Video Fridays: R.I.P. Omar Sharif & How Lawrence Of Arabia Explains A LOT

Sharif_in_Lawrence_of_ArabiaSad news today, of the passing of actor Omar Sharif.

I can’t say that I’ve been a HUGE Sharif fan, having seen him in only a relative few of the movies in which he appeared.

And yet, one film that he was in, 1962’s Lawrence Of Arabia, is one of my all-time favorites, a stunning movie in just about every way: cinematography, acting, directing, writing, etc, but also stunning for how it inadvertently explains a LOT about how the Middle East became a nearly perpetual battleground, remaining so today, thanks to Western imperialist greed.

It would require nothing less than revisionist history to argue that the latter was not the case. The Industrial Revolution in Europe and North America, coupled with rapidly expanding European and eventual U.S. empires, led to a voracious appetite for fuel, oil was first discovered in the Middle East in 1908, and, big surprise, World War I broke out six years later, with the events of Lawrence Of Arabia occurring during that war.

Lawrence Of Arabia is deeply poignant, in that it tells the story of how the British exploited the people of what was then a region generally referred to as Arabia, sending T.E. Lawrence to build an alliance of Arab tribes to fight the occupying Ottoman Empire, promising that the Arabs would then have full autonomy in the region, only to betray those promises under their secret Sykes-Picot Agreement with France, which divided up Arabia into “spheres of influence and control”.

For today’s Video Fridays installment, then, in honor of the late, great Omar Sharif, I’ve chosen a pivotal scene from Lawrence Of Arabia, the moment when the friendship between Sharif’s Sherif Ali and Peter O’Toole’s Lawrence was solidified, with Lawrence’s sharing of his background, and culminating in the burning of his British uniform, symbolic of oh, so much.

Screw The “Bernie Sanders Can’t Win” Narrative!!!

bernieLONG before Bernie Sanders had even officially announced, on April 29, 2015, that he was running for President of the United States, it was declared that he has no real chance of winning.

Googling around for just a few minutes, I found the following, charting the course from “Long-Shot Candidate” to “No-Chance Candidate”:

  • November 15, 2013: Bernie hints that he might run.
  • November 30, 2013: Bernie included in NPR‘s list of potential “long-shot” 2016 presidential candidates.
  • March 6, 2014: Bernie says he might run for president in an interview in The Nation.
  • April 12, 2014: The Boston Globe writes, “His chances of winning the nomination would be rated as slim, at best…”
  • June 3, 2014: Even liberal Salon.com declares that a possible Sanders 2016 campaign would be a “waste of time”.
  • April 29, 2015: Bernie officially declares his candidacy.
  • April 30, 2015: Newsweek headline: “He Won’t Win, So Why Is Bernie Sanders Running?”

And, when I talk to my fellow liberals/progressives, I’m saddened to find that most of them agree that Bernie is unelectable: he’s too old, too white, too socialist, too vocally anti-big-money, etc.

Bernie is SO right in that quote above! People have given up, convinced that the political deck is stacked against them, writing off worthy candidates like Bernie, or Dennis Kucinich before him, because these candidates are labeled as “unelectable” before they are even candidates, third party candidates aren’t invited to debates and they are marginalized by claims that they will be nothing more than spoilers, billions of dollars are pumped into Republican and Democrat campaigns, making it difficult for candidates not beholden to big money to run an effective campaign, etc.

And yet, despite all the nay-saying, Bernie insists that he is a serious candidate, that he means to win, that he refuses to take money from Wall Street and corporate interests, his website prominently displays this:

bernie2

…and still he raised $3million from small donors in the first four days of his campaign!

As of today, one of those small donors is me.

Screw The “Bernie Sanders Can’t Win” Narrative!!!

Hillary Comes Out As … A Republican!

hilaryI hate to pile on, really, I do, but while there has already been a monumental pile of derision dumped on the logo unveiled yesterday, and pictured here, for Hillary Clinton’s presidential campaign, the logo, to me, is so painfully bad that I just can’t keep quiet.

Now, I’ll be the first to admit that, after having spent a chunk of time reading through the tweets and blog posts, from pundits to plain people to professional graphic designers, I don’t really have anything all that original to say on the matter.

My criticism is best summed up by this cartoon, from The New Yorker:



Translation for anyone not familiar with U.S. political symbolism:

You don’t have to be an expert on U.S. political symbolism to see the problems here, but you’d think that any design team working for the Clinton campaign most certainly should be expert, and it just boggles my mind thoroughly that any so-called expert design team could propose this logo, much less manage to convince the rest of the campaign team, and the reportedly very bright candidate, to approve it!

Anyway, while I’m no expert myself, I was tempted to see what the Hillary 2016 logo might look like if I played around with it using my favorite free online photo editing software, Pixlr, and this VERY interesting thing happened!

Pixlr has a filter called ‘Hope’, which makes ordinary photos look like the famous Barack Obama ‘Hope’ poster designed by artist Shepard Fairey, and when I desaturated the Hillary logo and applied the ‘Hope’ filter, while I’m still not crazy about the arrow pointing to the right, it kinda worked!

hilary2

As someone on Twitter said, you could argue that if Hillary is wearing the logo as a lapel pin, then the arrow would be pointing to her left!

Tweet of the Day: @TheOnion

The best satire makes you laugh at a serious issue and then you quickly realize that it’s absolutely no laughing matter.

This tweet from The Onion, ostensibly about the gender wage gap, is a great example:

Bill Clinton Deserved The Portrait He Got

Bill-Clinton-PortraitSo, I’m late getting to this, but I’ve been thinking about it on and off since the news broke.

Two days ago, artist Nelson Shanks admitted that when, in 2006, he painted a portrait of then former President of the United States (POTUS) Bill Clinton, he included in the portrait a reference to the Monica Lewinsky scandal that led to Clinton becoming only the second president in history to be impeached by the U.S. House of Representatives.

In the portrait, pictured here, you can easily see the reference, and Shanks explained the reference to the media thusly:

“If you look at the left-hand side of it there’s a mantle in the Oval Office and I put a shadow coming into the painting and it does two things,” Shanks said. “It actually literally represents a shadow from a blue dress that I had on a mannequin, that I had there while I was painting it, but not when he was there.”

The shadow “is also a bit of a metaphor in that it represents a shadow on the office he held, or on him,” Shanks said.

Full Disclosure: I’m NOT a social or political conservative. I am an unapologetic liberal.

And yet, Clinton’s affair with his intern Monica Lewinsky, and how he responded to getting caught, caused me to lose all respect for the man whom I twice voted for.

Right wingers like to smear liberals by suggesting that, in addition to all kinds of sins and transgressions, we’re just fine with people sleeping around and having affairs. Not true.

So, since I’m not a fan of the religion’s judgmental rubber stamp known as “sin”, let me explain why I objected to Bill Clinton’s behavior and why he lost my respect, with this list of reasons, in no particular order:

  • I don’t think stupid people should be President of the United States, and any man or woman who has made it through the court of public opinion and the media gauntlet involved in running for any office — Clinton was elected Arkansas Attorney General, Governor of Arkansas five times, and, of course POTUS — knowing all that that entails and how under the spotlight and microscope these offices are, and yet chooses anyway to have an affair with an intern…in the White House!!!…is stupid, Rhodes Scholarship notwithstanding, and should not be chief executive and commander in chief of the most powerful country in the world. The affair was, of course, wrong for other reasons, for example…
  • When people get married they are making a solemn vow to commit to another human being, until death do they part, and it’s a beautiful thing to do, not because the bible or some other religious document says so, but because marriage is a powerful contradiction to how humans otherwise see each other as replaceable and expendable. And if our president breaks his wedding vow, how do we know, then, how seriously he takes his oath of office? Some might argue that human beings can be failures at relationships but geniuses and very effective and successful in other areas of their lives, maybe that’s true, but I still don’t approve and they still lose my respect.
  • When you are the most powerful man in the world and you have an affair with an intern, you obviously have no clue about the relationship between privilege, sexism, and oppression. This man should not be POTUS, and when, under another oath, this man characterized the affair as “I did not have sex with that woman!” because, reportedly, only oral sex was involved, well, that’s just disgusting insult to injury and a disgrace to the office.

Now, it should be noted that many news outlets reported this story incorrectly, referring to the Shanks portrait as the official presidential portrait, which it decidedly is not.

While the Shanks portrait, as mentioned, painted in 2006, five years after Clinton had left office, IS part of the permanent collection at the National Portrait Gallery (though currently in storage), the official presidential portrait was painted by artist Simmie Knox, commissioned in 2000, while Clinton was still in office, completed in 2002, and it now hangs in the East Wing of the White House.

I’m not naturally inclined to hold grudges, but at least for now, I still think Bill Clinton deserved the portrait he got. He abused his power, he lied, he was stupid, and we need SO much more than that from our president.

If the polarized, dysfunctional, corrupted state of our government didn’t have such dire consequences, if we weren’t entrenched in perpetual war, doing nothing substantial about climate change, and allowing the wealthiest 0.1% to own as much as 90% of the population does, combined, I might be more forgiving.

What’s In A Name? Julian Brave NoiseCat Is All That!

julian_noisecatHe shares the same name as my one and only son.

And, his middle name, well, it couldn’t be more appropriate.

His name is Julian Brave NoiseCat, he’s a member of the Canim Lake Band of Secwepemc (Shuswap) Nation of central British Columbia, Canada, and his personal account, posted at Salon, of his efforts to earn a Rhodes Scholarship is just about the most inspiring and moving thing I’ve read lately.

Short Version

The Rhodes scholarship wasn’t designed or intended for me or my people, and that’s why I wanted it so badly.

Longer Version

I spent months pouring my heart and soul into becoming a Rhodes scholar.

As the grandson of multiple generations of genocide survivors (who endured everything from the Cariboo Gold Rush to the scandal of Native American residential schools), and the only begotten child of a broken interracial marriage between a spunky Irish-Jew and an alcoholic artist who stumbled off the reserve and into a New York bar, I recognize the irony here.

The Rhodes is funded by the estate of Cecil Rhodes, a decidedly terrible man who profited unequivocally from the colonization and exploitation of African peoples and territories. A proud imperialist, Rhodes believed that the burden of both history and progress belonged to the Anglo-Saxon who must strive to triumph over the savagery of the “ape, bushman and pigmy.” Although Rhodes’ explicit endorsement of global white supremacy is noted only in hushed tones and seldom in polite company, the spirit of his vision — to find and enable the most elite talent among the young and educated so that they can lead a righteous crusade forward for humanity — remains. Every year, a short list of scholars from around the world shoulder what was formerly known as the “White Man’s Burden.” Fortunately, these days, it is a bit browner and more feminine than Rhodes originally envisioned.

…Long ago, men like Rhodes — who amassed fortunes from actions that included the theft of the lands where our gods reside, our ancestors are buried and our people still struggle to live a decent life — decided that humans were players in a zero-sum game and that the resources and opportunities would not be ours but theirs. I imagined that when I won the Rhodes and raided his colonial estate, those men would turn in their graves while my ancestors danced in the revelry of vengeful success. I was going to take it all back — for Canim Lake (my home reserve), Oakland (where I grew up) and all of Indian Country. Maybe it was justice. Maybe it was delusion.

I highly recommend reading the entire piece, but if you do so, you may question why I used the term “inspiring” to describe it.

After all, (spoiler alert) while having been selected as one of 15 finalists in his region, only two were offered the scholarship, and Julian was not one of those two. What’s worse, he had to endure a horrendously out of touch, insensitive, and subtly racist inquisition by a member of the selection committee.

So, how can something so heartbreaking be inspiring?

Because Julian decided to pursue the scholarship despite its namesake’s past.

Because, though the Rhodes has been awarded to women and people of color in the past, even an Aboriginal Australian, no member of the Canadian First Nations or U.S. Native American tribes has, and Julian decided he could be the first.

Because Julian’s efforts offer inspiration to indigenous students all over the world.

Because Julian shared something his late grandfather used say — Shake the hand that shakes the world — and he proceeds to describe how he did just that, and he concludes his story with his own undaunted spin on it:

When you shake the hand that shakes the world, look that power in the face and do not tremble.

Brave, indeed.

Tweet of the Day: @pattonoswalt

Even though some reply tweeters rush to point out that Time Warner likely does not make money from the sale of ALL Guy Fawkes masks, I think a valid point is made about the need to thoroughly think through the symbols we use.