Wednesday, October 27, 2010

Voting Real Change, On Row D- What You Can Do!

Ok, I was born in the MTV "Rock The Vote" generation and we were raised with this mantra of "It doesn't matter who you vote for....just get out there and vote!". However, I started this blog in an attempt to actually use words to express opinions (not something I really cultivated at art school). So I'm going to stick to my main goal and tell you about how I'm voting these days and how I hope you might be interested in voting too.

One of the hot topics in 2010 - whether you're talking to your grandparents or your taxi driver - is whether Obama is doing a good job. Honestly, I really don't see that as the issue. Not to get all JFK on yours and mine asses but what have any of us done to help Barack do all the amazing things he promised us. What have our other elected representatives done to change things? Politics doesn't work with one person making all the laws and changes..... that's totalitarianism. Obama did not come to wash all our sins away, his job is to try to pass laws that hundreds of senators and representatives are going to argue and debate for months. So really what we need to do is make sure that those representing us in Congress really care about the issues we care about. In order to do that we need to vote even when it isn't a presidential election. Our generation of 20 somethings and some 30 somethings see Obama like he's a political party in itself. Its like when we went to college and people talked about Radiohead like it was a genre....."What kind of music are you into"....."Oh ya know, Radiohead".

There are politicians other than Obama- like the ones who voted not to legalize gay marriage in New York last year. Or the ones who kept firing nurses and teachers and firefighters last year because they couldn't balance the budget. Or the ones who keep raising your metrocard prices. Or the asshats who were running around up in Albany flipflopping political parties and turning the lights off on each other and locking up the paperwork and holding separate meetings and ugggg.

Okay so I know its really hard to keep up with politics and understanding what side everyone is really on. Even when I listened to NPR every day for a year at an old job, I still had a fraction of an idea what was going on. So its good to try to know whats going on but I also want to get to the point of this post and tell you about the Working Families Party. The Working Families Party does this great thing of sifting through everyone whose running for office's records and opinions- interviewing them, holding debates between candidates, and then backing who they believe is really going to help actual people in New York. And not the kind of "people" that corporations now count as.

The Working Families Party is mostly looking out for those of us who are still middle class or working class in New York. Also those of us who care about education and who are concerned about rights in the work place. In 2004 the WFP accomplished their first goal of raising the NY minimum wage to 7.15 an hour. This lead to the minimum wage being raised in quite a few other states and soon after the federal government followed suit with their own raise. Of course that's still really hard to live on in NY so the WFP has continued to pass local ordinances in certain counties to make sure everyone is making a living wage.

The WFP also works on making sure there is affordable housing and an increasing number of green jobs and green homes in New York. They fight constantly for health care, family leave, and sick leave for all New Yorkers. While many politicians stumping for office talk about their love and support of the troops, the Working Families Party works on actual specifics of making sure that all veterans and military families are provided with full health care, housing assistance, and attention to mental health concerns. They have also worked tirelessly of late on the issue of unsafe gas-drilling effecting our water supply. In addition, the WFP works to make sure all elections are clean elections and that a very watchful and progressive eye be kept on the dealings of Wall Street.

Closest to my heart I think is the issue of education which is why I was first interested in this party. Education is a huge part of the WFP's focus - from the cuts in elementary schools to the increasing tuition at SUNY and CUNY. Classism and racism are deeply ingrained in our country's outlook on education and I could never vote for anyone who didn't care deeply about fighting against that.

In addition, the WFP supports candidates who not only support their issues, but support change. In 2009 they lead John Liu to the office of City Comptroller, making him the first Asian American elected to city wide office. In the same election Debi Rose became the first African American ever elected from Staten Island. In Queens, Danny Dromm and Jimmy Van Bramer became the first openly gay elected officials in the borough, while Julissa Ferrera became its first Latina elected official. The WFP made sure that those in office really are a reflection of those they represent.

Okay so full disclosure - I had a huge coffee before I wrote this. But also another full disclosure - I worked for the Working Families Party for a month in 2009. Its crazy that it was a month because it felt like a year, and I mean that in all ways. It was the dead of February and there was an occasional negative 19 degree windchill and we were on the street for hours ringing every door bell. Yet, I'd leave at 10pm wound up - high on the fact that I was actually doing something meaningful. Pretty much all of my other jobs have been helping rich people get richer, so it was nice to for once be helping the rest of New York keep their jobs. Basically I rang doorbells for hours and talked to people about the NY state budget and explained that while some people will be laid off it would be much better to raise taxes .01% for those making over 250,000 than to fire 30,000 teachers and almost as many nurses, and also tons of firefighters, policemen, and others. And yes, I am innately shy and horrible at selling things and knew nothing about a state budget before I started. Yet, I had to get these people to write letters to their senators about this issue, while I stood there on their stoop. I saw the inside of hundreds of houses, talked to cops, kids getting high, ancient old men, guys with tear tattoos, tons of moms, Hasids, you name it. I even got some guys who thought they could holler at me from their car to write a letter to their senator.
The thing I really came away from the experience with is that while our country is so polarized among Democrats and Republicans there really aren't that many differences among actual issues when you sit down and talk to people. You might get the occasional guy who wants to talk for an hour about how Reaganomics could have worked, or the occasional woman screaming at you to get your socialist/marxist/fill in the gap ass off her porch, but really that was pretty rare. The majority of people know someone who is a fireman or a teacher or a nurse, and everyone knows someone who's unemployed if they aren't themselves. Everyone I met, with the exception of one very drunk woman, cared about New York kids getting decent educations. While I talked to people who identified as Republicans, Democrats, and Independents there was actually very little difference in their opinions of the specific issues. The vast majority of New Yorkers and Americans in general do not fit in the above 500,000 a year tax bracket and that makes most of us feel like we're all in this together.

So the Working Families Party was created with this concept in mind. Back in the 19th Century this thing called fusion voting was widespread across the U.S.. Fusion Voting is when two or more political parties support a candidate and then their votes are pooled to make it possible for that candidate to win. This makes it possible to support an individual candidate when you might not want to support his official political party. This way people like my Dad (who think Democrats are masquerading Republicans) and people like say a New York cop (who doesn't want his buddies to think he's gone all soft on them) can vote for the same person without the division and labeling of our two party system. It also means that people like me who might have just voted Democrat before can show the Democrats that I'm paying attention and I support actual change in education, progressive tax systems, environmental issues, and wallstreet accountability by only voting for their candidates on the Working Families line.
In order to get the support of the WFP a candidate has to be on the same page with their issues. When they get the endorsement they get to be on their own party's ballot line and the Working Families ballot line. They also get a ton of kids like me banging on people's doors telling the world to go vote for them. And if for some reason they turn face when they get elected they will definitely be held accountable and it won't be pretty.

So really, lets get our shit together and vote this year. The whole point of voting for the Working Families party is showing these candidates who are running that you actually care about equality and progressive action in New York and in the country as a whole. That we want to be represented by those who want to move forward. That yea we voted for Obama but we're still paying attention and we want them to actually help him out and stay on top of him at the same time. I promise that everything the Working Families Party is working for and the actual people that are working for it , that they are just as exciting as everything that made you go vote in 2008. So lets keep up the momentum!

In honor of our many varied New Yorkers I have three excellent celeb endorsements for you. Cynthia Nixon, Pete Seeger, and Matt Damon are all voting on Row E (update its Row D now!) for the Working Families Party.

You used to be able to find videos on youtube of Cynthia Nixon getting really riled up at PTA meetings. That was when I first noticed that this Sex and The City Star had a progressive agenda for New York. I loved her as Miranda and I really love this new video she just made about supporting the Working Families Party. She has been supporting the WFP monetarily and vocally for quite some time now.

Also deeply loved is Pete Seeger. His support of the WFP is in keeping with his history of support for working Americans. When his career began the labor unions were making this a safer more livable country for all of us. Pete sang about and supported them and still continues to support equality with his support of the Working Families Party.

Just the other day Matt Damon released this video on his birthday, asking you to please vote for the Working Families Party. If 200,000 people vote Working Families, Matt Damon, the Boston born Red Sox fan will shoot another video wearing a Yankees hat.

To learn more about the Working Families Party go here or here. If you don't live in New York you can still vote Working Families in Connecticut, Massachusetts, South Carolina, Delaware, Vermont, and Oregon. Please go out and vote this Tuesday!

A Few Good Women

We lost two greats this week so this is a two person Ari Up of The Slits, who died this week at 48, and the painter Sylvia Sleigh who died today at 94.

I think this was one of the first videos I ever put on the blog. Ari Up formed The Slits when she was 14. And she was totally primed for the job- did you know that the lead singer of Yes was her godfather, Johny Rotten was her stepdad, and she used to take guitar notes from Joe Strummer of the Clash while he was hanging out at her parents house. She was rock royalty.

This video is from Ari Up's solo project when she was known at Baby Ari around 1993.

Looking at Sylvia Sleigh's paintings all over again is getting me all pumped. I really recommend going here to see more of her work.

Luckily The Slits kept the dream alive till the end. I managed to see them live a few years ago and it was rocking and punk and true to their spirit as always. This awesome video was just released posthumously according to Ari Up's wishes.

Thursday, October 21, 2010

Tis The Season Of The Witch

Elvira has this awesome new spoof of Christine O'Donnel's "I'm not a witch" ad.

I totally trust Elvira more! You know whats really creepy - when Christine says in the original ad "I'll go to Washington, and I'll do what you'd do." Is this how politics are these days? You don't even have to say what you'd do.... just convince people you'd do it their way. Also I think Christine would have made a really great character on the original 90210. Her and Tiffani Amber Thiessen would have been wonderful frenemies.

Tuesday, October 19, 2010

Alice Creischer

The central theme of her artistic and theoretical work is revealing processes and machinations in politics and business and their culture. For this, Creischer usually selects a real historical reference point and embeds this in a new and freely chosen narrative.

Monday, October 18, 2010

It Does Get Better!

Dan Savage's "It Gets Better" project has been bringing about more and more stories of how life gets better. Created in the wake of the horrible waves of suicides among gay preteens and teens, Savage's project is all about grown ups explaining that life does get better. For many kids its hard to see outside of your own family and your own school and its hard to imagine that life could ever accept you for who you are. Life can be horrible for many kids who are gay, deemed gay by their peers, or who are just different in some way. For pretty much all my friends, gay or straight, life got a million times better when they went to college. And actually it just get increasingly better through college and after. Being different when you're young helps you become a more interesting, creative, and sympathetic person which really is what we all look for in friends and lovers!

Check out Texas Congressman Joel Worth's "It Gets Better" story.

And here is the original "It Gets Better" message from sex columnist Dan Savage and his boyfriend Terry.

If you know a teen who could use this help please show them the videos. And for all the parents and teachers and administrators out there - please don't stand silently by- make it clear that bullying is not okay, create a safe space for kids who need it, help them take pride in their individuality, just do something so kids don't have to feel so alone.

Friday, October 15, 2010

Facebook Filter

Lovin this SNL skit with Jane Lynch.

Wednesday, October 13, 2010

Monday, October 11, 2010

Who's Day?

It's that time of year again. You probably have the day off to celebrate Christopher Columbus' mass genocide of the American indigenous people which lay the tracks for the slave trade, further American genocides, and civil liberty violations that continue till this day.

Here are some things to think about today other than Columbus.

Here is Sacheen Littlefeather non-accepting the Oscar for Marlon Brando's performance in The Godfather. Brando sent Littlefeather to refuse his award as a protest of the continued racism that Native Americans face in the film industry. It was also at the time of the standoff at Wounded Knee and helped to bring more attention to the cause. Brando showed that being a white male doesn't mean you have to proliferate the vicious cycle of the past. Remaining quiet is being part of the problem.

In keeping with my own traditions for the holiday here is a video of Buffy St. Marie performing. This is one of my favorite songs by her.

And lastly, here is a poem by Sherman Alexie.

Defending Walt Whitman

By Sherman Alexie

Basketball is like this for young Indian boys, all arms and legs
and serious stomach muscles. Every body is brown!
These are the twentieth-century warriors who will never kill,
although a few sat quietly in the deserts of Kuwait,
waiting for orders to do something, to do something.

God, there is nothing as beautiful as a jumpshot
on a reservation summer basketball court
where the ball is moist with sweat,
and makes a sound when it swishes through the net
that causes Walt Whitman to weep because it is so perfect.

There are veterans of foreign wars here
although their bodies are still dominated
by collarbones and knees, although their bodies still respond
in the ways that bodies are supposed to respond when we are young.
Every body is brown! Look there, that boy can run
up and down this court forever. He can leap for a rebound
with his back arched like a salmon, all meat and bone
synchronized, magnetic, as if the court were a river,
as if the rim were a dam, as if the air were a ladder
leading the Indian boy toward home.

Some of the Indian boys still wear their military hair cuts
while a few have let their hair grow back.
It will never be the same as it was before!
One Indian boy has never cut his hair, not once, and he braids it
into wild patterns that do not measure anything.
He is just a boy with too much time on his hands.
Look at him. He wants to play this game in bare feet.

God, the sun is so bright! There is no place like this.
Walt Whitman stretches his calf muscles
on the sidelines. He has the next game.
His huge beard is ridiculous on the reservation.
Some body throws a crazy pass and Walt Whitman catches it
with quick hands. He brings the ball close to his nose
and breathes in all of its smells: leather, brown skin, sweat,
black hair, burning oil, twisted ankle, long drink of warm water,
gunpowder, pine tree. Walt Whitman squeezes the ball tightly.
He wants to run. He hardly has the patience to wait for his turn.
“What’s the score?” he asks. He asks, “What’s the score?”

Basketball is like this for Walt Whitman. He watches these Indian boys
as if they were the last bodies on earth. Every body is brown!
Walt Whitman shakes because he believes in God.
Walt Whitman dreams of the Indian boy who will defend him,
trapping him in the corner, all flailing arms and legs
and legendary stomach muscles. Walt Whitman shakes
because he believes in God. Walt Whitman dreams
of the first jumpshot he will take, the ball arcing clumsily
from his fingers, striking the rim so hard that it sparks.
Walt Whitman shakes because he believes in God.
Walt Whitman closes his eyes. He is a small man and his beard
is ludicrous on the reservation, absolutely insane.
His beard makes the Indian boys righteously laugh. His beard
frightens the smallest Indian boys. His beard tickles the skin
of the Indian boys who dribble past him. His beard, his beard!

God, there is beauty in every body. Walt Whitman stands
at center court while the Indian boys run from basket to basket.
Walt Whitman cannot tell the difference between
offense and defense. He does not care if he touches the ball.
Half of the Indian boys wear t-shirts damp with sweat
and the other half are bareback, skin slick and shiny.
There is no place like this. Walt Whitman smiles.
Walt Whitman shakes. This game belongs to him.

Saturday, October 9, 2010

All The Right Moves

Just a little obsessed with this video. Mostly Ciara's amazing dance moves in front of the plain background.