Sunday, October 31, 2010

THE RALLY TO RESTORE SANITY

racist teabagger zombie

It's Halloween day. Fear and ugliness and hatred and greedy self-interest and self-pity are sweeping the nation like zombies in a cheap low-budget scary movie. Call them Teabaggers. Well, okay, the budget isn't low but the simile stands. It's scary! After ignoring the travails of others for hundreds of years, they have awakened when the topsoil of their own privilege is slightly disturbed, and they have crawled from the graves of apathy to shamble mindlessly from town to town with mouths full of half-eaten platitudes and claws clutching touchingly misspelled signs calling for an end to "Sochlizm" and "Helth Care" and a return to the good old days when different-looking people lived in their own neighborhoods and didn't upset the apple cart looking for less wormy apples. They move in a herd and call for a return to a time when other people didn't speak their mind and women stayed in the kitchen or the maternity ward and the gays stayed in the closet or the church and the blacks cooked in the messhalls and shined shoes and sat in the back and we all pledged allegiance with liberty and justice for all and thought we meant it. Oh, sure, people still beat their wives and had abortions, but they didn't talk about, they didn't rub your nose in it, they didn't walk down the street hand in hand while you scowled from the porch, they didn't protest against the war and they had respect for their elders, by God!



Well, they were good old days if you were hardworking, God-fearing citizens of a certain complexion, and everyone knew their place--but somehow they got this notion of freedom, which was our word, damnit, freedom, and they meant freedom for everybody. They heard about the Constitution, which had safely been hidden in a civics book, and they figured everyone should have a tasty piece of that Freedom pie, but that screwed everything up. Suburbs that had been built for open space away from the slums of the city suddenly couldn't restrict house sales to whites only, so they even showed up next door and shopping in the malls and starting little restaurants. They came over from other countries, and the old racial quotas of the 1920s intended to keep "a balance" of races, no longer seemed to hold water legally. All that jazz written on the base of the statue of liberty about come on over, give us the wretched refuse from your teeming shores, seemed to actually INVITE people from other countries to move here, and not just doctors and lawyers but people who spoke broken English, or no English at all, and worshiped different gods since somewhere some founding father wrote down we should separate church and state, which we thought was just a technicality until that point, and next thing you know people were praying to all kinds of things. Skin privilege started to mean very little, and people who normally had a good shot at the top now had no guarantees, which made some people fighting mad, especially the dumb ones who had no chance without that extra little edge in the good ol' boy's network. Sadly, the world and the country changed drastically and the folks who had it good hearkened back to the Good Old Days that the others knew never really existed, not for them, anyway. Finally, people rose from their slumber to complain.

anti-teabagger at sanity rally

Jon Stewart, who doesn't even worship a Christian God, called for a Rally to Restore Sanity, and a good America named Stephen Colbert fought back on the very same day with a rally of his own, OUR own, called A March to Keep Fear Alive! Together, these two represented our divided nation. The signs were wonderful. The teabaggers didn't get the irony, of course, because that's a high level of cognition and they have a pretty basic cable package upstairs, you might say, but even so, the message was clear: these people did not agree with the fear and hatred and rage of the Tea Zombies. They would not stand pat while America was narrowly-defined by people like Sarah Palin and Glenn Beck and other right wing hustlers and conmen. They refused to be dittoheads because they wanted to think for themselves. It's a sneaky business, because the Republicans think they own the flag and the country, but the message seems to be this country isn't just about empty platitudes and fireworks but a republic guided by the principles of life, liberty and the pursuit of happiness. And "justice for all" means "all" not just when it's convenient or makes a profit. And "Freedom" isn't just a campaign slogan, and "Equality" means not just fairness for the wealthy and well-connected and white, but everyone. It won't be easy, you say? Surely not? Fascism is easy--you just become a follower ("dittohead?") of a fierce leader--and racism is easy--you don't have to rise about the default setting--but democracy is very difficult because every voice is valued--not just a certain race or tax bracket--but even people with a wide variety of skin colors and belief systems and religious views--and none should dominate. Sure it's tough. It's a lot easier just feeling wounded and blaming others and lashing out because you didn't get the whole pie, but we need to learn to share. Come on, children, act your age not your shoe size.

See some of the best signs from the Restore Sanity Rally here.

Here's another clip from the sanity rally with Stewart and Colbert introducing Yusuf Islam (formerly Cat Stevens) and Ozzy Osbourne to sing a couple train songs. Yusuf is Muslim and Ozzy is, well, crazy as a snake on a griddle, but somehow they create beautiful music together...er, sort of. You must admit, this looks a lot more fun than those psalm-singing Teetotaler Tea Parties. Let freedom ring! Thanks, Jon and Stephen.

Wednesday, October 27, 2010

WHAT A HALLOWEEN PARTY!!!



Betty Boop is having a swinging Halloween Party in this jazzy little short from 1933. For some reason this cartoon was banned, and we can't figure out why. It doesn't have offensive racist stereotypes like so many cartoons from those days, nor violence that goes unpunished, but maybe it's because the little bird drinks some booze. Remember, Prohibition lasted from 1920 until 1933--the year of this release--and maybe the censors couldn't allow anyone, including a silly cartoon animal, to enjoy a drink. Ha ha! What nutty puritans! What do you think? Should cartoon animals be allowed to drink?

Tuesday, October 26, 2010

THUG LAW



America is a violent country, and it always has been since the days of Indian-killing and slavery. Don't believe the hype. In this disturbing clip, Republican supporters of tea party candidate Paul Rand stomp on the head of a woman from MoveOn.org. This shows you the kind of hate that is being stirred up across the land. There are historic parallels and I'm not being flip comparing these thugs to early Nazi supporters in the beerhall days of Hitler's rise to power. Bad economy, hatred, racism and fear blend together in one scary cocktail.
Can you imagine if the boot was on the other foot, and several male Obama supporters beat the hell out of a lady tea party enthusiast clutching her bible? That clip would be a propaganda coup and would run non-stop on Fox News.

As violence goes, one could argue for self-defense but never bullying. Ganging up on someone, or picking on someone smaller and less able to fight back, is a sign of cowardice. Sadly, bullies seem to be in fashion these days--and it's not just the bullies themselves but the green light they get from their misguided parents and so-called leaders who fear and hate people who seem different. Does it make bullies feel tough, that they can gang up on someone? Does it make them feel macho? Do they have something to prove? Teen suicides are on the rise, many resulting from victims being tormented by these unenlightened jerks.

I came across this in an essay in the New Yorker.


"This month, we heard about Tyler Clementi, an eighteen-year-old Rutgers University freshman who threw himself off the George Washington Bridge after his roommate used a Webcam to broadcast, live online, Clementi making out with a male date. His suicide followed those of Billy Lucas, aged fifteen, of Greensburg, Indiana, and Seth Walsh, thirteen, of Tehachapi, California, both in September, and preceded by a day that of Asher Brown, thirteen, of Houston, Texas. All three boys had reportedly been victims of anti-gay bullying."

It's all connected. Hatred and fear of people with different beliefs, skin color, religion or sexual orientation resulting in violence. There have always been bullies, but now we have so-called responsible people, parents and political leaders, spouting intolerance and speaking in a coded language fanning hatred of foreigners and illegals, socialists and gays, outsiders and non-conformists. If Adolph Hitler rose from the dead he might think he won the war.

Fight the hate. Teach tolerance and justice. Start at home.


Monday, October 25, 2010

THE HAUNTED HOUSE



Halloween is coming! Time to scare yourself silly and the best way (other than reading the morning papers) is to watch a good scary movie. "The Exorcist" (1973) may be the creepiest movie of all time, and we recommend it highly (though not for children or chickens), but if that's not your cup of tea there are plenty of other good scary flicks you can get from Netflix (or a video store, old timers) that will put you into the Halloween spirit. There is something healthy and cathartic and perhaps even purgative about a good scare!

You know we love vintage cartoons, so we've been digging through the vaults for something appropriate and we discovered a great old cartoon from the Roaring Twenties starring our favorite little mouse. Animator Ub Iwerks and Composer Carl W. Stalling teamed up Disney to make "The Haunted House" back in 1929. The story starts out with a good storm and Mickey Mouse seeking shelter and he stumbled upon a house that turns out to be---why spoil it? Pull up a bowl of fun-size Snickers and watch it yourself.

Thursday, October 21, 2010

OBAMA VISITS SEATTLE, TAKES DONUTS

We like donuts and Obama, pure and simple. The president visited Seattle today and he made an important snack stop at Top Pot, the best donut shop in the city.

As you may know, Seattle is a bastion of liberal lefty donut lovers and the epicenter of all that those mouth-breathing Middle America tea party simpletons fear and despise. The cliches are true: we read books, we drink coffee, we eat donuts and we think outside the box. Try it sometimes.

Oh, there are still a few haters and corporate jarheads in our town--people like Dino Rossi, who raised a fortune in out of state corporate contributions for his "business-friendly" tax breaks for the rich, but for the most part the Seattle stereotypes are true: we love donuts and coffee and microbeer and President Obama. Even now, after a rough couple years he's still infinitely better than that last guy from Texas who got us into war and debt of record proportions. Rossi is one of the reasons for Obama's visit; to rally support for Patty Murray, the liberal democrat besieged by an expensive smear campaign from the Rossi camp.


Here he is, the most powerful man in the free world, munching on a cake donut. “This is outstanding,” Obama said, as he took a bite. “You can’t eat this every day.” Truer words were never spoke, certainly not by a politician. Forget Krispy Kreme, which taste like fried air, these are the real deal. Bush's idea of a snack was fried pork rinds. We had too many of those when we were doing Atkins to appreciate their folksy charm, and they're not bad, really, but they're not donuts.

Take a walk on the wild side, America. Loosen your necktie and try a glazed old fashioned or a maple bar today and, who knows, you might suddenly understand the need for universal health care or a limit on campaign contributions. You might even toss out your Toby Keith records and cut that mullet once and for all.

By the way, Obama also rocked a huge crowd on the University of Washington campus, so he wasn't just here for the donuts. Even so, I'm sure some people will probably quit eating donuts now that Obama has given them the thumps up. Palin will call them un-American, and Glenn Beck will weep publicly and invoke Satan, and their crackpot followers will follow suit. You know the types: the crazy flat-worlders and dittoheads, the trigger-happy gun nuts and militia types, the medieval anti-science teachers, and the usual bigots and bad spellers and virulently anti-gay marriage activists who inevitably get caught with male prostitutes.

Think about it. Read a book. Challenge your brain. Buy a clue. In the meantime, have a donut. That's what freedom tastes like.

Wednesday, October 20, 2010

HALLOWEEN SAFETY



I love Halloween. It's a magical scary night where ghouls and goblins rise from the mist and you eat way too much candy. The worst is candy corn, which is basically corn syrup mixed with wax. That will start backing up in your system until you need to call Roto Rooter. I knew a kid that happened to. Anyway, avoid the candy corn. Back when I was a kid Halloween was even more fun then it is today. Back then, before the Great Lockdown, kids were actually allowed to leave the house and go trick-or-treating without adult supervision. If you were born after 1990, let me explain: kids had dinner, dressed in flammable costumes with zero visibility, and hiked for miles in the darkness and rain to fill sacks with candy. Yes, you rang a total stranger's doorbell, and he would bring you some candy. I swear it's true! You could really rake it in. It might be one or two in the morning before you finally gave up and sat on some deserted street corner to swap bad candy (Smarties, Neccos, Lemonheads) for good candy (Snickers, Baby Ruths, Reese's Peanut Butter Cups) and then you proceeded to eat it until you got sick. The next day at school we were wired like crackheads (here I should mention the need to pay teachers a decent wage) and our lunchboxes were overflowing with candy booty. People got into Halloween back then, the whole society, not just the kids, and windows were full of glowing Jack-o-lanterns and black cats. People put some effort into it. Sometimes adults dressed up and met you at the door, which was kind of weird but okay if they had good candy (see above) and didn't try to touch you. There were just as many weirdos back then, I'm sure, and we were all warned with the apocryphal story of apples stuffed with razor blades, but we never saw that. Okay, one time we had trouble. My cousin Laura got a black crayon she thought was a piece of licorice, but she was always confusing one thing with another so that could have been just a simple misunderstanding. At any rate, we hobos and pirates prowled the mean streets on All Hallow's Eve, risking life and limb for the good candy and a good tale to tell. I hope I've succeeded. At any rate, stretch your feeble imaginations and have a great and scary Halloween this year. If you feel like scaring yourself a little, you can start with this creepy film on Halloween safety.

Tuesday, October 19, 2010

BANKSY ON THE STREETS

After the stir caused by radical street artist Banksy remixing The Simpsons' intro sequence (see earlier post, Banksy Creates Simpsons Sequence) and his recent wonderfully irreverent documentary, Exit Through the Gift Shop Door, in which he gleefully skewers the pretensions of the art world, Banksy remains a street artist first and foremost. Sure, he's collected by Brangelina and other wealthy celebutantes, and has been included in prestigious art shows (including ones he "vandalized"), but Banksy remains a street artist. And a mystery. His graffiti still shows up in public places, unsolicited and unannounced, to tweak the powerful and the piggish, and to challenge our sense of "freedom" in a tightly controlled society where our primary freedom seems to be the freedom to consume. He challenges private property and the conventional wisdom in one broad stroke of Krylon spraypaint or one hastily stenciled message. He works at night, in secret, and scrambles before the authorities catch wind of his activities. He is the mischievous trickster, the fly in the ointment, the wrench in the machine, the kid who says the emperor isn't wearing new clothes at all--he's bare-ass naked. One comment posted online said "Banksy belongs to the people not the bigwig art collectors and Johnny-come-lately critics" and we have to agree. Of course, we wish him a successful art career but we don't miss the point of his brilliant trajectory, either. Banksy is a street artist, and, in spite of what you may have been told, the streets belong to the people.

Monday, October 11, 2010

BANKSY CREATES SIMPSONS SEQUENCE


Subversive graffiti artist Banksy has created a brilliant intro sequence for The Simpsons that carries the viewer into a foreign sweatshop where most cartoons (including The Simpsons, it is rumored) are put together. True to form, Banksy has stirred up some controversy. Thank goodness.

DONALD DUCK IN "RIGHT-WING RADIO DUCK"



Like the rest of us, Donald Duck has hit hard times. Never much of a critical thinker, this duck is ripe for manipulation by right-wing nuts like Glenn Beck. In this wonderful remix by the "Rebellious Pixels," our befuddled duck encounters hate radio (actual audio from Glenn Beck is used) and falls for the tea-party line. It's an hilarious scramble, but it hits the nail on the head about the way a confused public can get hustled by these con men. Watch and enjoy.

Sunday, October 10, 2010

Friday, October 8, 2010

HAPPY BIRTHDAY, JOHN



Happy Birthday, John! Thanks for changing everything. This image-dazzle from the memory banks might remind you what the Beatles felt like in real time, something that's hard to replicate with an MP3 or a YouTube video clip or even a big box set of CDs remastered in the reality studios...the magic was in the moment. You had to be there. Maybe you didn't make it to Shea Stadium, but you were there when a new Beatles song hit the airwaves. The fad can't last, parents said. Fans wondered, How can they top this? And they did, every time.

From the outside, "Beatlemania" must have looked like sheer hysteria. For my generation, coming of age on the heels of the Cold War and the JFK assassination, with newsreels of Vietnam and Mississippi on the nightly news, the Beatles broke through the wall. They were raucous and fun and wildly creative and they gave us hope. They tweaked the noses of the squares and the stuffed shirts--even though it was Ed Sullivan, the quintessential stuffed shirt, who first introduced them to us one Sunday night between the plate spinners and Alan King. That night in 1964, we were shocked and thrilled. Now this was something new.


Just as my folks grew up with Sinatra, we grew up with The Beatles. There were other great groups in the sixties, of course, but the Beatles led the way and they provided the soundtrack of our generation. When the world seemed decidedly straight and conventional, these loveable longhairs combined the avant garde with their own working class roots, experimental music with Top 40 pop, the rocking rhythms of Buddy Holly and Little Richard with the introspective lyrics of Bob Dylan, and they laid the groundwork for what would become known as "the Counter-culture." John was at the eye of the perfect storm. With his wit and honesty and willingness to express of his own angels and demons--and perhaps the greatest voice in rock and roll--he became . He was an artist and activist who topped both the pop charts and Nixon's enemy list--and he was more than just another celebrity. He stood up for what he believed in, regardless of the consequences. We won't see another like him.

On October 9th, John Lennon would have been seventy years old.

Wednesday, October 6, 2010

THE FUTURE OF PUBLISHING

These are books. Perhaps they will go the way of eight-track tapes and record stores, but I don't think so. Still, the news is alarming. All this talk about the end of book publishing and the advent of various electronic readers has me flustered. I still like books. Love them, in fact.

Sunday, October 3, 2010