Tuesday, February 26, 2013

Modern Times?

I don't know if Charlie Chaplin was ahead of his time or have we gone back in time because his vision of the future or his documentation of the past is a lot like life for Americans today. People are being squeezed by the economy like no other time since the Great Depression. American workers are working 2 or 3 jobs to pay the bills, since a full time job is hard to find. If you are working full time you may be working 12 to 14 hours a day. If you don't have a job, good luck getting hired because you need a credit check, background check, drug test and a lot of business's won't hire someone who is unemployed, like that makes sense. What does any of this have to do with Chaplin? Watch this:
Notice the use of surveillance in the workplace which is rampant now. Also note the "speed up" on the conveyor belt getting workers to work faster, but not paying them more. He was a man ahead of his time and  he grew up in deep poverty. He is the quintessential American Dream, but not an American, an immigrant. He is also the exception. For every Chaplin, there are millions of everyday people who could never aspire to his artistry. That's why his portrayal of " The Little Tramp" and all his struggles, were so successful. He knew what it was like to be at a disadvantage and just plain disadvantaged. There are a hell of a lot of people in this place today.
I wonder if Chaplin would be surprised by our "Modern Times"? What surprises me is how backwards things are now. There are hardly any unions protecting workers, they are a thing of the past. Companies can treat workers as poorly as they want. In the movie "Modern Times", Charlie has a nervous breakdown trying to keep up with the"speed up" and gets arrested because he was mistakenly identified as a communist instigator. (How familiar is that? The President has been accused of being one.) Once freed, The Tramp tries to get re-arrested, so that he can have a place to live and food because he couldn't get a job. Reminding me of so many people who, after they are incarcerated, find no work and just get arrested again, they can't make it, because of the lack of opportunity in this "Modern" America.
The Little Tramp then, gets another factory job. (where did they go?) He gets his boss caught in the machinery and rescues him. He gets arrested again, for accidentally assaulting a policeman. When he's released, he utilizes a technique we now call "networking" and gets in touch with the girlfriend who is a dancer in a cafe. She gets him a job as a singer and a waiter. Unfortunately, the cops catch up to the girlfriend who had previously been caught stealing a loaf of bread, (Les Miserable's, still a popular theme today.) ending their employment. They are seen, in the end, striking out on their own, off on another desperate adventure. Like a lot of people all over America and the world, caught up in austerity and hard times, living on the edge has become commonplace. I see "Little Tramps" on the roads everyday, pedaling their bicycles, (if they are lucky enough to have one) trying to keep moving, so they don't get arrested for vagrancy. Today's Modern Times, seem to have retrograded to the "good old days" only they weren't so good, they never were.We have gone back in time to a period when workers had few rights. The manufacturing capacity and the unions that helped create the middle class have disappeared.
There's only one recent movie "Les Miserable's" where the impoverished and disenfranchised are represented. Usually invisible or ignored, there are no comedies about their circumstances.
 We could use someone like Chaplin today.
The Little Tramp showed us how we could take tragedy and turn it into comedy. I don't know anyone who has that kind of sense of humor about the circumstances we find ourselves in now. Maybe there's nothing very funny about our backwards slide into a time when workers could be fired on a whim, poverty is commonplace and mass unemployment is acceptable. Maybe everything old is new again? There doesn't seem to be anything "modern" about the times we are living in.
Coming to a tent city near you.
Modern Times (film) - Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia

Sunday, February 24, 2013

Beware The Ides Of March

Is it time to panic?
The sky is falling and it's the end of the world, sequestration is coming! I don't know anyone who cares about it. Most people are worried about the rising price of food and gas, you know, things that aren't counted by our government when calculating inflation. So I guess what most people really care about, doesn't count. Because it's all about the deficit. It's what the people in Washington D.C. care about.
I have a hard time believing this is going to happen. But lets just say it does, how exactly will it effect everyone and where did sequestration come from?
First of all, this is a consequence of Congress' failure to reach any kind of consensus on the budget. The real dirty secret about the manufactured budget woes is the failure of Congress to tax the wealthy and all their offshored billions. So lets get real about that. This whole sequestration is about FAILURE. We all know what a dirty word that is in America. Oh and lets not  forget the epic fail of two unfunded wars by Bush, which made billions for said billionaires.
One of my concerns was how this will effect soldiers and veterans who fought in these unnecessary wars. The answer is it won't. That's a good thing, we need to take care of the people who risked their lives for Bush's lies and stupidity. Another concern is how will this affect the elderly?  This is where it gets ugly because Medicare is facing 11 billion in cuts. So the poorest and weakest are going to get hit, of course, because no one deserves to live their golden years out with dignity, THAT'S too expensive.
I bet the other group that gets hit hard will be children, that's a no brainer. Sure enough, low income mothers and children will see the WIC program cut. Life is sacred until it costs the government money to feed you. Remember, this Congress is so obsessed with abortion they voted on 10 bills about it. (67 were introduced) Is there ever going to be a day when I wake up and not be pissed off about this crap?
It looks like the prison industry is going to take a hit, I'm okay with that because the mass incarceration of people on drug charges is outrageous. If we legalized weed an taxed the shit out of it we might not have much of a deficit, but wait, that would make sense and we can't have that!
There will be longer lines and more waiting around at airports, we will probably be exposed to even more food borne illnesses because of cuts to the FDA.          
All the while the rich get richer and live in this country essentially for free. What we have here is a taxing problem, not a spending problem. While everyone who is barely scraping by, goes to an accountant because they can't figure out their taxes themselves, due to the draconian tax codes in this country. Mitt Romney and rich people like him are't worried at all and are probably paying a lot less than us takers and moochers.
The answer to the question of where sequestration came from? That would be President Obama, for 500 Alex. This was his idea. (actually it was Jack Lew's former head of Citigroup, Barack's pick for Treasury Secretary) In a logical world Congress would just pass a budget and this whole thing would be over. So President Obama, betting that sequestration would be so awful, Congress would never allow it to happen. He's been wrong so many times about Congress, I've lost count. I thought they would never let this happen either, not because of what it does to the elderly, women and children, but with all the lucrative defense spending cuts. March 1st is 5 days away, maybe there will be some kind of last minute sanity that will come over Congress, but I wouldn't bet on it.

Thursday, February 21, 2013

Magic Moments

If only every little thing I did was magic.
My horoscope said to expect magic in my life today.  I drove to work in a little snow shower. I got to my desk and started typing, blowing up pictures in photoshop and putting them into Quark. It all seemed pretty mundane to me. I spend my lunch going for walks, even though it was freezing out I still did it, no magic.
Got out of work and got into my car, headed for the grocery store.
I hate the store. I refuse to get a cart. I always grab a basket and grab stuff as fast as I can, so I can get the hell out of there. Today, the lines were long in the 20 items or less aisle so I headed for the last line, usually no one goes there. I heard his voice before I turned into the checkout.
His name was Jack, he was a pretty friendly kid and started scanning my apples. "Everything is so expensive" he says to me. "Yes I know" was my reply, he continued on "everybody's struggling, everyone's trying to survive." I told him what he said was true and I said "it shouldn't have to be this way." I don't know why, but the way this kid was talking to me, there was just some thing in his voice and I asked him. "how are you surviving?" That's when he told me that he had to give his parents money to pay the electric bill,. that they just couldn't afford it. I asked how that made him feel, he just said it's ok. I said that must have been hard on his parents to take money from him, he said, "I'm just a kid, what am I gonna do with it?"
Maybe go the movie's Jack? Save it for college? Go out for pizza with your friends? That's what he should be doing with it. I could sense the bewilderment in him, that something is very wrong when a kid has to help his parents pay the bills. I didn't ask about his parents, I didn't want to embarrass him or make him uncomfortable. Maybe one of them was unemployed or they're underwater on their house. Maybe they're on disability or someone was sick and they had to buy medicine. I don't know.What I did realize was that this was the magic my horoscope predicted for me, Jack had humbled me and I admired his courage. I told him that his parents must be very proud of him. That he seems like a really good kid and that this shouldn't be happening to him, that I was sorry the economy was this way.
Almost 50 million people are in poverty* in the United States Of America. Unfortunately Jack's story is not unusual.
When I hear this kid talking about things he shouldn't have to worry about, it makes me really angry. If anyone has the illusion that this is still the greatest country in the world, they are not dealing with reality. If there ever was a "recovery" Jack doesn't know about it.
 I got my receipt and said good bye to Jack, but I was really pissed off. I am pretty angry about the economy and the state this country is in, but when I see this kind of  "trickle down economics" trickling all over this 16 year old kid, it just burned me up. I swore the first thing I would do, when I got home, is tell his story. Because he doesn't have a voice and there are millions of Jacks and Jills out there and it makes me ashamed. When kids have to deal with financial hardship so that banks can stay too big to fail and billionaire's offshore accounts go untaxed and uncounted, it's just unfair. I don't know what my horoscope is for tomorrow, but I do know this. If a 16 year old kid can see that something's wrong and I can connect with him and give him some support, even if it's just words. Then I think more and more of us can do this. Then maybe we can come together and demand that our government be accountable, perhaps we can get some economic justice for Jack. Because his High School years should be magical. Every kids should.
*U.S. Poverty: Census Finds 46.2 Million Impoverished As Median Income Drops

Sunday, February 17, 2013

The Omen

We're all doomed.
This was a pretty crazy week. A lot happened that just doesn't make any sense.The Pope resigned, saying he's old and tired, when really the Vatican is bleeding money from the sex abuse scandals and the subsequent cover up he's been involved in for decades, wasn't even mentioned by him. But we all know that's what's going on.
Surprise! A meteor hit Russia who knew? Are you really going to tell me that the US or Russia didn't know that a meteor broke into our atmosphere and had no idea where it was going or where it would hit? What the hell use is NASA if they can't see objects like this hitting the earth? Unless of course they knew about it all along and just didn't tell anyone. No heads up for you Russia!
Oh yeah and Warren Buffet likes ketchup so much that he bought Heinz and then the SEC decides to freeze some Swiss Bank accounts for having suspicious insider trading activity, get out, seriously? What exactly will the SEC do? The SEC has not brought one single bank investigation to trial for the looting of the American people and bringing on the worst damage to our economy in decades. What are they going to do to these traders, take their ketchup away?
Then there was the State Of The Union speech. I have been reading the transcript. It sounds really exciting, at least the President came out with a lot of ideas. Oh yeah, then there's a little problem with the darn deficit and the budget and we're too broke to spend any money on SOME Americans. Like the ones who aren't defense contractors or don't own health insurance companies. You know, people who don't have lobbies. I'm talking about moochers and takers.
 An ex L.A. cop goes wild, along with the L.A. cops, who shoot some innocent people in a van delivering newspapers, who don't even fit the crazy ex-cop's profile. Come to find out that said ex cop had reported  another officer kicking a homeless person, which he believed ultimately led to his dismissal.
I'm not sure if it's duplicity, deceit or just outright lies. Nothing can be taken at face value anymore.
There's a lot of confusion when words don't match actions, especially when it comes to government and religious institutions. This is why people just don't pay attention anymore. You have to take to sleuthing, like freakin' Emma Peel from The Avengers, because all you get is some sugar coated version of really complicated issues. Most people don't have time or the critical thinking skills to question shit that just doesn't make sense. I wonder how anything will ever get better, when people still believe the lies and BS we are fed by the MSM? No wonder people just give up and watch Fox and Friends. It's easier to believe their lies, because the truth is way worse than you think.

Wednesday, February 13, 2013

Happy Singles Awareness Day!

Just wanted to do the Anti Valentines day thing. How about some of The Clash. One of my fave songs.
Maybe it's just my rebellious nature, but where the hell did Valentines Day come from?
St Valentine preformed clandestine marriages for Christians in Roman times. Claudius decided that married men did not make good soldiers*. Wonder why?
But for real romantics, there's nothing better than Joni.
So there you have it. A perfect Valentine, in my opinion. Happy Singles Awareness Day or Valentines Day!
Check out this blog, Big Bad Bald Bastard  Apparently, we are never alone, we always have something to celebrate with.

Tuesday, February 12, 2013

Men In Skirts

Scandal! The Pope resigned. The question is, why did it take so long? Surely it has nothing to do with the epidemic of sex and child abuse scandals. The Pope has been praised for making the heroic and historical decision to step down from his ungodly position. For a lot of people, he is nothing but a coward and a co-conspirator, covering up child rape all over the world. It is interesting that a past Pope Benedict* resigned in 1045, also under a cloud of scandal, though, it was financial.
What have we learned from Benedict's time as Pope? The Vatican launched an investigation leading to a crackdown on Nuns for their "radical feminism"! Stellar work there, Pope! I wonder if any of these nuns were ever accused of raping little boys? 
Did you know covering up the rape and torture of children was costly? 
The Associated Press estimated the settlements of sex abuse cases from 1950 to 2007 totaled more than $2 billion.[21] BishopAccountability puts the figure at more than $3 billion in 2012.
I am guessing that the Vatican will never run out of money. Just like there will be no end to the suffering of thousands of children at the hands of the priests of the Catholic Church. Because this shit is STILL going down.
So, now that Pope Cover-Up is stepping down, what other evil will take his place? There is some suggestion that a "moderate" archbishop with more centrist views from South America is a front runner. Why, oh, why, does this guy sound like the Ronald Reagan of priests?  (Just say "No" to little boys.) Will he be "moderate" when it comes to Catholics using condoms to prevent AIDS? Will the new Pope charge the Vatican to investigate the wave of crime committed within this institution for decades? Will there ever be justice for the thousands of tortured children, not to mention the millions that starve while the Pope sits on billions of dollars of art and artifacts? 
 I think that Catholics worldwide should demand an Inquisition of every pedophile priest and lock up these rapists. Instead of being sent  to other parishes, where they start raping all over again. 
No matter who is chosen to be the next Pope, it's going to be "meet the new boss, same as the old boss."
If the new Pope wants to stop people from leaving the Catholic church in droves, he needs to clean the Vatican house and prosecute the criminals they have been protecting. Then sell off all the Vatican assets and really live the vow of poverty they take. The Pope and the Catholic church has no business preaching to anyone, when they can't even live up to their own standards. Did you know no one has ever been excommunicated for sexually abusing children? Thank God, I excommunicated myself from the evil that is the Catholic Church, a long time ago.
Read Christopher Hitchen's excellent article "The Pope's entire career has the stench of evil about it" Pope Benedict XVI resigns: Hitchens assesses pedophilia and corruption in the Catholic Church. - Slate Magazine

Sunday, February 10, 2013

Getting Over The Industrial Age

Are we still livng in the Industrial Age?
I have been thinking a lot about this "Post Industrial" society we live in. How much has changed and how few people and institutions are changing with this new challenging time. One of the first things that needs to change, but is resisting, is the American Education-Industrial Complex. Which is still based on a system built during the Industrial Revolution, a century ago. Churning out "good obedient workers." This system kills creativity and originality, any student who is "different", well, we all know what happens to them. Read Seth Godin's manifesto Stop Stealing Dreams. This guy is brilliant and what he says is important. We are educating kids as if the economy hasn't changed. As if it's going to just "come back" and "recover". Well, it's not. It's gone and we are living in a time of huge transformation. Mr. Godin says we need artists and creative thinkers now, more than ever. The American Education-Industrial Complex is not very good at nurturing that kind of talent. It has been my personal experience that telling teachers I wanted to be an artist was like telling someone you wanted to be Jesus Christ, they think you are crazy or a flake. Basically I was told to go to secretarial school. True story.
 Mr. Godin  says in his manifesto, that it's going to take a generation to fix our backwards school system. I believe it
There's a lot of denial in our culture about a lot of things, like climate change, that Americans are "exceptional" and that this economic crises, brought on by the banks is going to just magically get better. Good luck with that. Just about everyone I know is aware that climate change is happening, BUT, they are completely unaware of how corporations have a stranglehold on our government. Internet access is a perfect example of this.
It gets me really mad when I read about the monopolies that have control over us,  there is no such thing as the 'free market" when it comes to Comcast, Time-Warner & Verizon. We are living in the digital age. Kids can't get a decent education without the internet, people can't apply for jobs unless they can get online. Yet we have the slowest and most expensive access to the internet in the world. Hong-Kong has faster and cheaper internet service than we do. Read all about it here. The Washington Post is calling out the cable companies for being monopolies, but our government does NOTHING. One third of Americans have no access to the internet, because the cable companies don't want to spend the money  to lay cable in rural  areas or where the poor are. They are only interested in neighborhoods with McMansions.
We have a school system still teaching kids, to be "good obedient workers" while the Industrial Age jobs and factory based economy has vanished. People are still way too invested in "what used to be". Few people have any vision for the future. They are just trying to survive today. The worst thing about this new world we are living in is that it doesn't have to be this way. Our government refuses to respond to the needs of the people, because it's not in their interest. 
The present administration is not going to do anything to get any of our problems solved. In short, EVERYTHING needs to change. Our government, our school system, our access to information. You don't hear anyone in the government talking about anything but deficits and the budget and the sequestration-next-recession, as if the country ever recovered from the last one.
We need to just get over the Industrial Age, because it is gone.

Tuesday, February 5, 2013

Girl With The Sapphire Earring

Photo from the Daily Mail
In the interest of not getting too serious (also because I am an artist), I checked out the "official" portrait of Prince William's wife. It kind of looks like the cat who ate the canary. Which is really funny. That smirk is telling us something. Winning!
For those who don't know anything about painting, in order to be a "master" painter you have to be able to paint still life, landscape and portraiture. I have accomplished 2 of those things. I am no "master". I can draw ANYTHING, I have mastered that. Painting is a different story. That's why I am interested in portraits.
So, let's break this painting down. It is really interesting that this painter didn't do a full body portrait. Princess Kate is a beautiful and very thin woman,  He didn't choose to show her body. Notice the neckline, a very prim and proper bow. (can we say Puritan?). Nothing to detract from that face. Notice the hint of earring. That is important. It looks very much like earrings inherited from Princess Diana. They were from a suite Diana received as a wedding present. I only know this because I am also a metalsmith. I studied jewelry intensely in college for my thesis, the hint of Diana in that painting is not lost on me. It is subtle, but it is there, probably intentional. There is something "austere" about this painting. Other than that earring, there is nothing of luxury about this painting. Nothing that would tell you that she is a "royal" The somber, dark clothing and background, tells us that she, (not clothes or fashion) is important, at least for this portrait. Another nod to Diana, as she used to wear those bow collars all tied up around her neck. Like a noose? Interesting. Kate's mouth is closed along with her neckline. Don't say or show too much. Everything is dissected and under the microscope. It's strange that such a young person looks so old in this painting.  I like that this painting is just her. This is what you take away from this portrait, it looks simple, but it is complex. Notice those big blue eyes. She takes in everything and the joke is on you, with that closed mouth smile. The humor in that painting is what gets me.
Photo from the Daily Mail
Speaking of humor,  look what the Daily Mail did to her. If you are a BBC  fan you might recognize that phototshopped face.
List of Blackadder characters - Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia
What really interested me was what else was going on across the pond.
Thousands march in London against threat to close Lewisham Hospital Accident & Emergency unit - World Socialist Web Site
Thousands of people were marching in the street in England, because a hospital was being closed. Happens all the time in America, but
 no one is marching in the street, not after Occupy. Not in America.
No one gives a damn, to get mad enough to march in the street for a hospital closing in America. You never see that in the news.However in England, and here in the US, Jobs Deficit: Austerity Politics Threaten Obama's Economy
The moral of this story is that austerity will not save us from our economic downfall. We will only fall faster into the abyss.
The 1% "let them eat cake" attitude is what Kate Middleton is smiling about.

Sunday, February 3, 2013

Bread And Circuses

It freaks me out how much money will be spent on the Super Bowl, about $500 million.
 People at work put money into the office pool that turned into $2000. People just love football and the Super Bowl. There's the halftime show and the Super Bowl commercials. Like this country needs another opportunity for marketing. People who won't vote, don't care about social issues that directly effect them will spend at least $40 for a team jersey, of course they have to get a hat too. Then there's the Super Bowl party and all the money spent on food and beer.
 "panem et circenses" (bread and circuses) - the only remaining cares of a Roman populace which has given up its birthright of political freedom*
I guess it's way easier to care about sports than to try and figure out what we can do about the fact that now nearly 50 million people are living in poverty. According to what I read work expenses, healthcare and taxes pushed more people into poverty, but hey, pass me the wings and beer.
Today, I read that the rate of suicide of our soldiers exceeded the ones who died in a war zone.
Guess that's not polite Super Bowl conversation either. As far as I'm concerned, every veteran should get a free ticket to the Super Bowl. We have over 1.25 million who served in Iraq and Afghanistan. Guess we need a bigger coliseum.
I don't hear anyone talking about these things, but every one talks about how bad the Ravens suck. What really sucks are the circumstances many Americans find themselves in. I can't imagine what $500 million dollars could do for them. Money can't buy everything, but it could buy better mental healthcare for our soldiers. I couldn't find any statistics for what we spend on that for the military.
I better just stick with talking about what the Kardashian's are going to wear to the Super  Bowl. Oh, and what's going to happen on the "Jersey Shore" now that Snooki had a baby. Maybe she could give Kim and Kanye parenting advice. I guess it's ok to be a single mom as long as you have money. 
I'm not sure who's going to win the big game today, but I do know who's winning in this market oriented Wall Street-Walmart circus.