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Entries in the american way (38)


More Afternoon In America Pix

I just want to call attention to one of the galleries here on TAPKAE.com. I call it Afternoon In America. This gallery has a running commentary on life in this once-great nation. All my galleries have generous captions and in some cases, captions are different than the posts where some of these images first appear. The galleries are sort of blogs unto themselves, so be sure to check them out. Don't miss the ones that are music related and fall under the Music and Studio menu.

Here are a few of the newly posted images that have gathered up in recent months. See more (with captions and commentary, all in a spiffy lightbox presentation) at Afternoon In America.


Stuck In The Middle

Idiocy on the RightI was driving today in the Ocean Beach community of San Diego. OB, as it is called, is usually the bastion of the countercultural scene here where you can find the best specimens of surfers, hippies and Deadheads, homeless, musicians, treehuggers and potheads and others that this town can offer. I've always found it to be pretty left leaning in general. I'm sure it is more than that, but here is one illustration that idiocy can be found at both extremes. These stickers were about a half mile apart on the same street.

It looks like these drivers shop at the same place—viva the marketplace, eh? (Both stickers or something damn close are available.)

Righty Idiocy for Sale!

Lefty Idiocy for Sale!

Idiocy on the LeftIf you don't get it at first sight, this sticker is taking a swipe at Christianity. The date sort of represents the generally accepted date of Jesus' death (usually it is given as 33 CE), or by some understandings, the start of his public ministry work. (Some interpretation of the synoptic gospels says it was just one year or so; John hints at a three year period which is more commonly accepted, IME.) I'm not sure the point is well made because I would venture a guess there was some intolerance before that date, no? I do get the point of this sticker, but it paints with too broad a brush.

A person with a sticker such as the one above probably didn't study the way Jesus routinely avoided extremes, always walking down the middle somehow, itself a statement against the polarities of opinion and practices of his day. I've been finding this path more preferable in the last couple years. As much as I was glad of the presidential election results in 2008, I said a year or two before that this would be dangerous, not because of who Barack Obama is, but because of the power of the office. Or even the lack of power. The dizzying results of a widespread Democratic win that year meant only one thing: it's dangerous up here and now the Democrats are the targets more than ever. We don't need the pendulum to keep swinging so wildly.

I think both parties are full of it and have nothing to offer us anymore because neither of them have a worldview that is in touch with reality. Both have sold us out to big money and haven't heeded the ecological signs of the times, which will wreak havoc with our economy and society. In the Old Testament, the story of Solomon hearing the case of the two women arguing over a baby at least ends in the real mother yielding to the pretender so that the baby can be spared from being cut in two to appease both women. The real mother loves her baby too much to let that happen, even if it has to concede to the other woman. Is anything like that happening in our political parties now? Does the real lover and protector of the American people really want to admit what is right and drop the argument? Right now, the ecological crisis before us (coupled with peak oil, etc.) is Solomon offering to tear us—the baby—asunder, and neither party can forsake the ego to let go and do the right thing.

Both parties are locked in their limited consciousness and can't claw out of it. I think Obama is a man of a lot of character but the seat of power he occupies demands so much compromise. The Democrats saw him—paradoxically since the party typically has a rocky history with the religious communities—almost as a messiah, the victorious leader who would send all opponents packing. I never believed it but I though him a better figure than Bush by a long shot. All this validates the biblical worldview that no human ruler will ever be "all that," and that one should place trust in God alone, with Jesus as the model for walking in between the opposing forces, the polar opposites. That is where I am being drawn, or maybe driven toward, as I watch things disintegrate in the republic here. Or like the Stealer's Wheel song goes,

Clowns to the left of me,
Jokers to the right!
Here I am—
Stuck in the middle with you!

Inconspicuous Consumption

shot from the inside of the work truck, aimed at the mirror to capture a man walking from dumpsters he just rummaged through behind a restaurantHillcrest area of San DiegoA couple days before the Christmas feast season I found this man making the rounds in the alley behind one of the restaurants I service. This picture was a little late for what I hoped to capture. When I found him he was hunched over the edge of the dumpster behind the restaurant, stuffing himself of whatever he could reach. He was so far gone that he didn't even flinch when upon my departure I offered him a bagged loaf of bread that was tossed out while I made my delivery. He just grumbled and went on his way.

This is a study in paradigm extremes because the restaurant in question makes its reputation on serving portions so huge that you can feed two in a party or take half of it home, or perhaps leave plenty for guys like this to come and do a second harvest. The restaurant glorifies completely conspicuous consumption. But there is another reality out there. I see it daily, really. But I don't always get the camera in time to show the inconspicuous consumption that goes on right beneath our noses.

Actually, I'd like to voice more concern than that. I find this one restaurant actually offends me. Not just because they heave some food out. Every restaurant does that. But this place uses such mass quantities of some stuff that could be recycled and composted—egg shells and cartons mainly, but certainly veggie waste too. They throw out plastic milk crates. Yep, in the garbage bin. And the kicker? One day recently I made a delivery on a rainy day. Stormy rain with everything soaked. They had a guy out there sweeping the back lot, but he was doing it with the help of a garden hose shooting more water at the pavement!

race for the hungry, parade traffic notice signI guess there's nothing like an overt display of caloric consumption to help those who have too few calories to consume in the first place!

Man oh man, we're doomed. Happy New Year.


President Obama Trims Bush!

ed with razor knife finally scraping off the not my president sticker from his truck.The "Not My President" sticker finally comes down!Depending on how you count it, the so-called presidency of George Walker Bush went on for four years or eight years too long. Sometime in the wake of the 2004 election, I was given the following sticker to put on my truck. As I write, it is just a few hours after this sticker has been made gloriously irrelevant with the swearing in of Barack Obama. I'm glad that it is a significant historical election what with being the first of its kind to elect a black man, but I really feel that the man is so much more presidential in his way, and so much better fit to lead and certainly to inspire something in people. I only hope that he isn't carried away into the rip currents that that exalted office brings with it. Nonetheless, his campaign was exemplary and while one can fairly say he is unknown, one cannot say that he is unable to step up to the plate. I think he can do so. So I consider him my president now, and gladly. After eight years of Dubya, it is nice to have someone who caters to our better nature and isn't loading us up with fear. It isn't that I think he is our savior; there are whole sections of his policies that I don't really like. But he does seem to provoke people to take interest in their own lives, and that can't be bad. What this nation needs more than successful policies is an evaluation of our personal and cultural priorities in an historical hour with no precedent.

You can see the short series of pix of me finally getting rid of the sticker in the Liberation gallery.


Buber's Two Cents

Buber the Dog wanted me to share with you the fact that he is quite happy that a fellow black-and-white has ascended to the rank of president. Even though he can't vote he is most pleased with those who read his little doggy mind and elected Obama this year. But, since Obama is a Rorschach test for everyone with an agenda, Buber is of the mind that he can expect more doggy bone handouts and extensive petting.


My Two Cents

After eight years of the party that wrecked America, I think it is time to hope again that integrity and transparency will have a chance to be the tools of the presidential trade. I think a man of principle and honor has won this election, and one who has demonstrated unparalleled ability to excite people to action for their own good. I think this election trumps the 2004 go around because this was not an anybody-but-Bush election. This time, I felt like we had a good man on the ticket—as good as has been found in national politics for a long while.

It happens that he is also of my denomination, the United Church of Christ. I didn't vote for him solely for that reason, but it was something that helped me understand something of what makes him tick. No two UCC congregations are alike, so his at Trinity is very different from any I have attended, but in the UCC, social justice is a major concern and he has worked for that for many years now, and he understands there is more to it than handing out checks to people. These days, his grassroots empowerment and consensus building expertise is desperately needed. But I think his greatest strength, even before any of that is accomplished, is that he seems to be a keen listener. That alone will be a radical regime change from the status quo!

While I wasn't the stunned and joyfully weeping Jesse Jackson or Oprah, I did find myself a little verklemt as it dawned on me what happened tonight. The camera's sweep across the masses gathered in Chicago reminded me a little of the images of the night when the Berlin Wall fell. And in some ways, this event is as momentous. It is a victory just the same, a victory over the fearfulness and divisiveness of bankrupt ideologies.

Now, jubilation aside, I have my concerns that even Barack Obama—soundly principled as he is—is entering a total shitstorm of history and even he will be a small figure before the wave of events before us. But if we have to simultaneously face assorted crises like peak oil, global warming, terrorism, economic wipeout (that might end up leading us to a new economic philosophy that reins in the excesses of capitalism I hope), and all the woes before us, then I'd prefer Obama as a leader who can talk cool and tough, knowing when it is time to listen more than talk. With the Bushies, the adage of "when all you have is a hammer, everything starts to look like a nail" was the prevailing but bankrupt logic. I think Obama's tool chest is larger than that.

I heard a section of NPR's All Things Considered where black voters were being asked to share their opinion of a pending victory for Barack Obama. One fellow told a story of how his friend sent a text message to many friends with something like the following:

Rosa sat so that Martin could walk.
Martin walked so that Barack could run.
Barack ran so that our children could fly.

You Gotta Be Kidding Me

I already voted for my presidential candidate. And his name didn't rhyme with "John McCain." My short list of reasons for not voting for McCain includes the following, with some humor present.

He is not shy of hauling out the tired story about his warrior past. Let me sum it up for you:

  • He is the only guy who managed to get shot down during the Vietnam war while sitting stationary on board his own ship. He was a casualty of what is called a "maritime surface-to-surface friendly fire incident."
  • Rather than spend his time like his fellow Republican/Vietnam fighter pilot Duke Cunningham (who actually shot down the enemy's planes), McCain's biggest claim to fame is getting shot down and captured. OOOOhhhh. Big deal! Even the one ace from that war—The Duke—isn't any better as a Republican politician, hanging his head in shame a while back for his dubious deal making. With that in mind, you can't even say, "well, don't give me the guy who got shot down in Vietnam, give me the guy who shot the enemy down!" It's sort of an apples-and-apples deal, and you want oranges.
  • Then, he was stupid enough to stick around for five years, often taunting his captors, who continued to beat the living shit out of him. Oh! What great foreign policy chops you got there, Johnny Boy! I can't wait till we fall to our national knees before the Russians who will have the oil we need.

So, for those undecideds out there, you gotta ask yerself if you want to vote for the guy who first can't get his plane off the ground without being shot at by his own team, and then can't keep it in the sky long enough to get home, and then has to put on a cocky (oh, Maverick-y is the word?) show of bravado when maybe some common sense would have been in order. He did do better than Bush about doing his military service, but he spent five years on the sidelines. And now that makes him presidential material?



The Brain Fart Heard 'Round The World

Okay, the Wizard, the High Priest, or even the god of the world economy made a mistake. Hey, he's only human. He didn't realize there was a housing bubble till it was bursting. What a putz!

I humbly submit these for your viral internetting pleasure—

greenspan: oops, my bad

greenspan: i had a brain fart

don't worry alan, we didn't need that economy anyway

good riddance to greenspan/god is dead


The War Against Terrorism (TWAT)

the hooded iraqi in silhouette and iconographic starkness, with the words cruel and unusual, america must do betterHow's that war going, Georgie? Oh, which war, you ask? Well, how about all of them? I guess there are too many to really keep straight these days. After all, if you want to keep battling terrorism until you squash it like a bug, you gotta go to war with the whole world now, because there are terrorists behind every rock and tree and dare I say, every computer keyboard! Well, if you think on it hard enough, there are people who support terrorism in your neighborhood. There might even be some in your house right now! I happen to think they have infiltrated the White House and are acting as our nation's leaders even now as we speak. Never mind the hunt for Osama Been Laughin', the real terrorists are operating within (nearly) full view, doin' dirty deeds like they are.

Who now can see the "war" in Iraq as anything but terrorism by a different name? According to IraqBodyCount.org, we leveled the score of 9/11/01 by going to town on Iraq, to the tune of about 90,000 dead civilians. Let's see here—about 3000 of our people is cause to wipe out 90,000 of someone else's. But of course, Iraq had nothing to do with 9/11 anyway. Hell, even our dead soldier count is out of whack with the 9/11 civilian count. Man, oh man. I really don't even know where to start with that one.

But for years now, I've come to believe that we have to pat ourselves on the back for this one too. We all have to admit that we as regular Americans enjoy the fruits of a lifestyle that is war-based. I include myself in that assessment. We don't just have a "war president," we have a war economy that itself is backed by a war- and expansion-based national mythology that has allowed us a free pass to taking what we want, when we want. War is just the visible tool that is needed (increasingly so) to live out the national myth. I guess now that we expanded to our western coast, and have scored Alaska and Hawaii, it is time to set our sights elsewhere, and Iraq is but part of that push to appropriate what we want to live a certain way. We don't need to turn it into a state; just a place that plays by our rules.

a densely edited and layered photo collage with odd imageryFin de Siecle, French for the End of the CenturyAll our purchases somehow are linked to this tragic mythology. Even the anti-war crowd is as guilty as the pro-war crowd. We all shop. Ergo, we all enjoy the benefits (from this perspective) of the world being arranged the way it is—with Americans enjoying a place at the top (more or less) while violence props up our lifestyle. Violence, I say because a sweatshop in China or Indonesia is another way of destroying lives of promise, not all unlike what is happening in Iraq as a result of our purposely mis-aimed attack and occupation there to make our nation feel better after 9/11. A life robbed of its potential is violence, and the economic arrangements we enjoy now are not ours to have forever because no one will like to live under such arrangements for any longer than necessary.

The national rhetoric about "getting back" at those who carried out 9/11 is preposterous. Those people are dead because their mission was a success—and, I might say, has been quite a return on their investment of a half-million dollars. Meanwhile, we watch billions and billions go away—hundreds of billions now, and have nothing to show for it but economic wipeout with whole commercial sectors bombing out, an energy crisis looming, whole cities and towns being wrecked by natural disaster, failing infrastructure, deficient education, etc. It is preposterous in so many ways what has been traded away so we might have some "homeland security." I guess we didn't need those hundreds of billions. We have the money to destroy an innocent nation, but not to make ours greater.

I don't kid myself in thinking that this is just a series of unfortunate mistakes. Men who hold power like to hold it for as long as they can. Drive it like you stole it, the saying goes. To that end, anything goes. It is almost as if the bull ride is to hang on for the full eight years, and never mind what damage is done while the bull bucks and tries to buck old Georgie and Dicky off. What will be left after this eight year party thrown by the (grand old) party that wrecked America? I sort of wonder if this year's October surprise will be the news that we have Osama bin Laden in custody. Great! Then the idiots will vote GOP again because the picture will be painted to portray these GOP assholes as heroes and all these years as righteous effort toward defeating evil, yadda, yadda, yadda. The mind boggles.

I lament the loss of life on 9/11 and the videos still shock me. But I can't let that lead me to justify killing so many other people who also did not deserve it. Shame on America for being the leading terrorist state in the world today and having the gall to claim that of others. I repeat again: you and I don't have enemies in Iraq or most other places. (At least none that our government or corporations didn't create for us.) What there is out there is a growing population that is losing its patience with the double standard inherent in our economic structure—and we can't expect people to wipe our asses for ever and still call it progress. Some will break. And should we actually be surprised when another 9/11 type event happens, if this nation has not changed the way it relates to the world?



A black man might be our next president.
A dream lingers on, bound for sweet fulfillment.
Four years on, wedded love is evident.
I wonder, is this what Jesus meant?