Thursday, September 27, 2007

It Takes Individuals to Make a Village

It is a fact that as human beings we are born alone, live alone and die alone. While other people may share in these moments - for instance your mother - ultimately we are all profoundly alone. When you look into a mirror the eyes looking back at you are yours and yours alone. There is no sentient being in there with you sharing your thoughts and experiences. We are individuals. For those who share themselves with a personal God, well, the truth is we stand alone in the eyes of God as well.

Never fear, this is something to be celebrated as right and good. It is one of the reasons America, the ideal and the practice, has been so revolutionary in world history. The individual was first and foremost in our founding as a nation and a culture. The term rugged individualism is often derided as macho jingoism, but it is a badge of honor to those who truly understand the implications of the alternative.

Individualism is described as a moral, political, or social belief that puts human independence and personal liberty above any single societal group. Individualism is not egoism, and does not argue that selfishness is inherently good. That being said individuals are not duty-bound to any socially-imposed morality, instead individuals are free to choose to be selfish or not. To be and individualist is reserve and preserve choice.

Individualism rejects the notion that any tradition, any one religion, or any other morality play should limit an individual's choice. We, as individuals "choose" to part of a group as opposed to societally forced pigeon-holing. Individualism is, therefore, antithetical to socialism. We have heard the term "no man is an island" or "it takes a village..." and these are profoundly true observations but they are predicated on the certainty that we are groups of individuals. We all have our very own thoughts and opinions regardless of the what the "village" thinks. Perversely it is when humans act with a herd mentality that we often get into deep trouble.

Paul Johnson examines the glory that is bestowed on herd animals and hive insects by philosophers and socialist thinkers in this piece on He correctly points out the basic flaws in such "collectivist" thinking:

What is the difference that makes ants and bees engage in endless repetition, remaining static, while humanity relentlessly changes and advances? The difference is summed up in one quality that the culture of the hive and the nest so conspicuously and necessarily lacks: individualism. There is no such creature as an individualist bee or ant. They are not identical; each has a life to live and lose. But none thinks for itself. All accept the burdens and conformity, the monotony and changelessness of communal society. In this instinctual acceptance lies the secret to their successful survival, as well as their failure to advance. Now, human beings have never mindlessly accepted society as they find it or the methods of doing things as handed down by their forebears. The earliest of archaeological traces reveal novelty, be it only in the chipping out of a flint tool or the assembly of a crude necklace of pebbles.

If you look at the history of civilization, where mankind has come together to live and work toward the great things that can only be accomplished by acts of cooperation, you will inevitably find a few remarkable individuals behind all things.

Most great ideas, scientific advancements, artwork, music composition, inventions and any number of breakthroughs almost always leads to one man or one woman standing alone behind the curtain. That's just the way it is. One man can't be an orchestra or single handedly build a cathedral but without the composer or without the architect nothing will be heard and nothing will be built. When the light bulb goes on it illuminates only one mind - eureka moments don't happen in unison.

It is dangerous to elevate the group above the individual. For this reason socialism and collectivism are the wrong ideals to strive for. We are led to believe that some groups such as laborers need societal protection of their human rights. What are human rights if not individual rights? It allows the state to take from one group, in this case business owners, and distribute benefits whether it is deserved or not. What about the rights of those being taken from?

When society puts one group above the others we end up with nightmare scenarios like Germany's WWII final solution, or in contemporary times the scourge of dhimmitude as practiced in some Muslim cultures. Dhimmitude is the comprehensive legal system established by the Muslim conquerors to rule the native non-Muslim populations subdued by jihad wars. It relegates a non-Muslim to second and third class citizenship and forces submission and extra taxation on "non-believers". In other words some individuals have more "human rights" than others.

Lumping individuals into groups based on gender, race, religion or occupation then painting their wants, desires and experiences with broad brush strokes is the sheer opposite of honoring human rights. We are individuals, people, human beings. I am a person and I am to judged on my own merits.

The reason we seek to connect to each other, one on one, individual to individual is because we are not meant to be alone. We need companionship and ultimately we need love. We flock to each other because being alone, stuck in this one body, in this one mind severely limits us. We are as a society greater than the sum of our parts. But in the end parts is parts...


Tuesday, September 25, 2007

PAINTING: One Morning In Mytilini

"One Morning In Mytilini"
22" x 30"


"A traditional style fishing troller, just returned from a typical all-night fishing expedition, is moored in Mytilini harbor on Lesvos Island, Greece . In the background, the distinctive old Great Brittania hotel."

Artist Notes: This was one of the most painstaking and satisfying paintings I have ever attempted. I just happened across a photo of this scene at and it just drew me in. I have subsequently found the same photo on several travel websites, apparently it is rather famous... I hope you enjoy this. Be sure to click on the picture to see a larger view!

Please visit my online art gallery to see many more...

Craig Willms

Tuesday, September 18, 2007

Double Talk: John McCain

Just a quick outrage from yours truly about my favorite RINO. McCain was on Bill Bennet's show this morning on drive time radio. They were talking about the outrageous ad in the New York Times last week that essentially called General Patreus a traitor. It was a low blow, uncalled for and frankly, really stupid. It was funded by which is a 527 political organization funded primarily by that famous anti-American George Soros.

Bennet was busy kissing McCain's old ass when McCain piped up and said something about how dangerous Soros was and that those 527's were bad for America. I was yelling back at the radio "You! You! But it was you, McPain, that gave us an all powerful Soros and legalized the hands off treatment of 527's!" John, hey John (bitch slap) - remember McCain-Feingold, huh, you loser?

I honestly couldn't believe my ears. Ever since the passage of McCain-Feingold, millions have poured into 527's and other organizations such as, which have a single over riding mission to demonize Republicans/conservatives, coloring all who hail from the right of center as evil, and worse than that - - - mean-spirited! These ads and their popular websites have had one goal: leaving the pall of putrid stench on anything Republican, conservative or religious. It has worked. Even I can't stand them.

These organizations like get there money from George Soros, and you know what, so does John McCain.



Friday, September 14, 2007

REVIEW: Six Feet Under

My wife and I just finished watching the entire run of the HBO series "Six Feet Under". After failing to find any movies worthy of our $4 at the local video outlet we grabbed disk 1, season 1 and went for a ride in a lime green hearse with Fisher & Sons.

With excellent writing and fine acting punctuated by sometimes outlandish scenarios HBO's original series Six Feet Under proved to be an engrossing DVD experience. The opening scene of each episode gave us a glimpse of the moment of death, and the subtext for the episode ahead. From the woman dying Elvis-style, quietly sitting on the toilet to a man trying to rescue strangers stranded in an elevator stuck between floors... Well the elevator started moving and you can imagine what happen to him. Death is part of life and that is what this show examines in mortifying detail!

Nathaniel Fisher (played by veteran actor Richard Jenkins) owns and operates a suburban Los Angeles funeral home called Fisher and Sons. In episode one Nathaniel is killed by a bus. He may have died but he was not going anywhere. The ghost of Nathaniel Fisher pervaded everything and everyone, leaving an imprint that set the undercurrent in motion that carried the show through five turbulent seasons.

Nate (played by Peter Krause) is the flaky and self centered first born who runs away from his life in order to avoid intimacy at all costs. He is a dog, a male whore if you will. He is handsome and fit and uses his animal attraction to put his male member in as many women as possible. He is also uniquely gifted in the ability to empathize with and comfort those around him. I found this character intriguing and off putting all at once.

His younger brother David (played by Michael C. Hall) was not Nate in any way. His lack of confidence and his repressed homosexuality stunted him in every way. Only the death of his father let him face the world as he really was. Still, only in the last episode did he face down his own demon that allowed him to finally accept himself.

In season 4 in and episode called "That's My Dog" David faces his own mortality in a way that haunts him for the rest of his life. After having been carjacked and kidnapped by a drifter who pretends to befriend him, David finds himself bloody, beaten and doused with gasoline facing a lunatic with a gun in one hand and a lighter in another asking him which way he preferred to die. I must say it was a very uncomfortable thing to watch.

Claire the young sister was a lost soul who spent the entire series trying to find her identity in drugs and dangerous relationships. Hers was a childhood left incomplete by a father she hardly knew - even when he was alive - and a mother who had checked out on reality sometime in the 70's. She never really knew Nate who had left home when she was a preteen. Played by actress Lauren Ambrose, Claire was perhaps the most interesting and convincing character. That could be because I was so often reminded of my own barely adult daughter. Attitude. That's all I'll say.

The mother Ruth, (played by Frances Conroy) had lost herself in her children many years ago - like so many mothers of the time. She didn't always have a grip on reality as it presented itself in the dawn of the 21st century. She lost her husband Nathaniel long before he died. She was hot tempered and irrational on one side of the coin, and sweet, caring and compassionate on the other. She was also prone to torrid, impulsive affairs with very flawed men.

These five characters made up the center of the circle but it was by no means complete without an all star cast of guest stars, regulars and cameos. Federico Diaz, the Fishers partner and a first class restorative artist was excellently acted by Freddy Rodriguez. Rico, as he was called, took extreme pride and care preparing the deceased for a showing. The show was praised for its accuracy in depicting the mortuary business.

There was Brenda Chenowith (Rachel Griffiths) - a neurotic, erotic, sex addict with a near genius intellect who falls hard for Nate in episode one and begins a five year love-hate relationship with a man who can't really ever know intimacy. Her entire neurotic family drift in and out of series.

Keith was David's lover and was also convincingly acted by Mathew St. Patrick. A hot tempered passionate man with more common sense than anyone else in the show. He was the most normal (least screwed up) character on the show.

The list of guest stars - and I mean stars - is impressive. The show obviously attracted "A" list talent in Hollywood. Veteran character actor James Cromwell (George, Ruth's 2nd husband) was a delight. Kathy Bates of "Misery" fame, makes frequent appearances. Joanna Cassidy (Margaret Chenowith, Brenda's mother) is a crazy - and I mean crazy - psychotherapist. Mena Suvari (Edie, Claire's obsession) lights up the screen with beauty and open, lusty sexuality.

I can't praise this show enough for its fine acting, excellent writing and profound dive into the subject of death in a way we've never seen before - I really, really liked it, but...

The show's shallow political correctness was annoying. It was obvious by the occasional contemporary political commentary the writers are true Hollywood liberals and can't fathom the likes of conservatives and Christians with out devolving into complete caricatures. (The priest at their church was, of course, a closet homosexual). All the cliches about evangelical types and all the environmental pablum was on full display whenever such subjects arose. Adultery and elicit homosexual sex was the norm. Incest was hinted more than once. Polygamy was explored. Well, just about everything about sex and drugs was examined endlessly.

It seems nothing was left unexamined except the normal family where a man and his wife love each other, practice monogamy, love God and their country and their children aren't creeps. In fact, in the eyes of the writers the above mentioned are the freaks!

Strangely, I never got a warm and fuzzy Christian overture from the show but still the background screen on the main menu of every DVD depicted a Christian cross prominently (a Catholic rosary no less). This, I didn't understand.

At the very end of the series, in the last few episodes actually, they introduced a new character into Claire's life. Ted was a corporate lawyer who loved Christian music, voted for George W. Bush twice and supported the war in Iraq. I completely expected this character to be exposed as the devil himself before the show closed. Surprise! Ted turned out to be the sweetest, most caring person Claire Fisher had ever known. She detested all the things he stood for and believed in but she fell in love with the person. He was the most genuine character on the show. I can only say that I was pleasantly surprised and heartened.

I do recommend this show, it was well worth the time and the money. These characters will stay with me for years to come. That is the measure of good story telling, and what a story the Fishers have to tell.


Wednesday, September 12, 2007

The AP, CNN, Damn Lies and Statistics

Gotta love those professional editors at I know this is minor but I see this stuff all the time. Check out the headline from an online article at

American life expectancy longer than ever

  • Story Highlights
  • U.S. life expectancy rises to almost 78 years in 2005
  • Drop in deaths from heart disease, strokes led to rise
  • U.S. still lags behind at least 40 other countries
  • Spain has longest life expectancy, at 83.5 years
Take note of the final bullet point... Now read the last paragraph verbatim:

The United States continues to lag behind at least 40 other nations. Andorra, a tiny country in the Pyrenees mountains between France and Spain, has the longest life expectancy, at 83.5 years, according to the U.S. Census Bureau. Japan, Macau, San Marino and Singapore ranked second, third, fourth and fifth.

This is an example of lazy editors. Some one at (either human or machine) glanced over this article and gleaned that "Spain,
has the longest life expectancy, at 83.5 years, " and then wrote the summary for the bullet points. However in truth Andorra is the country that has the longest life expectancy, at 83.5 years, not Spain.

Minor, I know. But the other thing that gets me is how they claim that life expectancy for Americans is nearly 78 years, the longest in U.S. history. Good news right? Then the little dig - we still lag behind 3 dozen other countries. The next paragraph starts out: More bad news: The annual number of U.S. deaths rose from 2004 to 2005... What was the previous bad news? That we lag behind other countries? So what. Gee, if we were number one we would be blamed for taking all resources of the world so that our people could be number one. But I digress.

Comparing these U.S. stats against static homogeneous countries that don't have millions of immigrants pouring across their borders every year is disingenuous. It's apples and oranges.

Oh well, keep your filters on. Read between the lines. U. S. bad, everyone else good.


Monday, September 10, 2007

Rudy, say it isn't so

Rudy Giuliani it seems doesn't really want the Republican nomination. I must admit I like Rudy for all the reasons I am so disillusioned by President Bush. Namely he can string together 2 or 3 sentences in a row without a pregnant pause or a series of uumms and aahhs. He generally knows what he is talking about. And unlike Bush he can and will confront his political foes head on and ably defend his positions. But he really stuck his foot in it on Friday. Giuliani said that being an illegal immigrant isn't a crime, and it shouldn't be one in the future either.

What part of "illegal immigrants" isn't illegal? I declare, it's Rudy's first Bushism...

"It's not a crime. I know that's very hard for people to understand, but it's not a federal crime," he said. "No, it shouldn't be, because the government wouldn't be able to prosecute it. We couldn't prosecute 12 million people," he said, referring to estimates of illegal immigrants now here. "We have only 2 million people in jail right now for all the crimes that are committed in the country."

This may well be true but what a fool thing to say. Considering the President completely lost his base of support earlier this year castigating conservatives who found his amnesty plans completely unacceptable. Americans - not just conservatives are extremely concerned about the horde of illegals in this country. These are the same people who took to the streets last year in massive numbers proudly flying the Mexican flag and vowing to reclaim the southwest for Mexico. This pissed off a lot of people.

I agree that trying to send 11-12 million people back to Mexico and points south would be a monumental task without a true commitment from federal as well as all local officials (and that isn't going to happen regardless of who is in the White House).

This is a hot button issue - as it should be. What has happened is essentially an invasion. While we as Americans welcome immigrants coming here to make a better life and to become Americans, we don't like what is happening on our southern border. Face it, Mexicans want to be Mexicans - they just want American money and benefits. Once again because of oil we look the other way and simply allow that government down there to continue its corrupt ways.

I take Rudy at his word that as President he would try to attack the problem at the border, but he was a sanctuary city mayor and ordered his police to do nothing about the problem. This does not sit well with conservatives and or any American who is watching his country being invaded. Is there really any difference between this invasion and the Islamic invasion of Europe?

Rudy lost a lot of votes with this proclamation and with Fred Thompson getting in the race at essentially the same moment he couldn't have given the old boy a better welcoming.

Rudy, say it isn't so.

Monday, September 03, 2007

The Last Lazy Days of Summer

Tuesday the kids go back to school. The freeways will be extra busy as the new college term begins at the U. While the temperature outside will be pushing 90 degrees rest assured a touch of fall will be in the air. Summer's last hurrah comes and goes with Labor Day.

My son, his buddy and I made a holiday trip to Vacationland in northern Wisconsin for the weekend. The plan was to fish and stay up late. Well the boys were successful at both - I fished. A good friend is in the process of building a lake home and is kind enough to let us use it once in a while. Even in its unfinished state this beautiful house is more than adequate for guys going fishing. It has running water, a full bathroom and electricity. There is a stereo and a TV for the boys to hook up the Playstation 2. There's a Mr. Coffee maker in the kitchen and a Weber grill on the deck. What more could you need?

When the boys are sleeping in (until noon) I take the opportunity to make a pot of coffee and take out my paintbrushes and pallet. Last year when we were there I painted a pair of bald eagles and left the painting as a gift for my wonderful hosts [you can see it here]. This time I brought up a painting I had started at home. It is a very ambitious work and is so detailed it will be another month before I finish it. But I can show you the progress I made in three lovely, peaceful mornings. It is a scene from a Greek fishing town...

My son has recently taken up archery so we set up a little target in a safe place and took some shots from about 12 yards. We had a blast.

Some of us had to look for our arrows other than at the target...

During the hot afternoons (right after breakfast for some of us) when the fish don't bite anyway the boys went swimming. The water was actually very, very nice but the initial plunge is always a bit of a shock.
The key is to just take the plunge, go in head first, you know 1, 2, 3 NOW!

You didn't go!

Take That!

Now this is truly enjoying the last lazy days of summer.

Eventually we did go fishing. We found a small island last year that has a few nice holes where the smallmouth bass like to hang out. They were a little more elusive this year but we did catch several nice 1/2 pounders. Nothing to get too excited about, but fun nonetheless. We did well with the sunnies and there were some perch as well.

The kids will have some fine memories of these days in the years to come. I will too.