Archive for August 2010

Shielded/Reaching Out – Woman in Clear Box in NYC

August 31, 2010

Woman in Box

I was wondering, yesterday, while walking on the street checking my email why people do this–i.e. check their email while walking on the street.

I tell myself that it’s because humans, in general, are a communicating species.

Communication brings a kind of acknowledgement (or at least a hope of acknowledgment).  It’s almost as hard for people (even people other than me) to live without acknowledgment as to live without air.  (Hence, the infamous rigors of solitary confinement.)

Is acknowledgement particularly important to humans.  Does any non-human animal ask whether a tree falls if there is no one there to hear it?  (How can we know?  If an animal doesn’t articulate such thoughts to us, do they actually think them?)

In old-time small towns, at least in my grandmother’s small town (as seen through my grandmother’s eyes), there was always someone watching–acknowledging, as it were–through a blinds’ eye gaze, even when the small streets seemed absolutely asleep.  (It can get hot in the mid-day mid-summer Midwest.)

This grandmother refused to let us hang out wet clothes to dry on an Tuesday afternoon.  Washing was for Mondays, or at least, mornings.  She couldn’t stand to have our disorganization noted.

This grandmother would not have texted or emailed while walking.

Cities offer the freedom of greater anonymity.  We city dwellers further this by training ourselves to avoid the gazes of those around us.

Extremely well-trained city dwellers walk around in little self-contained bubbles, boxes, hoping that our own clear walls will help hold up the walls of those around us.  (We’re a bit like little buildings; all self-contained, all nearly leaning against each other.)

But there’s still this communicating-species business, this need for acknowledgement.   So, as we move our little box around  (or, in the suburbs or country–our car),  we text, email, talk on the phone.

“What’s up?”

“How about you?”

Oddly, as I was writing this post, I happened upon what looked like a live woman (or realistic sculpture) in a plexiglass box standing just near the center of the Grand Central Station.

Many people had gathered around it.  It was as if a woman in a clear-walled box was something they’d hardly ever seen.

Obama Witch Hunt – Crowding Out the Broomsticks

August 30, 2010

The airwaves are full of political broomsticks these days.  These are not brooms sweeping away corruption.  They are the brooms of a witch hunt, and they are busy stirring up a dust cloud of obfuscation and flat-out lies.

Is Obama a Muslim?

Is Obama American?

Is Obama even President?

The obfuscators have managed to make absolutely crazy questions (were we not all here in November 2008?) somehow mainstream.

The obfuscators, who include ex-drug addicts, serial husbands (serial divorces), sexual harrassers, plenty of non-church goers and multi-millionairess, try to pin every kind of moral, economic and societal evil possible on Obama, despite the fact that he is a clearly abstemious, genuinely Christian, devoted family man, and careful political thinker.

What can be done about it?  What, I mean, can be done by those of us who support Obama, or, at the very least, are against this kind of witchhunt?

Think, do, speak of the positive.  If you support Obama, then openly  (or at least silently) support him.

I understand that this may run against the grain.  Some of you, like me, may have grown up at a time, i.e. during the Vietnam War, when it was hard to be openly patriotic.

Even after the War was over, it was hard for many to let go of the anti-U.S. government stance.   To be openly in favor of a president was like letting go of youth itself, like finally acknowledging that one really didn’t look that great in jeans; like getting reading glasses and noticing a sudden hardness of hearing.

I admit that Obama has not been perfect.  (Yes, I know – no public option.)  But he is thoughtful, intelligent, hard-working, informed, fair-minded, articulate, empathetic.   (If you feel disappointed with him, think of how you would be feeling right now with McCain/Palin.)

All this means it’s time to speak up. When peole say “Obama’s gotta go!”, say “Go Obama!”  (As In “Go Team go!”)

If you don’t feel comfortable speaking up (if you believe, for example, that you really do look good in your old jeans), at least think up. Outmystical Glenn Beck.

Think of Obama’s good points – his grace, his intelligence, his judiciousness.  Then fill the air with these thoughtwaves.  Crowd out the broomsticks.  Do it now.

Beck, Spirituality, A Rose By Any Other Name?

August 29, 2010

At the Lincoln Memorial yesterday, Glenn Beck said it was the day America will turn back to God.

Turning back, Glenn says.  Yet, there seems much more talk of God in America (at least in the media and politics) than I can ever remember.  When I grew up, neither ordinary people nor politicians wore religion on their sleeves (unless dressed in a habit.)

Prayer seemed different too, in those days.  In my memory, people prayed for fortitude, strength, patience, wisdom, God’s Will being done.   The idea of praying for various specific victories (as in a football game) would have seemed sacrilegious (at best, wasting the Almighty’s time.)  The notion that collecting a number of prayers–i.e. getting a whole bunch of people to pray for you or your cause–would be more effective than a single heartfelt prayer – was not common.  Prayer was your personal plea, not a lobby, and too, not a petition you got others to sign on to.

Putting all the religious sleevery aside, I, like Beck (I guess), certainly wish that our culture were more spiritual.   But it is worrisome (i) when people look to God to save or punish a nation; and (ii) when spirituality is irretrievably hooked onto the iconography and doctrines of a specific religion–when, for example, a prayer of “may all beings be free from suffering,” might not be deemed valid without adding “in Jesus’s name.   ( I have nothing against Jesus, but my notion of spirituality is more Shakespearean –  that a God by many other names might smell as sweet.)

And then, there’s the incipient link Beck makes (even as he denies it) between God and his political viewpoints.  But for Beck to blame a “turning our backs to God” on government when we live in a culture of mass consumption (in all senses of the word but the Catholic one), and too, a culture that seems to view any idea of sharing wealth as a mine shaft to Hell (should I say a “It’s mine!” shaft to Hell?) is more than naive.

A Tea Party Wanting Pie (Glenn Beck as Jack Horner)

August 28, 2010

The Idea of Pie

I have to confess that I’ve never actually watched Glenn Beck.  I’ve seen snippets, primarily on the Daily Show and the Colbert Report, which can be relied upon to make Beck look ridiculous.  It’s not hard to make Beck look ridiculous.  The snippets are taken out of context, certainly, but they are long enough to give Beck time to make a fool of himself in his own right.

I can’t understand the attraction–not of what he says–I’m talking about the attraction of Beck as a person.  He (sorry, Glenn) looks pudgy, spineless, patronizing, fake.   Shouldn’t a demagogue have charisma?

What about the attraction of what he says?

I started to write a long catty post about what Beck and the Tea Partiers were actually “reclaiming” today at the LIncoln Memorial.  (This is written before the speeches have taken place.)    It boiled down to dominance for white, or sort of white, people, who may not be exactly Christian but are not non-Christian.

But that’s not really fair.  While some of Beck’s supporters may be bigoted, there are a lot who simply feel cheated.  They feel as if they have played “by the rules” and deserve a certain pre-agreed reward (job, house, pension).

And now the rules have changed, have even disappeared; the expected reward certainly has.

In their anger, they look for scapegoats: somebody must be getting the pieces of pie that have been snatched from their mouths.   It’s hard to understand that maybe the pie has gotten smaller, or was never actually slated for them, or that the rules have, in fact, been rigged for some time.

The Tea Party types do not like to blame the rich for the rigging of the rules.  The stated view is that the  rich are “pie-creators.”  In saying this, they talk of small businesses; they don’t seem to realize how rich some rich are, how much of the pie they reserve for themselves, or how much pie they send overseas (reserving even more for themselves).

No, the Tea Party sees government as (a) the salivating wolf who (b) messes up all the recipes.   (To some degree this may be borne out by negative experience with state and local government, which can have itchy fingers in lots of pies.)

And then, there’s Obama.  The Tea Partiers suspect that Obama doesn’t even like pie.  Also, it’s hard for Tea Party types to side with others whom the rules have habitually cheated – even when hurting, they do not want to put themselves in the same category as people of color, people who are different–they instinctively feel these people have not followed the rules, or at least not the right rules. (They may also, secretly, believe that their own lives were better when these people didn’t even expect pie.)

Obama, a person of color who is clearly sympathetic to the poor generally, and supports an over-arching fairness is seen as the worst kind of pie-snatcher–someone who doesn’t appreciate pie doling it out way too freely.

While in the meantime, pudgy Glenn Beck, the little Jack Horner, seems not to care if he despoils the national pie, as long as he’s personally banking plums.  Ka-ching$ Kaching$

Rain Stops! (Friday With Elephants)

August 27, 2010

Rain Stops (On the Esplanade)!

Rain stops!  Friday comes!  Hope eternal!  (With elephants!)

Have a great weekend, and, if you like elephants, check out 1 Mississippi by Karin Gustafson on Amazon.

Bozo With Holy Books – Abuse of September 11th

August 26, 2010

One Set of Ingredients for Bozodom in America

Feel sick after reading last night about Pastor Terry Jones.  He is the Florida ex-hotel manager turned “Pastor” planning to burn a bunch of copies of the Koran on September 11th.  This bozo admits that he has “no experience” of the Koran, but feels that burning it is his right as an Amerian Christian.

Oh, great.

Jones claims to know the Bible (excluding, I guess those parts, about brotherly love.)    (By the way, Terry, Yahweh appeared as a burning “bush” not a bookpile.  Also, fyi, –those best known for burning books were certainly not “not-Christian”, but not exactly folks you’d want to emulate.)

It’s idiotic, embarrassing, dangerous, sickening.

What is additionally upsetting to me as a downtown New Yorker is that he is staging his outrage on September 11th.

For people who lived in downtown New York on September 11th, the anniversary of the day is very somber.   We ran, we walked, we stared, we wept.  We breathed air, thick with dust, ash, bone, asbestos and the smell of burn for months.   We were fearful of crowds, saddened by bagpipes.

We worried (still do) – what if it happened again?  How would we meet up with children?  Did we have duct tape?  Face masks?  Iodine tablets?  Could we get across the Hudson?

We became, at least if you are someone like me, even more sympathetic to people who live with a risk of violence on a much more frequent basis–people who suffer “shock and awe” in war-torn  or simply difficult societies.

If you feel any kind of connection to 9/11, you do not want to augment idiotic symbolic violence.   You want to promote tolerance, peace.  This is not just because you want don’t want to foment another attack on yourself, it’s because you understand that any violent/burning extremism, especially when combined with religious fundamentalism, causes woe.   (You are down on woe.)

This ridiculous vicious ignorant intolerant hoopla from people whose connection to 9/11 came primarily through media exposure (i.e. seeing it on TV), and who are seeking (you guessed it!) more media exposure (i.e. seeing themselves on TV) is beyond sickening.

Overly Cute Depictions of Fox (both as in News and Tails)

August 25, 2010

Unfortunately, it sometimes feels like Comedy Central, through the Daily Show with Jon Stewart and the Colbert Report, provides the most probing commentary on TV.   In the August 23rd episode, Stewart examines Fox News’ allegations of possible nefarious ties between Park51, the organization trying to build the Islamic Center near Ground Zero, and the Kingdom Foundation run, as the Fox morning show casts it, by a shadowy “guy”, vaguely brought up next to the words Iran, ” who tried to give Rudy Giuliani 10 million after 9/11 and they had to give it back, a guy who funds radical madrassas all over the world.”  This “guy”, never actually named by Fox, is then revealed by Stewart to be Saudi Prince Alwaleed Bin Talal, head of Kingdom Foundation, also a major shareholder in News Corporation, parent corp of  Fox News.

The Daily Show goes on with a rif on whether Fox’s  failure to properly identify Bin Talal arose from evil or stupidity (Wyatt Cenac taking the part of evil, John Oliver siding with stupid).

I was inspired.  Unfortunately, I can’t draw mordant, only cute.  Still, after doing the drawings, I noticed a suprising, if vague, resemblance—

Sly Fox

Hmmm....

Dazed/ Dizzy  (I won’t say Stupid) Fox

Hmmm.....

(Note that the above images are subject to copyright.)