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Even kaleidoscope artists are freeing themselves

I’m on a couple of listservs for kaleidoscope builders and collectors. Yes, every tiny interest group has a list these days. In fact, the kaleidoscope world even has its own membership society, which holds regular conventions.

As you might guess, it’s been hard times for kaleidoscopes the last few years, as it has for arts and luxuries in general, so the Brewster Kaleidoscope Society has cut its conventions from annual to bi-annual. One of those rare conventions is coming up and people on the lists are talking about whether they’ll be there or not.

“Or not” seems to be a popular choice. Sometimes it’s just a matter of money. But increasingly, it seems that government “security” is the reason not to go. One man wrote of being forced to abandon a newly bought scope in the airport because the Taking Scopes Away people wouldn’t allow it in his carry-on. Another woman said if she couldn’t carry her scopes on the plane to personally insure their safety, she wouldn’t go. (This is a woman who agonizes over her creations and produces only a dozen or so high-quality scopes per year.)

Saddest of all was a comment by a British man, a famous figure in the scope world, noted for encouraging other artists. He wrote, “…[I]t seems that your border security folk are doing their best to make it impossible. … the clearances and checks required for aliens (that’s me), coupled with the physical processes have made visiting USA a real PITA.”

Of course, kaleidoscope devotees are an infinitesimal segment of the economy. But how many other tiny segments is the TSA damaging in similar fashion? And how big a segment do all those tiny segments add up to?

Of course, kaleidoscopes are insignificant in the world. They’re not on par with steel or surgery or Wal-Mart in importance. They’re just … exquisite. And fewer of them will be made, sold, or seen thanks to the TSA. And what will become of the Brewster Society and its creativity-inspiring gatherings?

The cheery news is that, each of these artists and collectors, by refusing to submit, is putting a little more spine into freedom. I have no idea of these folks’ politics (or even if they have any politics at all). But just by saying, “I’ve had it. No more,” they move the world in a better direction, even as the feds do their damnedest to move us all into bankruptcy and tyranny.


  1. Kevin Wilmeth
    Kevin Wilmeth January 29, 2010 11:02 am

    So glad to have found you back on the regular writing circuit. You have been missed, and are needed now more than ever. Please know that your work matters to folks you have never met.

    Postings like this especially. There is both an explicit and implicit celebration of life here, and it seems to completely confound those who conflate individual sovereignty with misanthropy. That is, those who profess a love of life but who actually do everything in their power to ensure it is stifled, stymied, stigmatized, suppressed and at all costs subject to state sanction. (For our own good!)

    Just because they aren’t kaleidoscopists. (With apologies to Niemoller: First they came for the kaleidoscopists, and I wasn’t a kaleidoscopist, so I said nothing.)

    Please keep up even the simplest observations; we need more of ’em. You bring life to a different worldview, and demonstrate how marvelously normal it really is. (To wit: it is so tiring to have to explain to the dense that decrying dystopia is not automatically bundled with a need for misanthropic hermitage. That calling for individual sovereignty for everyone actually *improves* the desire to be sociable. Etc.) For one, I suspect I’ll be sending people here regularly.

    Thank you for your work. It’s important.

  2. ff42
    ff42 January 29, 2010 6:50 pm

    What Kevin said, but with smaller words 😎

  3. Claire
    Claire January 29, 2010 7:57 pm

    LOL, ff42, I know the feeling. Ever since I read Kevin’s comment earlier today, I’ve been searching for words, big or small, for a fitting response.

    All I can do is thank you both, for encouraging thoughts in words of all sizes.

    And Kevin … I visited your website. Impressive — in both thoughts and words. I’d like to share that link, with your permission.

  4. Kevin Wilmeth
    Kevin Wilmeth January 30, 2010 12:29 am

    Claire, I would be honored. It is not a stretch to say that you are one of the influences who made that work possible, and thank you for that.

    I do offer apologies that tonight’s article is a housekeeping necessity–dealing with trolls–but I suppose that even that can be illustrative of what I’m trying to accomplish. Here’s hoping I don’t have to use it much!

  5. roger and clare
    roger and clare January 30, 2010 2:24 pm

    hi claire
    we follow BHM from the UK and are really glad you have started your blog. unfortunaltly such publications are rare here as socialism has deep roots. we very disapointed that the web version of BHM didn`t go ahead as we would love to subscribe but the postage (and the exchange rate) makes it very expensive. we are saving hard to emigrate to New Zealand. The USA was our first choice but they set the bar very high for anyone from the UK.
    Which finally brings me to our point. The last time we went to NZ we did so via Thailand, not because it was cheaper but because the USA authorities are so intrusive and for the want of a better word THICK. Our airports seem to be staffed by complete idiots but yours seem specially bred for the purpose. We even went to Israel a year ago and their airport security was heavenly by comparison. But I guess because they profile their customers they don`t bother strip searching middle aged baptists with three children. of course this means you have to train your staff well but hey they seem to manage it.
    Anyway keep up the good work and i have just check out Kevin`s link and it looks like another goodun. And I don`t think apologies to Niemoller would be required he would certainly approve of the sentiment

  6. Socalserf
    Socalserf January 31, 2010 7:41 am

    Hey Claire,
    Are you still making kaleidoscopes?
    I’d love to have one of your creations.

  7. Brett Bensley
    Brett Bensley January 31, 2010 8:38 am

    I think a new model of business practices would help. But then again, standing up against tyranny works well too. But when I did it, no one stood up with me!

  8. Gail
    Gail January 31, 2010 3:14 pm

    I have not flown in nine years, in the beginning, because I was not sure it was safe, and soon after in single protest of the mindless, intrusiveness of TSA’s (read Federal) politically correct methods. And now they plan to place see-you-naked machines in all our airports!

    The only reason they get away with this is because we let them. Were doctors and lawyers and steel workers and vacationers and everyone else to join with the kaleidoscopists and simply refuse to fly as long as these methods continue, things would change quickly, or all the airline companies would find themselves bankrupt.

    The Israelis long ago figured out the best way to provide airport security. That we do not follow their example speaks volumes about the possible real intent of the current methods employed in the US — getting people used to submitting to random and unreasonable searches.

    Below the reply box in which I’m typing this is an advertising banner for tshirts that says:

    Hey TSA: Only my husband and my doctor get to see me naked.

    Exactly so.

    Maybe I’ll order one and start hanging around LA International, just outside security area.

  9. A.G.
    A.G. January 31, 2010 3:18 pm

    I am going to possibly break some rule (written or etiquette) and say that Claire’s killer artwork, kaleidoscopes, and jewelry (as well as some writtings) are available for viewing and purchase here:

    They are great, and very reasonably priced. I have made a few purchases and will continue to do so.

  10. Claire
    Claire February 1, 2010 7:42 am

    Who knew that this thread would draw so much comment — even one (at least) from a member of one of those kaleidoscope lists.

    A.G. — Thank you once again. No rules broken. Link blushingly appreciated. But when I look at my kaleidoscopes, in particular, they’re embarrassing amateur work compared with most others.

    Socalserf — Sorry … I haven’t been in a position to make scopes for the last few months. But I did get a great scope-making lesson last year, and when I pick it up again, I expect to be better.

    Gail, Roger, and Clare … Yeah. What you said. Exactly. I’ve flown only once in the last 13 years. And I’ve crossed only one international border (via ferry). I wasn’t personally hassled in either case, but saw plenty of ugliness, clearly getting worse. One of my chief memories of the ferry trip (from Washington state to Canada) was the vast difference in plain human decency between Canadian and U.S. border officials. One would think that when British folk are refusing even to do flight transfers within the U.S. somebody would get a clue. But no …

    Brett … Good to have you here. A damn shame that you had to stand up alone. A worse shame that that seems to be so common a fate.

    Kevin … I just love your Anchorage Examiner, even when you’re merely doing a housekeeping post.

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