Tag Archives: politics

Tweet of the Day: @LionsRoarOnline

suluI love George Takei!

He will always be Sulu to me (sorry John Cho), I appreciate how he leveraged his celebrity by coming out as a gay man in 2005, becoming a strong, vocal LGBT advocate, and I find his Facebook feed consistently entertaining.

That he’s also a Buddhist is news to me, and since I dabble in the teachings of the Buddha, another reason to like him.

Today’s Tweet of the Day installment is from Lion’s Roar, an online Buddhist publication, and if you follow the included link you get to read Mr. Takei telling his own, inspiring story:

Eyecatchers: Little Plastic Army Men, Revisited

yoga-joes-2A week ago, I wrote about Yoga Joes, the brainchild of designer, entrepreneur, and Yoga enthusiast, Dan Abramson, who put his own spin on the classic little plastic army men of yesteryear, placing them in a variety of Yoga poses, evoking a wonderful tension between images of war and peace.

I shared my own childhood experience, having been raised on war movies on television, having played with these little plastic army men, until, that is, I became a pacifist and embraced the concept of Ahimsa that is central to the Buddhism and Yoga practices I came to dabble in.

Amazing timing, then, that yesterday, when my wife and I stopped in at the Smith & Vallee Gallery in nearby Edison, Washington, we should see this piece by Pieter VanZanden, a woodworker in Smith & Vallee’s Woodworks shop, working here not with wood but with little plastic army men, riffing on Auguste Rodin‘s most famous sculpture, The Thinker, and conveying what could be interpreted as an anti-war sentiment similar to that of the Yoga Joes:

VanZanden-3 VanZanden-4

If you can’t quite tell what’s going on here, click on these images to enlarge them.

I think this is fantastic and a powerful statement. Titled Think About It, clearly the suggestion here is that, perhaps, if we would think more about the consequences of war, the horrific loss of life, symbolized by this pile of bodies, then maybe we might be less inclined to rush into military conflict.

In a related work by VanZanden, the centerpiece of his exhibit, standing a good six feet high, he uses this same material on a huge scale, recreating one of the classic little plastic army men poses:

army-man-dyptich

Here’s a closeup of the soldier’s head, which you can click on to enlarge for more fine detail:

VanZanden-2

Subversive and oh so cool!

The Somewhere-In-Between Class

the-in-betweenSomething has always bugged me about the “shrinking middle class” meme in commentary on politics, government and the economy.

Whenever I encounter it, my thought is something like, “Isn’t it more important that we talk about persistent and rising poverty?”

But when I read stuff like the following title of a Pew Research Center piece on wealth inequality, my question changes to, “Has the term middle class lost all of its meaning?”

America’s wealth gap between middle-income and upper-income families is widest on record

If a gap is widening, how can what we’ve always called middle class still be in the middle?

I mean, just thinking literally for a moment, from Dictionary.com (emphasis of equidistant in bold added by me):

mid·dle

\mi-dəl\

noun
1. the point, part, position, etc., equidistant from extremes or limits.

According to Pew (my emphasis added in bold):

In 2013, the median wealth of the nation’s upper-income families ($639,400) was nearly seven times

In addition, America’s upper-income families have a median net worth that is nearly 70 times that of the country’s lower-income families, also the widest wealth gap between these families in 30 years.

Now, I was never very good at math, but even I can understand how, if upper-income families have 70 times the wealth of lower-income families and 7 times the wealth of so-called middle-income families, so-called middle-income families are not equidistant to lower-income and upper-income families in terms of wealth.

I find this surprising, because, you know, a lot of people who ARE very good at math are economists and/or write about economics.

It seems rather unscientific that we just continue using the phrase middle class as if there were three economic classes and one of them was right in the middle of the other two.

And so, in the spirit of accuracy, I hereby propose this simple remedy:

From this point forward, instead of using the inaccurate and misleading The Middle Class, we should all start using: The Somewhere-In-Between Class.

I know it’s a mouthful, more syllables and keystrokes to deal with, but what’s more important, convenience or truthfulness?

Rock Beats Paper

chris-rockListen, I know that the rules of Rock-Paper-Scissors say that paper beats rock, because paper covers the rock, but if you think of paper as something words are written on, and a large quantity of that paper with words on it has attempted to analyze and explain difficult subjects, like, say, racism, then…

Chris Rock beats paper, actually more accurately pulverizes paper, in a new interview in New York Magazine.

While white men of privilege like Rudy Giuliani blame the victims of racism:

…responsibility is on the black community to reduce the reason why the police officers are assigned in such large numbers to the black community

Chris Rock, in conversation with Frank Rich, obliterates this line of thinking:

Chris Rock: Here’s the thing. When we talk about race relations in America or racial progress, it’s all nonsense. There are no race relations. White people were crazy. Now they’re not as crazy. To say that black people have made progress would be to say they deserve what happened to them before.

Frank Rich: Right. It’s ridiculous.

Chris Rock: So, to say Obama is progress is saying that he’s the first black person that is qualified to be president. That’s not black progress. That’s white progress. There’s been black people qualified to be president for hundreds of years. If you saw Tina Turner and Ike having a lovely breakfast over there, would you say their relationship’s improved? Some people would. But a smart person would go, “Oh, he stopped punching her in the face.” It’s not up to her. Ike and Tina Turner’s relationship has nothing to do with Tina Turner. Nothing. It just doesn’t. The question is, you know, my kids are smart, educated, beautiful, polite children. There have been smart, educated, beautiful, polite black children for hundreds of years. The advantage that my children have is that my children are encountering the nicest white people that America has ever produced. Let’s hope America keeps producing nicer white people.

David Letterman’s Frack You To Fracking

Fracking is, by now, old, terrifying news.

Grassroots efforts to combat fracking have been struggling mightily and losing frequently, but when a mainstream media legend like David Letterman takes a stand on his show, watched by millions, perhaps the tide is turning.

Thanks, Dave!

And folks, please consider clicking on the “Stop Fracking Now” graphic below and adding your name to this nationwide petition.

fracking

Obama’s Monica Lewinsky Moment?

lame-duckNo, there’s been no sex with interns, as far as we know. But, anyone who was around and paying attention during Bill Clinton’s second term should find the current state of American politics sadly familiar.

The GOP, not content with their no-holds-barred obstructionism, seems to be reverting to their late 1990s playbook in hopes of rendering Obama the lamest possible duck. (Hmmmmm. The Lamest Duck. Sounds like a reality TV show. I should copyright it!)

The vultures are swarming over Benghazi and the IRS thing, and they will try to bury Obama with a mountain of scandal and pseudo scandal in order to thwart his second term agenda.

It’s not really a question of whether or not the GOP will proceed in this manner. Rather, it’s merely a matter of how successful they will prove to be at the strategy.

In the meantime, we’ll have to endure this latest in a long line of episodes illustrating just how broken our system is.

Best of Fish & Bicycles: Phil Ochs: Is it ever ok to give up?

Originally Published: August 9, 2011


I try really hard to keep things positive here at Fish & Bicycles. There are already plenty of blogs and websites out there wailing about how bloody awful things can get in this world. I should know. I used to write one of them.

That’s why I go looking for positive news (e.g. my Celebrating Progress series) to write about, or for the latest on less overtly political topics like the arts.

And yet, I’ve been thinking a lot about the 1960s and ’70s lately (Post 1, Post 2), feeling pretty sad about how, despite the cultural revolution of that period, we still have a world dominated by corruption, war-mongering, environmental destruction, and plutocracy.

So, what do I do? The other night, in a kind of masochistic impulse, I watched a documentary on Netflix, Phil Ochs: There but for Fortune, that just broke.my.frickin’.heart.

I’ve known some of Phil Ochs‘ music for years, knew he was a folk singer from the Greenwich Village glory days, and I even knew he descended sadly into alcoholism and madness before killing himself at the age of 35.

But I didn’t really understand the depth of his passion for and commitment to social causes until I saw this film, and it was nothing short of brutal to watch as Ochs’ dreams were violently dashed, over (Medgar Evers), and over (JFK), and over (Malcom X), and over (MLK), and over (RFK), and over (1968 Democratic National Convention), and over (1973 Chilean coup d’état), and over again (Victor Jara).

How is anyone expected to withstand that kind of relentless defeat? Can you really blame Ochs for trying to soothe his aching soul with alcohol? Is it ever ok to give up?