Letters 10-24-2016

It’s Obama’s 1984 Several editions ago I concluded a short letter to the editor with an ominous rhetorical flourish: “Welcome to George Orwell’s 1984 and the grand opening of the Federal Department of Truth!” At the time I am sure most of the readers laughed off my comments as right-wing hyperbole. Shame on you for doubting me...

Gun Bans Don’t Work It is said that mass violence only happens in the USA. A lone gunman in a rubber boat, drifted ashore at a popular resort in Tunisia and randomly shot and killed 38 mostly British and Irish tourists. Tunisian gun laws, which are among the most restrictive in the world, didn’t stop this mass slaughter. And in January 2015, two armed men killed 11 and wounded 11 others in an attack on the French satirical magazine Charlie Hebdo. French gun laws didn’t stop these assassins...

Scripps’ Good Deed No good deed shall go unpunished! When Dan Scripps was the 101st District State Representative, he introduced legislation to prevent corporations from contaminating (e.g. fracking) or depleting (e.g. Nestle) Michigan’s water table for corporate profit. There are no property lines in the water table, and many of us depend on private wells for abundant, safe, clean water. In the subsequent election, Dan’s opponents ran a negative campaign almost solely on the misrepresentation that Dan’s good deed was a government takeover of your private water well...

Political Definitions As the time to vote draws near it’s a good time to check into what you stand for. According to Dictionary.com the meanings for liberal and conservative are as follows:

Liberal: Favorable to progress or reform as in political or religious affairs.

Conservative: Disposed to preserve existing conditions, institutions, etc., or to restore traditions and limit change...

Voting Takes A Month? Hurricane Matthew hit the Florida coast Oct. 6, over three weeks before Election Day. Bob Ross (Oct. 17th issue) posits that perhaps evacuation orders from Governor Scott may have had political motivations to diminish turnout and seems to praise Hillary Clinton’s call for Gov. Scott to extend Florida’s voter registration deadline due to evacuations...

Clinton Foundation Facts Does the Clinton Foundation really spend a mere 10 percent (per Mike Pence) or 20 percent (per Reince Priebus) of its money on charity? Not true. Charity Watch gives it an A rating (the same as it gives the NRA Foundation) and says it spends 88 percent on charitable causes, and 12 percent on overhead. Here is the source of the misunderstanding: The Foundation does give only a small percentage of its money to charitable organizations, but it spends far more money directly running a number of programs...

America Needs Change Trump supports our constitution, will appoint judges that will keep our freedoms safe. He supports the partial-birth ban; Hillary voted against it. Regardless of how you feel about Trump, critical issues are at stake. Trump will increase national security, monitor refugee admissions, endorse our vital military forces while fighting ISIS. Vice-presidential candidate Mike Pence will be an intelligent asset for the country. Hillary wants open borders, increased government regulation, and more demilitarization at a time when we need strong military defenses...

My Process For No I will be voting “no” on Prop 3 because I am supportive of the process that is in place to review and approve developments. I was on the Traverse City Planning Commission in the 1990s and gained an appreciation for all of the work that goes into a review. The staff reviews the project and makes a recommendation. The developer then makes a presentation, and fellow commissioners and the public can ask questions and make comments. By the end of the process, I knew how to vote for a project, up or down. This process then repeats itself at the City Commission...

Regarding Your Postcard If you received a “Vote No” postcard from StandUp TC, don’t believe their lies. Prop 3 is not illegal. It won’t cost city taxpayers thousands of dollars in legal bills or special elections. Prop 3 is about protecting our downtown -- not Munson, NMC or the Commons -- from a future of ugly skyscrapers that will diminish the very character of our downtown...

Vote Yes It has been suggested that a recall or re-election of current city staff and Traverse City Commission would work better than Prop 3. I disagree. A recall campaign is the most divisive, costly type of election possible. Prop 3, when passed, will allow all city residents an opportunity to vote on any proposed development over 60 feet tall at no cost to the taxpayer...

Yes Vote Explained A “yes” vote on Prop 3 will give Traverse City the right to vote on developments over 60 feet high. It doesn’t require votes on every future building, as incorrectly stated by a previous letter writer. If referendums are held during general elections, taxpayers pay nothing...

Beware Trump When the country you love have have served for 33 years is threatened, you have an obligation and a duty to speak out. Now is the time for all Americans to speak out against a possible Donald Trump presidency. During the past year Trump has been exposed as a pathological liar, a demagogue and a person who is totally unfit to assume the presidency of our already great country...

Picture Worth 1,000 Words Nobody disagrees with the need for affordable housing or that a certain level of density is dollar smart for TC. The issue is the proposed solution. If you haven’t already seen the architect’s rendition for the site, please Google “Pine Street Development Traverse City”...

Living Wage, Not Tall Buildings Our community deserves better than the StandUp TC “vote no” arguments. They are not truthful. Their yard signs say: “More Housing. Less Red Tape. Vote like you want your kids to live here.” The truth: More housing, but for whom? At what price..

Home · Articles · News · Art · The Personal Mythology of Melonie...
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The Personal Mythology of Melonie Steffes

Robert Downes - October 20th, 2005
Melonie Steffes is one of those lucky persons who knew what she wanted to do with her life at an early age.
Call it a vision.
“I don’t really remember when I knew I wanted to become an artist; I’ve just always done it,” she says. “I think a lot of it was the encouragement I got from my family. My grandmother was an artist and I spent a lot of my young days with her and got a lot of encouragement.
“I remember in my teens I started calling myself an artist,” she adds. “I just naturally flowed into that as something I was going to do.”
That calling is starting to pay off for the 32-year-old painter from Interlochen whose work is on exhibit at Gallery Fifty at the Grand Traverse Commons in Traverse City through October.
Those who visit the gallery will likely be dazzled by Steffe’s personal vision which has a touch of the surreal or the magical realism found in the works of Chagall or Salvador Dali. Images of disembodied brains, a flying cow, or of her husband Michael Callaghan dreaming over a pair of red shoes naturally lead to speculation over what the artist is trying to say.
Even Steffes doesn’t quite know the answer, except that the symbolic images are a powerful new direction for her work.
“Right now I feel like this is the direction I should be going in -- it’s like a personal mythology,” she says. “I don’t sit around and think of what my symbols are or what they mean. People ask me what the cord is or the snake (in her painting, “The Red Cord”) and I don’t know. People come up with their own ideas. I think that’s great. It’s their own interpretation and that’s what I like about art.”

Born in the Grand Traverse area, Steffes moved to Florida when she was in the fifth grade as the result of her parents divorcing. Through the years, she traveled back and forth to the area, maintaining her roots in Northern Michigan. before moving back for good in 1994.
During high school in the St. Petersburg area, she auditioned for an artistically talented program and was accepted. She spent two-and-a-half years in the program, rising to the top of her class in artistic accomplishments.
“I was very intense about my art then,” she recalls. “I would stay up late at night in my room working on drawings. Really, it was my way of dealing with teenage life. Other teens were out getting drunk or stoned, but I just painted and drew. It helped keep me grounded.”
Although she had a chance to attend art school in college on a scholarship, Steffes chose a more adventurous route, leaving high school before graduating. She moved to Alaska where she sold her first painting while living on a boat in Juneau. “This big yacht came by and they really liked a watercolor I had done with a natural theme,” she recalls.

Through the years, Steffes has graduated from watercolors to acrylics and now oils.
“Oils are really easy to use compared to watercolors,” she says. “They’re very forgiving because you can redo your work and you can push the paint around in a very textural way. You’re essentailly pushing around stones and fluid -- the paints use powdered minerals and I like that.”
The natural, textural feel of oil painting also resonates with Steffe’s subjects. She likes painting portraits -- often offbeat and off-kilter-- as well as natural images. Her surreal work is often grounded in nature, arising from metaphorical images that pass through her thoughts.
“Nature is where I draw my energy from,” she notes. “Plants and trees... you’re going to see a lot more of the natural world in my work.”
That interest is also reflected in her ambition as an amateur herbalist. “I like to gather and use wild plants. It’s important to be connected to our own environment.”
Steffes also serves as a model in many of her paintings, enlisting her husband Michael and son Seamus on occasion as well. “All of my paintings are self-portraits,” she says. “Everything is a self-portrait in a sense because you’re expressing your experience. I feel kind of weird about putting myself in my paintings and try to change things in little ways, but somehow a part of me comes through.”
In fact, for her surrealistic painting of a snake holding a woman at the end of a rope, Steffes had her husband Michael photograph her dangling from a line to get the image just right.
What does she hope to do next with her art?
“I don’t have anything planned out,” she says. “I just want to paint. Whenever I worry about where my paintings are going to go and whether they’ll sell, I get frustrated and stop painting.. I’m going to leave that one up to the universe.”

Melonie Steffes is available for private portraits and can be contacted via email at frognoise@centurytel.net. She will also be on hand at an artist reception for her work this Thursday, Oct. 20 from 6-9 p.m. at Gallery Fifty in Traverse City.
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