Hello! Welcome to MarkFord.net
This is the open-for-inspection half-way home for my writing!
What you’ll find here are essays, stories, book chapters, poetry, and journal entries, as well as words and images from others that I want to share.
The bulk of the essays will be about business, wealth building, and personal productivity. But there will also be things I’m equally or more interested in, such as art, education, economics, physics, philosophy, psychology, neurobiology, fitness, and Brazilian Jiu Jitsu.
Since much of what you’ll be reading here will be early drafts of work meant for publication I welcome any comments or suggestions you might have that will help me strengthen them.

Please Note: When I’m Gone

August 30, 2012 in Poems

Who will care for my library?
Forty years ok and aging still
Who will dust the jacket covers?
Or brush a hand across the spines?

Who will vow to read Proust again?
Study Crane’s Italian grammar?
Browse Finnegan’s book on sculpture
Or pine again for Lolita?

Who will study all the spaces?
Not keeping count but keeping up
Tattered gems from dollar boxes
And first editions in wrappers

What will happen when I’m buried?
Will someone come and sort through them
And, stopping here and there to think,
Find a foster parent for each?

Or will they be kept together
And carted off and rudely stacked
In some neglected attic space
With other forgotten pleasures?

Over the past several weeks, readers have expressed their interest in the upcoming presidential election and its impact on America’s future. More particularly, many readers see this election as a contest between freedom and capitalism and some newfangled version of socialism… and they are worried that if Obama wins, they will become a lot poorer.

Well, here’s what I think. As far as your financial future is concerned, it doesn’t matter who is elected. Despite differences in ideology and rhetoric, our next president will take essentially the same path in terms of “saving” the economy.

I’m not saying that there is no difference between the candidates’ economic views. Obama wants to redistribute wealth. Romney wants to diminish social spending. But neither of them will make much long-term headway at realizing their ambitions. What they will succeed at is what both Republicans and Democrats have been doing nonstop since World War II: expanding the federal government by increasing its debt.

I’m not an economist. In analyzing our country’s economic policies, I take a businessman’s perspective. Businesses have many goals, some altruistic and some selfish, but they are all ruled by the logic of the balance sheet. Without a positive balance sheet, no business can last.

The Economy Is Out of Control

Our economy, I’m sure we can agree, is in ruins, and our federal government has unprecedented levels of debt. On top of our outstanding debts, we keep spending more money than we’re taking in. But only a partisan fool would suggest that this is due to Obama. The national balance sheet was already $9.9 trillion in the red when he took office. He has done a good job of pumping that up to $15.9 trillion. But had McCain been elected in 2008 we would be in roughly the same place.

The reason for that is simple. Every modern-day president knows that his only chance of being elected or re-elected depends on the economy. If the electorate believes that the president is “doing a good job” with the economy, it will re-elect him. If it believes he has made things worse, it will elect his opponent, who will be arguing that he can fix it.

But today there is no way to fix the economy. Click to continue… Obama Versus Romney Who Will Win? And Does It Matter?

Van Gogh would never have been the unique genius he was, Rene Huyghe argues in Van Gogh (a monograph in the Crown Art Library series), were it not for the Protestant Reformation.

This is a stretch but it is not absurd. I’m talking about the effect of the Protestant Reformation in secular terms. We normally think of the Protestant Reformation as a religious movement – an effort to reform the bad practices of the Roman Catholic Church and/or break away from the dominance of the papacy. But it also gave people the idea that they could think for themselves.

One of the primary issues on the reformist agenda was the “right” of individuals to be able to read and interpret the Bible. Until then, church ceremonies were conducted in Latin and, except for songs, recited silently by priests. Churchgoers had no idea what was being said. This suited the clergy since their knowledge of the Bible gave them power.

One of the great ideas of Luther and his fellow revolutionaries was that every man had the God-given right to draw his own meaning from the Bible. By seeking to put Bibles into the hands of ordinary people and eventually have the Bible translated into English, the reformists were providing an extraordinary tool for individual liberty and creativity.

For Music Lovers Only

August 28, 2012 in Good Reads

Todays “good read” is an interesting take on the state of modern music by Alexander Green, over at Spiritual Wealth. Read an excerpt below:

I am a lifelong music lover and collector, but can any pop album of the last twenty years be mentioned in the same breath as Sgt. Pepper or Exile On Main Street? Indeed, Rolling Stone recently released an updated list of The 500 Greatest Albums of All Time and 292 of them – 59% – were released in the ’60s or ’70s. Only two were released in the last decade – and one of those, Smile by The Beach Boys, was recorded 46 years ago.

Or – forget albums – how about the singles? Where is this generation’s “Eleanor Rigby,” “Bridge Over Troubled Water,” “Heard It Through the Grapevine,” or “Fire and Rain”? They don’t exist. Instead the airwaves bombard us with misogynistic rap, boy bands that are really merchandising opportunities, and country music that sounds like Def Leppard with fiddles.

So why is this the best era for music lovers ever? Because there have never been more talented musicians playing more kinds of music in more venues than today. As for recorded sound, you also have cheaper and easier access to more music, in more genres, from more eras, in more formats, than ever before.

Admittedly, most of today’s bestselling music is forgettable or unlistenable. But so what? You don’t need to choose your music from Billboard’s Hot 100 any more than you need to choose your reading material from The New York Times Bestseller List. (And perhaps that’s a good thing given that all three of the nation’s current bestselling books are various Shades of Grey.)

Just as it makes no sense to read Danielle Steele before Mark Twain, why would anyone listen to Britney or Snoop Dogg before Ray Charles or Ella Fitzgerald? Or, while we’re on the subject, Mozart or Beethoven?

Mesa Ocre con 3 Objetos
Alejandro Aróstegui (1935 – )
Mixed media & collage on canvas, 61” x 61″

Alejandro Aróstegui is, without a doubt, one of the great political activists of all time in the Nicaraguan art world. For decades, he has used crushed cans and other “found” objects as the focus of his imagery. (They can be seen in many of his works in private and public collections.) He used trash in his art long before the trend for recycling existed — not as endorsement for “being green,” but to express indignation.

Mark Ford and I consider Aróstegui to be the most important of the Nicaraguan artists.
He was instrumental in the formation of the Praxis group in Managua at the beginning of the modern art movement in Nicaragua, and was its leading visual artist. He studied architecture at the University of Tulane in New Orleans and art at the Ringling School of Art, as well as in Florence and Paris.

What Mark likes about this painting is the feeling it evokes — which is difficult to describe because it is complex and almost contradictory.

Serenity is one emotion. The other is some sort of aesthetic irritation. The serenity comes from the blue sky and mountains, conventional elements in landscape painting. Here, they are painted as flat surfaces, yet some sense of perspective is suggested by the shading — especially in the primary field, which presents both the mountains in the distance and the desert in the foreground. The aesthetic irritation comes from that contrasted with how soothing the colors are.

But that is only half the painting. The other half is a still life showing a legless table that seems to be floating in air. On top of the table are three objects that seem to be both flat and three-dimensional. They seem flat because they are flattened metal objects. At the same time, they have three-dimensional qualities because of their shape and color and also because they cast shadows on the table surface.

Cenar, 2011, 19” x 30”

The contradictions give Aróstegui’s paintings a complexity that is hard to ignore. On an academic level, you might say that he achieves that here by combining select elements of three very distinct genres: landscape, still life, and surrealism.

Aróstegui still paints in his pristine studio in Managua, Nicaragua. I like that he creates only a few paintings each year. They sell before the paint dries at still reasonable prices. His work is occasionally available on the secondary market.

Las formas a la luz de la luna, 2011, 16” x 13”

Suzanne Snider

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