both up close and farther away, it's really a joy to see the magic on her canvas. She is as humble as she is talented. I asked her about a fractal effect she created for a swan's feathers and she merely said "It's not easy to do that."

    I attended Carol's South City Exhibit tonight at her studio. In the many years she has done water color, this is the first time she has featured scenes from South STL City. Really cool work. Here is a link to Carol's website.

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    Sunshine Petition Filed Against the City of St. Louis Regarding Secretive Efforts to Privatize Lambert International Airport

    Here's the full copy of the Sunshine Law Petition filed against STL City Officials today. Here are the exhibits to the Petition.? ?Here is the press release issued by Mark Pedroli and the Sunshine and Government Accountability Project.

    Alan Hoffman is the Plaintiff and Attorney Mark Pedroli drafted the Petition. This was excellent work by Alan and Mark for making and documenting the information requests and now for pursuing this in court.

    If airport privatization were not such a terrible deal for taxpayers, the City wouldn't be working so hard to keep so much of this information secret.

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    Magic Places: Cappadocia, Turkey

    I'm starting to plan my next trip to Istanbul Turkey in the spring (I teach law school there periodically). I'm so looking forward to seeing friends who live there. That led me to look at some of my photos from my trip in 2017. One of the highlights was driving to Pigeon Valley in Cappadocia with good friends. What a magical place, and it actually has lots of pigeons! The top photo is the iconic photo of the valley that I took in 2017. The lower photos is also from Cappadocia, from the city of Goreme.

    There are certain places in the world to which I have said "good-bye" out loud, hoping that someday, somehow, it would not be the last time I would visit. Cappadocia is one of those places.

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    About Resilience

    “Showing up is 80 percent of life.”

    I love this quote, which?has been attributed to Woody Allen.?It perfectly captures my understanding of resilience. It reminds me of so many images from TV and movies, including "Rocky," "Cool Hand Luke" and countless others. Traditionally, resilience is seen as that quality we find in people who get back up when they are knocked down. I see it more broadly to include the reactions of conscientious people to the daily onslaught of challenges that they impose upon themselves, as well as unforeseen setbacks inflicted by the outside world.

    You are faced with many choices every morning. What kind of person are you going to be today? Are you going to be the kind of person who your closest, most honest and most critical friends will admire? ?Are you going to examine the principles you espouse and sharply challenge yourself as to whether you are living in accordance to those principles? Will you strive to become the kind of person who even your enemies will admire and respect? Are you going to be the kind of person who has the courage to apologize to those who you have hurt? ?Will you have the courage to look deeply into yourself in order to find your own faults and inconsistencies? Are you willing to open yourself up to truths that seem uncomfortable and even dangerous? Are you going to keep in mind that you are mostly oblivious to the private struggles of almost everyone you meet? Are you thus going to reach out to every human being your encounter with kindness? Consequently, do you have it in you to constantly remember that you are only the protagonist in your own life story?

    Doing these things takes sustained energy because these are extremely challenging tasks. Every morning, it's a new day and you are rated at zero at all of these tasks when you wake up. Conversely, every day offers yet another opportunity to see whether you up to these challenges. ?Even before we get out of bed, we need to ?resilience to take on the world ?yet again. ?Who are we today? ?We will be challenged in all of these ways, and the Universe will be watching to see how we respond. ?Do we have the strength and moral character to "show up" over and over?

    These are my thoughts this morning, and I've take some time to collect some quotes about resilience. ?As you can see from my writings above, resilience, "Vitamin R," is a daily requirement for all of us, not merely something that superheroes need when they are slammed into a skyscraper by a super-villian. ?I hope you enjoy these as much as I do:

    “Every morning we are born again. What we do today is what matters most.” ― Buddha

    “Striving is fine, as long as it’s tempered by the realization that, in an entropic universe, the final outcome is out of your control. If you don’t waste your energy on variables you cannot influence, you can focus much more effectively on those you can. When you are wisely ambitious, you do everything you can to succeed, but you are not attached to the outcome—so that if you fail, you will be maximally resilient, able to get up, dust yourself off, and get back in the fray. That, to use a loaded term, is enlightened self-interest.” ― Dan Harris, 10% Happier

    “People had long conversations with him, only to realize later that he hadn't spoken.” ― Laura Hillenbrand, Unbroken: A World War II Story of Survival, Resilience and Redemption

    “When darkness falls, beauty is lit from within.” ― Johnathan Jena

    “A life without challenge, a life without hardship, a life without purpose, seems pale and pointless. With challenge come perseverance and gumption. With hardship come resilience and resolve. With purpose come strength and understanding.” ― Terry Fallis, The High Road

    “Optimists, by contrast, look for specific, limited, short-term explanations for bad events, and as a result, in the face of a setback, they’re more likely to pick themselves up and try again.” ― Paul Tough, How Children Succeed

    “[W]hen children reach early adolescence, what motivates them most effectively isn’t licking and grooming–style care but a very different kind of attention. Perhaps what pushes middle-school students to concentrate and practice as maniacally as Spiegel’s chess players do is the unexpected experience of someone taking them seriously, believing in their abilities, and challenging them to improve themselves.” ― Paul Tough, How Children Succeed: Grit, Curiosity, and the Hidden Power of Character

    Think about the ten things in your life that you are most worried about right now. In one year, eight of those will be distant memories. John G. Simon

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    Getting to Know Missouri’s Geology and Beauty

    I was driving all around SE Missouri today with a friend, a sculptor who knows a lot about Missouri geology. We were looking for (and finding) some awesome looking rocks. Recently, I've been learning that Missouri offers lots of interest to geologists and rock hounds.

    Unfortunately, the sun started setting, as it tends to do too soon every day. That's when we came across this vista of Marble Creek in Arcadia, Missouri (Mark Twain National Forest). Apparently, I don't even know some of the most beautiful parts of my own state.

    Now back to those rocks . . . ?Here are photos of four of them. ?Big and stunningly beautiful and bursting with quartz. ?It really helps to go rock-hounding with someone who knows where to go and what to look for.

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    My Favorite Two Quotes.

    I love quotes. ?When they are especially good, it's like you can inhale a novel in a sentence. ?You can check out many of my collections here.?

    Here are the two that stand out to me, over and over. ?They haunt me and inspire me, probably in part because I'm no longer 20 years old. ?Here they are:

    "The trouble is, you think you have time."

    Jack Kornfield, in Buddha's Little Instruction Book (1994).

    -- "If everything seems under control, you're just not going fast enough."

    Mario Andretti

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    Bertrand Russell Tossed me a Life Preserver in 1943, Before I Was Born

    As a 17-year old boy, I was incredibly lucky to find a book by Bertrand Russell at the local public library. ?This was a key time in my development--I was skeptical about many things back then, but I felt alone. The people in my life were earnestly telling me things about life, politics and religion that didn't make any sense to me and discussions with them mostly resulted only in strange and condescending lectures.

    I remember the joy and relief I felt when I first started reading the first paragraph of Russell's 1943 essay, "AN OUTLINE OF INTELLECTUAL RUBBISH," which was a chapter in a book I found at the library.

    Man is a rational animal-so at least I have been told. Throughout a long life, I have looked diligently for evidence in favour of this statement, but so far I have not had the good fortune to come across it, though I have searched in many countries spread over three continents. On the contrary, I have seen the world plunging continually further into madness. I have seen great nations, formerly leaders of civilization, led astray by preachers of bombastic nonsense. I have seen cruelty, persecution, and superstition increasing by leaps and bounds, until we have almost reached the point where praise of rationality is held to mark a man as an old fogy regrettably surviving from a bygone age. All this is depressing, but gloom is a useless emotion. In order to escape from it, I have been driven to study the past with more attention than I had formerly given to it, and have found, as Erasmus found, that folly is perennial and yet the human race has survived. The follies of our own times are easier to bear when they are seen against the background of past follies. In what follows I shall mix the sillinesses of our day with those of former centuries. Perhaps the result may help in seeing our own times in perspective, and as not much worse than other ages that our ancestors lived through without ultimate disaster.

    Russell's full essay is much longer than this excerpt and it is filled with many other pointed observations, permeated throughout with Russell's wry sense of humor. Until the teenaged version of me saw this essay, I thought I was alone in my skepticism. That's a difficult place to be trapped for a teenager. This was in the 1970's, long before the Internet. I sometimes wondered whether there was something wrong with me. I didn't think so, but when I would express doubts about religion, for example, everyone else got quiet and started to look nervous The only exception was my mother, who often had the courage to ask simple questions. As I am writing this article, my mother is a vibrant and independent-living 87 year old. ?How lucky I am in that regard, too. I sometimes thank her for her unbridled curiosity and "blame" her for the fact that I became somewhat subversive. ?She laughs and says she doesn't know what I'm talking about.

    Reading this essay was a joyride for the 17-year old version of me. I discovered that I was not alone. I learned that it is critically important to speak up, even when you are the only one in the room taking a controversial position. When I first read Russell's essay, I learned that I was not crazy. This was the beginning of a whole new way of thinking for me, and it gave me the courage to take stronger stands on my own against things that made no sense to me.

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    Marginalizing Intellectual Curiosity

    Let's see. It's the weekend. ?If I want to spend time with others tonight, what should I do? ?Where should I go? ?Who would like to spend time with me?

    Here's a seemingly unrelated question: Who is more popular in most parts of American society?

    a) An animated people who engages in banter about pop culture, sports, TV and movies with their like-minded friends, where loud partying and drinking alcohol are significant parts of the gathering?

    b) A person who enjoys intense discussions about science and other intellectual pursuits?with like-minded people in quiet places, where partying and small talk are not significant aspects of the gathering?

    Today, I stumbled upon an article in Forbes that raises concerns about how those who love to study science are sometimes ostracized by others. This article by?Ethan Siegel?is titled, Here is an excerpt:

    All across the country, you can see how the seeds of it develop from a very young age. When children raise their hands in class because they know the answer, their classmates hurl the familiar insults of "nerd," "geek," "dork," or "know-it-all" at them. The highest-achieving students — the gifted kids, the ones who get straight As, or the ones placed into advanced classes — are often ostracized, bullied, beat up, or worse.

    The social lessons we learn early on are very simple: if you want to be part of the cool crowd, you can't appear too exceptional. You can't be too knowledgeable, too academically successful, or too smart. Someone who knows more, is more successful, or smarter than you is often seen as a threat, and so we glorify ignorance as the de facto normal position.

    In my experience, it's not usually such a clear distinction as in A or B above, and there are many styles of socializing. ?I'm focusing on these because am a "B" type person who found myself trapped in a few too many "A" environments over the past year. I should also make clear that I have no problem with drinking, only drunkenness, and a lot of nerdy people admittedly do enjoy alcoholic drinks. ?Further, many people, nerdy or not, like to discuss the science stories they find in news sources that don't specialize in science. These things are often interesting, even when not explored in depth.

    The real division lies here: Some of us take science and other intellectual pursuits much more seriously than others. Some of us read challenging and detailed science publications, and we contemplate science spontaneously, when waiting in line or walking down the street; we cannot turn it off. ?Digging to deeper levels inspires us to learn even more, and this hard-earned knowledge often bears fruit in the form of connections to many other aspects of our lives. Digging deeply often enables us to challenge the way we conceive of ourselves and others. ?Most people who socialize, however, get exhausted, bored, tired of discussing these topics and would rather have "fun."

    Having an enthusiastic love of intellectual pursuits can be a social problem.

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