What if you got an email today asking you to click a button because there’s a terrible problem? Rather, what if you got 40 of them? Total fiction, right? Even so, if that were to happen, you have a few options. You can click on all the ones that are urgent (That’s all 40), or ignore them, or spend the day unsubscribing. But,maybe you really wish you could make a difference. Maybe you take this stuff seriously, and don’t feel you can just stand by or click buttons any longer.
Good. Now, do something. If we want better lives we can’t sit on our hands. That is easy to say and hard to do. I know; I have been there.
When I first realized it was time to act, I pushed myself out the door to a rally. I didn’t actually think it was going to help anything, unless 10,000 people were planning to join me, but I had to try something and didn’t know what else to do. So I went. I signed in, and as a result I began getting notices of local MoveOn meetings. I went to one. It was awful—truly a waste of time. At this point I could have felt justified in throwing up my hands and going back to clicking online petitions. Instead, I realized how desperately needed we all are. I remained engaged, and was soon invited to attend a leadership training. It didn’t take long until I took over those meetings and began to build progressive power by working with others in Seattle who wanted to make a difference.
For busy people, and we are, on average, busier than we’ve been in several generations, it is important to get it right. Since one of the major features of this crap economy is how it sucks away so much of our time, what we choose had better have a good chance of making a difference.
So that you can spend more time doing something you feel is effective, I’m offering a run-down of the organizing landscape as I see it. This way you don’t have to flail around like I did.
First, I am going to assume you want to work to solve the underlying problem rather than treat the symptom. In other words, do you want to feed the hungry, or fix the structure that causes hunger in the first place? Obviously I have no problem with feeding hungry people. This is important work, but thousands of people across the country happily ladle soup, and too few are actually attempting to make soup kitchens obsolete. We need you in the latter group–badly.
Here are some ways of engaging:
Electoral work: For those of you who still think we should be working to elect progressives, who will then pass laws that benefit regular people, you can always jump in on the action around election season. Pick a favorite (preferably local) candidate or issue this way: 1. Do you share the same values? 2. Is this a winnable fight? (Seriously. Please don’t squander your precious time on things you know are a lost cause, no matter how noble. You are not getting that time back.) 3. Is this candidate or issue mounting a serious campaign? (See #2) Since you are inclined to do electoral work, you may also enjoy making sure the people you help elect know your views. You can write letters to the editor, you can call the elected official’s office and talk with their staff, send email, and you can even meet with him or her either in-district or at the capital, with an appointment of course. Many issue organizations have staff on hand to help you to make the most of your communications. Reach out.
Community Organizing—three vantage points:
Coordinated Left: It is a good thing and a bad thing that there’s coordination among left wing money and power. The mainstream groups rely heavily on phone banks and other tactics people don’t enjoy delivering or receiving. The pros are that they can work together, and avail themselves of strategy and communications experts who have been doing this work for a long time. Some cons are that they are often stuck in a rut; they ask people to do things they don’t like to do, and so struggle to hang onto volunteers. They also chip away at their own success by negotiating too much. This can be illustrated by the faction in the Seattle minimum wage fight that claims a small business is defined by having fewer than 500 employees. Yeah.
Uncoordinated Left: There are many organically grown organizing groups, who reside outside of the left’s mainstream. They have pros and cons as well. They are often more democratic and welcoming of new ideas, but they are not backed by much money. They struggle to carry on. Often, they run with ideas that are less strategic, but at the same time, there is some promise to having no constraints. This group can be characterized as the ones who want the $15 minimum wage to go into effect immediately, no exceptions. This stance is admirable but dismisses out of hand some legitimate concerns. It is a breath of fresh air, though, to those of us who are tired of watching one disastrous negotiation after another.
Highly Trained Grass Roots: This is the style of community organizing pioneered by Saul Alinsky in the ‘40’s, and continues with the work of the organization he founded, the IAF (Industrial Areas Foundation). A well trained organizer becomes embedded in the community s/he wishes to engage. S/he finds out what people are struggling with, what they would like to see addressed first, and what the options are. Local people who have the most at stake are trained in breaking problems down into their parts so they become solvable issues. The strategy for tackling those issues arises from a careful assessment of the resources available, where the opposition is to be found, and what opportunities are present. In this way, for instance, a group can go from being upset about a for-profit prison in Pierce County, to realizing it depends on ICE detainees for funds, to asking local county jails not to comply with ICE requests (holding onto detainees until their immigration status is determined, it turns out, is optional), and asking local municipalities to refuse to send their prisoners to the local jails who do continue to comply with those requests. In this way, 60 local families have remained intact over the last few months who otherwise wouldn’t have. The work is ongoing, but this is winnable.
Whatever you decide to do, there are a lot of choices out there, so if your first run at making a difference doesn’t feel right, try something else. Just do something. Give me a call or send an email (I promise to click on it!) if you want to talk over the possibilities.
Sandra Vanderven is a Senior Organizer at Fuse Washington and Board President of the Backbone Campaign. She can be contacted at firstname.lastname@example.org
Wendy Olsen, MFT, answers all the relationship questions you were dying to ask, but just couldn’t muster up the courage to. You can email questions to editor@southseattleemerald
Q1)I’ve been involved with my boyfriend for over two years, but he still seems hesitant to commit to me. I’ve been very patient with him, however I’ve given him every indication that if he doesn’t soon show that he wants to take us to the next level (ask me to move in, engagement, at least allow me to leave his toothbrush over his house) then it might be time for both of us to move on. He doesn’t seem to be getting the hint though. Is it time for me to give him an explicit ultimatum?
Wendy: It is always best to be very clear with a partner about what your expectations in the relationship are. It sounds like it’s time that you had the conversation with him about where you want the relationship to go. Men aren’t mind readers (neither are women.) Don’t assume he knows anything that you haven’t stated very clearly. He may want something very different from you and you need to know what the differences may be. You also have to be willing to let the relationship go if you know he’ll never meet your expectations. If you stay and don’t get what you want, you’ll spend your life resenting him and feeling disappointed. Know what your “bottom line” is and maintain it.
Q2) Me and my wife are recently married. Everything has been great, except for the sex. She was a virgin before we were married due to her religious beliefs, so I’m much more experienced than she is. Most of the time sex with her is either like directing traffic or being on top of a dead fish. Don’t get me wrong, I love my wife very much but I’m just not being fulfilled sexually. I’m scared to have a conversation with her about it, as I fear she might be ashamed. How do I bring up that perhaps we can try and learn “different” things in the bedroom?
Wendy: Unfortunately, many people don’t have conversations about sex and what they want or expect sexually prior to having sex with a partner. This problem doesn’t fix itself without communication. I suggest you try talking with her from the perspective of a loving husband that is concerned that his wife isn’t enjoying their sex life. If you can begin talking with her about what she enjoys or doesn’t enjoy in love making. There’s an old expression, “sex starts in the kitchen” meaning that there is a ramp up to sexually activity prior to intercourse. Foreplay, foreplay, foreplay. Not just kissing and cuddling immediately following intercourse, but checking in with her, asking about her day, helping around the house, noticing her, etc. These are the things that women report draws them closer to their partners. Feeling loved and secure are powerful aphrodisiacs.
Q3) I’ve been a married for the last 17 years and while I’ve enjoyed being married to my husband, the doldrums have long ago set in. I’m not thinking about a divorce, mainly for our children, however I’ve been propositioned by a colleague of mine to begin a purely physical relationship. I know that it might not be the most responsible thing, but I enjoy his advances and it brings some freshness to my life. Is it wrong to be a little wild and begin something with this guy, as long as I keep it compartmentalized from the rest of my life?
Wendy: Right or wrong isn’t a question that I can answer for you. What I can tell you is that if you decide to have a sexual relationship outside of your marriage, their is a price you have to be willing to pay. Is your marriage worth risking? (Studies show that when a woman cheats, there is a 7Xs more likely chance the marriage will end in divorce.) There is no guarantee that the new relationship will remain purely physical. There is no way to guarantee that your new relationship will remain “compartmentalized.” The other thing people don’t consider when carrying on another relationship, is that there is a lot of work in keeping a secret. Don’t get me wrong, sex with a new partner can be incredibly fun. But, you have what I’ll call “extenuating circumstances.” Your comment in regards to wanting freshness in your life is also understood. My question to you is, why not explore that avenue with your husband? Many couples need a revamp in the bedroom after years together. Being noticed by someone else certainly can be alluring. But, keep in mind that the newness in all relationships wears off. You have invested a lot of love and time into your marriage. You have to decide if sex on the side is worth the potential cost, whether or not your husband finds out.
The recent growth of gift economies such as the hyper-local “Buy Nothing” Facebook groups & Freecycle seem to be the perfect answer for living a less materialistic life while growing your community. With most families trying to get by on less (or buy less) sharing bounty amongst communities is an elegant solution.
The etiquette in these groups is fairly basic. No soliciting, no bartering, giver gets to decide who the recipient is. Explaining why you want something is helpful when attempting to claim a posted item as well as when asking for something specific. A post may clearly state “First responder takes it” or “Get it off my porch by tomorrow & it’s yours”. Others use a random number generator, saving them from having to select a recipient. Two certificates for a free haircut at a fancy salon received huge responses. Random number generator picked the 7th & 13th responders.
The SE Seattle Buy Nothing group, with a little over 600 members, is a hopping place. With everything from trees to t-shirts on offer there’s bound to be something you can use. The biggest beneficiaries are clearly parents, attempting to keep pace with the near daily changes their children go through. Bottle sterilizers, breast feeding aids (and advice), training potties, wheeled vehicles, play houses and, of course, clothes. With the rapid turn over rate any barely used kid’s item could easily be recycled 6 times, at least, before wearing out. Gardening is a hot topic right now along with chicken coop building materials, giving your neighbor’s old doors or cabinets a second life.
Other requests are also for a short-term use, such as needing a red dress for an event but not wanting to buy one to use just once. Need crutches? Ask. Have fertile gardening ground but aren’t able to garden anymore? Offer.
When trying to ‘claim’ an item you may find yourself on a bit of a treasure hunt, navigating back streets of your neighborhood that you’ve never been down before. Helpful group members may offer their truck to transport large items simply out of generosity and that’s really the flavor of the whole endeavor, generosity & community. Everyday your neighbors are freely giving and receiving and it makes so much sense. Got too much stuff? Give some away. Maybe someone can use it.
Robin Boland is a contributing columnist, South Seattle Enthusiast, and is often referred to as “little bird” by friends of hers with heights over 5 ft 7
We all know the Seahawk philosophy and method of winning games, play unmatched defense, dominate on special teams, and control the ball on offense taking your explosive shots down the field at the right times. This formula keeps the game within reach no matter what. Having said that, the most significant loss the Seahawks face in free agency is most likely Golden Tate, will the Seahawks have enough talent at Wide Out to compete for another title a year from now? I believe the answer is an emphatic yes depending upon players staying healthy for the coming year.
Pete and company believe in their players, put them in the best situation to succeed, and help them to maximize their talents, but not at the expense of the overall team concepts. Even if the Seahawks WR corps was Calvin Johnson, Dez Bryant, and AJ Green, I don’t believe they would throw the ball 40-50 times per game, Marshawn and the running game would still be the identity of this offense. Now shake yourself out of the Johnson, Bryant & Green dream and let’s look at what the Seahawks have for the coming season and how this group of Wide Outs has the ability to be even better than last year.
2013 – Percy was penciled in to be the lead wideout, but when inflammation turned into hip surgery and he missed all but one half of the regular season as well as one and a half playoff games, the impact in 2013 was minimal (notwithstanding his electric performance in the SuperBowl).
2014 – Percy is once again tabbed to be the main guy, but his recovery appears to be nearly complete. The impact of a healthy Harvin cannot be understated, as the role he has on the game cannot be measured by stats and box scores. Hi speed and ability to run in space creates matchup problems for the defense as shown on the two WR reverses by Harvin in the big game. Towards the end of the first quarter the Hawks faked a handoff to Percy and gave the ball to Lynch, two defenders hesitated and moved in Harvin’s direction leading to running room and a first down for Lynch. In the Mic’d up tape you can hear Sherman on the sideline say, “It’s Percy, he’s got their eye”. From a defensive perspective you can see how much they have to pay attention and gameplan to stop him, if healthy he opens up opportunities for other WR’s as well as the ground game. The last bonus is Harvin’s ability to impact the game as a kick returner he is one of the best, and the Hawks struggled last year with both Kearse and Turbin fumbling prior to switch to Baldwin who was good, but not exceptional in this area.
Verdict – 2013 < 2014 – based on expected health of Harvin for the coming season.
2013 – Sydney Rice started the year coming of a strong 2012 and had solid moments early in 2013 including his multiple touchdown game against the Jaguars, and a beautiful touchdown early in the Cardinals game, but blew out his knee against the Rams in week 8 and did not return. The season started ominously when he missed the first week of training camp for a mysterious non-surgical procedure in Switzerland, but he never appeared at full speed.
2014 – Doug Baldwin is elevated to the #2 position for this coming season. With the injury to Percy he proved he can play outside, and he stepped up to every challenge last year. Yes, he is not your prototypical receiver being smaller than most teams are comfortable with, but he has proved durable, dependable, and has an incredible ability to come down with the ball in contested situations.
Verdict – 2013 < 2014 – Rice was inconsistent and injured for much of the year, Baldwin looks to improve upon his strong 2013 season.
2013 – Golden Tate started the year as the #3 wideout, and was quickly elevated due to Harvin’s injury. Golden had a very good year largely mirroring his production from 2012 when he finally broke out. He was explosive and made some sensational plays, including winning the Rams game in week 8 almost on his own accounting for all of the offenses points. He was also one of the best punt returners in the NFL routinely flipping the field in the Seahawks favor.
2014 – This position appears to fall to 2013 breakout player Jermaine Kearse. Kearse flashed in the pre-season last year, and stepped up to make big grabs with limited opportunities early in 2013 against the Panthers and Colts. With the injury to Rice his snaps increased, and he closed the season strong and played well in the playoffs culminating with the go ahead touchdown in the NFC championship game, and an incredible 4 broken tackle TD in the Superbowl.
Verdict – 2013 > 2014 – Kearse has the potential to come out on top, but Tate had a solid year that will be tough to match.
2013 – Jermaine Kearse had a breakout year and made the most of his opportunities finding the endzone at a very high rate even with limited usage the first half of the year.
2014 – Sydney Rice is back, and if his recovery proceeds he appears to have the inside track on this spot. I believe the Hawks are likely to take a WR in the first 4 rounds of this year’s draft, perhaps even in round 1 that can fill this role as well. Getting an athletic and dynamic playmaker that can provide big play ability is likely given the strength of talent entering the NFL via the draft this year.
Verdict – 2013 = 2014 – Kearse filled this role well in 2013, a healthy Rice or dynamic rookie have the ability to match or exceed this production.
WR Depth (5 – 7)
2013 – Lockette rejoined the Hawks during the season to improve depth, and Walters was active for a few games during the year. The Seahawks don’t run a lot of 4 or 5 wide plays as this goes away from their identity, but you need depth for injuries and the ability to put pressure on the opponents secondary by spreading them out in dime coverages when weaker opponent DBs are on the field.
2014 – Players vying for the final roster spots include either Rice or a newly drafted rookie, Lockette, Bates, Clark, Matthews (CFL), Price (Free Agent), & Walters.
Verdict – 2013 < 2014 – The depth of this unit would be stronger than what the Hawks had at the end of last year with Lockette playing the #4 wideout role in the Super Bowl. Depth was tested in 2013, and with injuries some of these players will play a role for the Hawks in 2014.
Verdict: 2014 = 3, 2013 = 1, Equal = 1
Tate will be missed at some point in the coming season, but the players are there now to exceed the production and efficiency of 2013. The health of Percy Harvin will determine whether this is a top ten unit in the league for 2014, or if it is more a serviceable but middle of the pack unit that is was in 2013. The main question that remains to be answered is who will be the dependable and explosive punt returner that will change momentum in 2014; but given Pete and John’s track record in the draft and player development I have little doubt they will get that figured out. Wide receiver will not be the place to hold back the Seahawks in 2014, it looks like this will be an improved and possibly exceptional unit for the coming year.
Clint Elsemore has been a fanatic Seattle sports fan for his entire life, and possibly several past lifetimes, should reincarnation be proven to be real
As the NBA Playoffs are once again upon us, our basketball expert, Antonio Foster, shares picks that you can take to the bank:
Los Angeles Clippers vs. Golden State Warriors
The Warriors have a great offense but are lacking on the defensive end. With Andrew Bogut out for the playoffs the inside presence of Deandre Jordan and Blake Griffin is going to be too much. I’m taking the Clippers in 7 games.
Portland Trailblazers vs. Houston Rockets
Winner: Houston Rockets
The 4 vs 5 seed match-up is pretty even. The series depends on the health of the Houston Rockets (Pearsons & Howard). In the end I think Houston will win this series in 7 games.
San Antonio Spurs vs. Dallas Mavericks
The Spurs are one of the favorites in the west after earning the #1 seed in the NBA Postseason. With these two teams both having lots of playoff experience it should be a fun series to see these older teams go at it. Spurs in 5 games.
OKC Thunder vs. Memphis Grizzlies
The Thunder are also one of the favorites in the West with Kevin Durant and Russell Westbrook leading the way. The Grizzlies are a great defensive team but the lack of scoring on the perimeter will be their downfall. Thunder in 6 games.
Indiana Pacers vs. Atlanta Hawks
Indiana faced some troubles in the final stretch of the season but managed to lock up the #1 seed in the East. In the season series Atlanta managed to win 2 out of 4 games. However I feel like the Pacers will get it together and Paul George and Roy Hibbert will lead them to winning this series in 5 games.
Miami Heat vs. Charlotte Bobcats
The defending NBA champions take on a Bobcats team that is lead by Al Jefferson. The Heat spent the last stretch of the season getting healthy so they can make another Finals run. The 4 time MVP will be too much to handle for the Bobcats that already gave up a 62 point performance to Lebron James earlier this season. Heat in 4 games.
Chicago Bulls vs. Washington Wizards
The Chicago Bulls are still missing superstar Derrick Rose but managed to march their way into the playoffs led by Defensive Player Of The Year candidate Joakim Noah. The Wizards are led by John Wall, a point guard that causes problems for opposing defenses with his speed. The Bulls have the playoff experience and better coaching so im taking them in 7 games.
Brooklyn Nets vs. Toronto Raptors
The Brooklyn Nets go into the playoffs after becoming the hottest team after the All Star break. As the Nets seemed to get it’s Veterans healthy the seemed to be playing better. The Raptors are experiencing one of their greatest season since Vince Carter was apart of the organization. However their lack playoff experience will be the difference in this series. Nets in 6 games.
The magic has definitely returned to the Magic Kingdom, with Walt Disney Pictures 53rd animated feature and mega hit Frozen. The epic story follows princess Anna (voiced by Kristen Bell) as she tries to rescue her sister Elsa (voiced by Idina Menzel) and her Kingdom from Elsa’s Icy powers that have trapped the kingdom in an endless winter.
Elsa has the power to create Ice and Snow and the ability to manipulate them in any way, shape or form that she wants to. An amazing power for sure, but its one that she’s struggled to control her whole life, and one she’s tried to contain ever since she inadvertently injured Anna with it when they were both young children. After the injury to Anna at the hands of Elsa, their parents encourage Elsa to remain isolated from her Anna and others in the kingdom in order to prevent more accidents from happening.
Their isolation continues as the girls grow up, and the two of them grow apart, even after their parents die at sea during a violent storm. Once Elsa comes of age she is set to have a coronation in front of the whole Kingdom. During the coronation Elsa and Anna have an argument and the emotions that stream from it cause Elsa to lose control of her powers and expose them to the entire frightened Kingdom. Elsa flees the Kingdom but unknowingly leaves it in an endless winter. Anna then sets out to find her sister and urge her to help end the winter storm of their Kingdom.
It’s during Anna’s journey to find Elsa, that the movie really takes off, introducing more characters, in addition to a couple of great songs. One of the songs, is the infectious “Let It Go,”which if you haven’t heard by now, means that you’re probably living under a rock, as its been played everywhere and even won the Academy Award for best song. The other stand out song is, “In Summer,” sung, by my favorite character in the movie, Olaf.
Olaf (voiced by Josh Gad) is the sister’s childhood snowman, who is brought to life by Elsa’s magic. He serves as great comic relief in the film, mostly due to the fact that he’s a living Snowman whose desire is to live in warm sunny weather. How awesome is that?
The main cast are all great here, from the two leads, to the side characters. I already mentioned Olaf the snowman, but they’re also joined by Prince Hans (voiced by Santino Fontana), who’s quick engagement to Anna is the catalyst for the argument between the sisters during the coronation, and Kristoff the mountain man (voiced by Jonathan Groff) who helps Anna search for Elsa.
One thing that I really enjoyed about this movie is that it follows the new trend of showcasing the women characters as strong and independent, something that animated films like Tangled and Brave have done in recent years. In the past the female characters would inevitably have to be rescued in their own movies by a male character, i.e. Snow White, Sleeping Beauty, Little Mermaid, or Belle from Beauty and the Beast to name but a few. The women of Frozen are the focus here, taking center stage, and are only assisted by the male characters as opposed to being rescued by them.
I love this approach because in this day and age the long overdue realization that women are equal to men is has finally taken hold, and the young girls who watch these movies can aspire to be the hero and not just the princess waiting for their knights in shining armor. Occasionally, these CG animated films can seem to over do it by playing too much to the older crowds in inserting too many pop culture references, and too many winks to the adults (yes Shrek sequels I’m looking at you), but thankfully this film never falls into to that trap. In fact, just when the movie seems as if it may be getting a little too deep and dark for younger viewers, it saves itself by having insanely catchy musical numbers and lighten things up by throwing a great classic Disney film sidekick character, the aforementioned Olaf the Snowman.
This film is certainly one of Disney’s best animated features in years. Some have ranked it as an all time great that will live on forever, in the same company as one of the classic Disney films of the past, such as The Lion King, and Beauty and the Beast, though I’m not so sure about that. While I actually don’t think this movie is quite on par with some of the Pixar classics like the Toy Story series, Wall-E, Up, or Finding Nemo, that doesn’t take anything away from it, as it is a gem in its own right.
The film passes the big test, at least for me personally, and that’s the child attention test. When I went to see this film, my 4 year old son, and his cousins were all glued to the screen, fully into every second of this movie. Let’s be honest, at the end of the day that’s exactly what these kinds of movies are for. Frozen is a great family film, with a great cast of colorful characters, great music and thrilling sequences that will entertain parents and children alike, but never forgets that it’s for the children. I’m giving Frozen 4 bags of popcorn out of 5.
Teri Youngman is an actor and movie fanatic, whose love of South Seattle is second only to that of his lustful obsession with cinema.
There are three things that make Easter great: Candy, Hardboiled Eggs, and the Egg Hunt. I look forward to it every year and you should too. Even if you’re not religious or don’t have children, I’ll show you how to get the most out of this wonderful holiday.
Easter is the number three candy holiday behind Halloween and Valentine’s Day, but personally I think it has the best candy. My favorites are Peeps, Cadbury Cream Eggs, and those big hollow chocolate Easter bunnies. By themselves, each of these products are good, but together they can become something great. Start by removing the head of the chocolate bunny. Then, very carefully, jam several Peeps into the hollow interior. Once full, seal the head back on with some goop from the Cadbury cream egg. Now you have a delicious little treat I like to call the Trojan Rabbit.
I like a snack that makes you work for it. Peeling off the shell is half the fun. I remember dying Easter eggs with my mom as a kid. I was never too crazy about the dying part (the dye stained my fingers and I hated the vinegar smell) but I loved eating the eggs. I quickly learned that if I was to “accidentally” damage one of the hardboiled eggs while dying it, I’d just have to eat that one and start over. I damage a lot of eggs. I loved hardboiled eggs so much, when I was tall enough to reach the microwave I decided to make some for myself. When my mom came home and found the exploded eggs, I managed to unsuccessfully blamed it on the cat. What I had done was so cute/stupid, my mom took pity and showed me the correct way to make them. I’ve been enjoying hardboiled eggs ever since and you should too.
The Egg Hunt
Kids go nuts for the egg hunt. Even if you don’t have children of your own, I recommend volunteering somewhere this Sunday where an egg hunt is taking place. You will not regret it. A child’s love for the egg hunt goes beyond the motivation of candy and money. I believe there is something deeper at work; something more primal. Kids love hunting for eggs because of residual sperm instinct. Think about it. They wouldn’t even be here if they weren’t the best egg-finding sperm in their “class”. I mean really, a group of kids having an egg hunt is like an egg-hunting all-star team. Get out there this Sunday and watch for yourself.
Easter has a lot to offer, so make yourself a Trojan Rabbit this Sunday and sneak it into your stomach. Load up on some protein-packed hardboiled eggs (but don’t use the microwave). And most of all, if nothing else, get out there and watch an egg hunt because those little sperm alumni grow up fat. Happy Easter, everyone.
Recent headlines highlight what conflicting attitudes we Americans tend to hold about government. The still-unfolding tragedy in Oso, the debates over school and transportation funding, and the Supreme Court ruling on campaign contributions all underscore just what a messy process democracy is.
We expect a lot from our government – protection from bad actors and natural disasters, high quality education and infrastructure, far-sighted leadership that still represents us. But we also want to be able to do as we please and pay as little as possible in taxes.
Mixed in with news accounts of individual heroism and community solidarity from the Oso landslide are questions of whether public officials could have prevented loss of life. Should the state have banned logging on that hilltop – and on every unstable slope in Washington? Should Snohomish County have prohibited building homes in the slide zone – and on other private property at risk of landslide or flood? Should we invest in a monitor and alert system – and who should pay?
Oso and Darrington aren’t just scenic retreats. They’re working-class communities where logging is still an important part of the economic base. And the demand for lumber is driven by us city folk, even while many of us condemn clear-cutting and the ugly scars it leaves on our views.
We elect our city and county council members, state legislators and governor, Congress members and president. They pass the laws, with industry lobbyists, environmentalists, union reps, policy experts, and individual constituents arguing conflicting points of view. Then those oft-reviled government bureaucrats – or public servants – try to enforce usually imperfect laws with limited resources.
And the next expensive election campaign is always just around the corner. A well-financed opponent can outshout a true people’s representative, and easily twist a vote for the most thoughtfully-crafted legislation in a way that plays on voters’ fears.
A vote intended to protect lives and the environment is portrayed by opponents as a job-killing attack on property rights. A vote to ensure long-term funding for quality education, or modernized transportation infrastructure, is framed as greedy politicians taking more money out of your pocket. A vote requiring corporate shareholders and wealthy individuals to pay their fair share for public services is pronounced class warfare.
All the special-interest money in politics, and the fact that the Supreme Court has just allowed the wealthiest 600 or so Americans to make even larger campaign contributions, wouldn’t be so bad if voters had the leisure and inclination to be well-informed about the issues and candidates. But even professional policy wonks understand the ins and outs of only a handful of issues. Most people are too caught up with their kids’ activities, their parents’ declining health, and trying to pay the bills to have much energy for political engagement.
Therefore, public debate usually happens in sound bites. That enables those with the most money to have the most freedom to speak. Consensus based on true understanding of different perspectives rarely emerges.
Our government isn’t perfect, but under the circumstances functions remarkably well. Our schools educate most kids, our food and water is generally safe, our cities don’t crumble to rubble in earthquakes, firefighters and police show up and display heroism.
The only way to make government better is for more of us to be engaged, to learn about the issues, to share our views with candidates, to hold elected officials accountable for representing us and the common good, to be willing to pay our fair share of taxes to assure opportunity for the next generation. In the end, democracy is an on-going process that requires us all to participate.
Marilyn Watkins is policy director of the Economic Opportunity Institute, a nonpartisan policy center focused on building and economy that works for everyone.
The Wolf Of Wall Street, Reviewed By Teri Youngman.
Excess is the word of the day in Director Martin Scorsese’s latest film The Wolf Of Wall Street, based on the best selling memoir of infamous finance kingpin Jordan Belfort, is a film that earns every bit of it’s R rating due to its often very graphic depiction of the debauchery filled lifestyle of the key characters of the film, and stars Leonardo DiCaprio in the fifth team up between the superstar actor and legendary director.
DiCaprio stars as Belfort, who we are first introduced to as a Stockbroker for the Wall Street Firm L.F. Rothschild in 1987.
After losing that job due to the firm’s bankruptcy, Belfort begins selling penny stocks at a small Long Island boiler room, soon turning that firm into a huge success, by aggressively pitching his penny stocks to any person unassuming enough to fall for his song and dance.
Of course this is all a big scam, and he’s really just defrauding these folks by exchanging them crap for money, while he adds gratuitously to his bank account because the penny stocks have a higher commission than the run of the mill ones he would’ve been selling at a conventional Wall Street firm.
Belfort soon befriends Donnie Azoff (played here by Jonah Hill), a salesman neighbor of Belfort’s. The two decide to go into business together, starting their own firm and running the penny stock scam on a much larger scale, recruiting several unscrupulous characters to their cause along the way, including marijuana dealers.
They name their firm Stratton Oakmont and things really begin paying off for Belfort after an article in Forbes Magazine dubs him,The Wolf of Wall Street, attracting many more financiers to his firm along with the attention of the FBI, when agent Patrick Denham (played by Kyle Chandler) begins investigating him.
With the success comes the excess, as Belfort and his associates regularly indulge in wild parties, drugs and prostitutes.
Belfort himself becomes highly addicted to cocaine and quaaludes, and often cheats on his loyal wife Teresa (played by Cristin Milioti) who was with him well before his Wall Street days.
Belfort’s womanizing soon leads him to begin an affair with Naomi Lapaglia (played by Margot Robbie) a beautiful, gold digging piece of arm candy who he eventually leaves Teresa for and remarries.
The high life is great for Belfort until his drug addictions and FBI investigations eventually all catch up with him and his world comes crashing down.
The film is, long, profane, and…funny.
Some scenes are of the laugh out loud variety, such as a particular one in which Azoff offers Belfort a very powerful batch of quaaludes, that take a little long to kick in, but when they do, they really do.
The fallout from the scene is pivotal, but the scene itself is hysterical to watch.
Scorsese is once again at his best exploring the criminal lifestyle and he, along with writer Terrence Winter, really do a great job in bringing a vulgar humor to this film, that really keeps the viewer entertained, even as you watch horrible people do horrible things.
The film belongs to Leonardo DiCaprio who chews up the scenery here, injecting tons of energy, along with his signature charisma and electricity, into every frame, continuing his streak of amazing performances that he’s been on for the past decade or so.
The supporting cast is also mostly strong here led by Jonah Hill, who mainly serves as comic relief in his role as Azoff, but also shows some depth once the film heads to its climax, when the crap really hits the fan.
Matthew McConaughey is also brilliant is his small but memorable role as Mark Hana, Belfort’s boss and mentor at the Wall Street firm, training him in the decadent ways of Wall Street, and teaching him to embrace drugs, sex and masturbation as keys to success.
Hana also teaches Belfort a bizarre chanting ritual that he adopts and uses again and again throughout the movie, a chant that is a very memorable part of the film.
The women characters unfortunately are mostly just props in the film, without much character development for any of them.
The lone exception is Naomi’s Aunt Emma (played by Joanna Lumley), who is very interesting in another small but important role to the film.
If you’re like me than you might not mind a little T and A in a good movie, but to some moviegoers bits like the Airplane Orgy scene in this movie might be a little much.
The film is long, and the length is definitely something I took issue with, as the movie started to drag a bit towards the end, where it seemed as if 30 minutes or so could have been shaved without hurting the story.
My biggest problem however, is that there is a certain been there, done that feel to the film, due to its similarity to other Scorsese pictures, most notably the 1990’s gangster classic Goodfellas.
Overall this is a very good movie, and while not the best Scorsese picture ever, it’s certainly his best in years and possibly the best team up between he and DiCaprio, though that may be debatable for for fans of The Departed.
I’m giving it 3 and half bags of popcorn out of 5. Teri Youngman is an actor and movie fanatic, whose love of South Seattle is second only to that of his lustful obsession with cinema.
Conjuring concrete objects from the abstraction of imagination, culling scattered salvos of thought into a burst of creative
expression that abides in reality, it is this ingenious alchemy that is the hallmark which blankets most artists (or creative professionals should you prefer the current vernacular), however, none more snugly than the ceramicist. Those gifted enough to possess the enchanted ability to, with their hands, breath life into the dullest of materials, crafting them into a provocative articulation of form, and conceiving in their bowls, vases and vessels, art which functions in the everyday.
A paragon who fiercely pursues this craft is found in South Seattle’s accomplished ceramist Jen Mills, past recipient of several visual art residencies and a current instructor at the Seward Park Clay Studio. It is in speaking with Jen, her collegial appearance and Liz Lemonesque glasses, a consistent companion to her youthful face, which belies her depth of thought, and creating a small wonder that she isn’t more often confused for one of her students, that you find yourself entertaining the same perspective of art as she does, not just as a lone manifestation of creativity, but as hallowed practice of self-discovery. An appropriate vehicle of inward exploration for the former Religious Studies Major, who counts Buddhism amongst her favorite theologies.
Her artwork, primarily forged from clay, is the result of an attentiveness to those moments in life which are oft ignored by the majority of us. It is her work that polishes them to reveal a profound significance. Thankfully, for the artist and layperson alike, her approach to art is employed just as fully in her life. So be forewarned that her words may just inspire a revelation of meaning in your own:
Emerald: Most people’s association with ceramics/pottery begins and ends in high school, or if they’re fortunate, as an elective at a liberal arts college.Can you share the value of ceramics/pottery and why it should capture a person’s interest? For instance why should someone go to a ceramics showing?
Jen Mills: Everyone has an association with ceramics. Right now we’re in a coffee shop and we’re both drinking out of ceramics mugs. Most everyone picks up a mug, especially in Seattle, usually filled with coffee everyday, and they eat off the material. They bathe in a bathtub made out of this material. Ceramic tiles are on space shuttles and prevents them from blowing up. We all have a familiarity with this material, so to go see a ceramics show that makes you think about this material that you frequently encounter in a different way, that’s really exciting. It makes you open to seeing the everyday in a different way.
Emerald: You were originally a religion major, how did you go from that to making art as a ceramicist?
Jen: Both religion and art motivate everyone, everyone from around the world tries to answer the question, “Why are we here?” Every country, everywhere from around the world is inspired to create. There is a lot of intersection between religion and art because you have a lot of art created, until recently, that was religiously inspired. From Michelangelo’s Sistine Chapel, to the ancient paintings in the caves in France, it was all about expressing, ”where are we going and why are we here?” and doing it in a visual way. Both are universal to me, so it was a very short leap to go from one to the other.
Emerald: So then is making art, in a way, a religious practice for you? How much does religion inspire your work?
Jen: I do try to practice Buddhism in my personal life, but I’m not too successful, so I would say the making of art, using my own hands, takes the place of that. Through my studies in comparative religion was that (religions) have a lot of fundamental differences, but they also have an incredible amount of similarities once you get to the esoteric level. I think of it as climbing a mountain, once you reach the top it all looks the same.
I remember a Christian text, where a priest had written a letter to a nun about how to pray the rosary. The priest said, “You have to lose yourself, until there is no you there, and there is only one, and if you lose yourself you become one with Christ.” That’s very similar to Buddhism…there is no “I”. Again, you get to the top of the mountain, you get a lot of similar answers. Now how you get there of course every religion has a different answer, but they’re going for the same goal.
I think a lot of artists are trying to do the same thing. They’re asking, “How do I visually represent this concept that I’m trying to communicate?” It’s really kind of a leap of faith as you don’t have words; you’re not trying to write an essay like, “here’s what I think about x,y and z.” You’re trying to depict this concept in a visual way, and there’s a gap. That’s what I liked about studying different religions – history, poetry, politics, everything is all right there, and I really responded to that. Art is the other piece, the other side of the coin in expressing those things. So you get the leap of leaving the known and going into the unknown, so a lot of my work is trying to make the unknown known, are the invisible, visible. I try to be in that inbetween place, where I think a lot of people find uncomfortable, but I find very interesting. So religion and art occupy that unknown place very well for me.
Emerald: You grew up in Colorado what influence did that area have on your art process?
Jen: Our surroundings affect all of us, some of it is very conscious, and some of it is unconscious. In Colorado, I grew up on the Front Range where you are literally on the edge of the Rocky Mountains. Turn one way and you see flat, flat land, and that’s like Kansas, the Great Plains, literally ramming right up into the Rocky Mountains. You then turn the other way and you’ve got these 14,000 foot peaks, so you’re living on the edge, where this transition takes place and I found this really exciting.
I was really fortunate to grow up in a really beautiful part of the country. When it snowed you had this blanket that covered up everything, and you wondered was that a pile of garbage underneath all of that snow or is that a rock? You don’t know. Snow makes everything beautiful – it’s like this frosting or glaze over the land. So I would get up in the middle of the night, and when the moon was full it was brighter almost than it was during the day because the light would reflect of the snow and I would be the first one to go walking in the snow, and I’d think to myself, “no one knows I’m out here,” and I would come back home and find another set of footsteps, and it would startle me. “Where did this person go? Who was it? Where they old or young?” All I have is this trace of footsteps, this seen thing, that is now unseen, and this is all the evidence left behind.
So that thought left a mark on me, and so I go on to be a religion major, and try to make the unseen, seen, and at first I didn’t think my art was influenced by any of that at all. I thought, “that religion degree is in the past,” but of course my art is influenced by the sum of my experiences, and what’s come before in my life. My art isn’t autobiographical but I’m the lens and of course it’s going to come through me, and that’s the way Colorado filtered through me, the snow, living on the edge, the snow covering things up and taking it away. The accumulation over time of snow, first an inch, than an hour would pass and it would then be a foot, you could literally see time in physical form. You’d measure the snow on the ground and discover, “Oh wow, it’s four inches and I can’t see my bike anymore.”
Emerald: What is your process? Some artist say they just have an innate compulsion to create. Does that describe you?
Jen: Creating art is something that I need to do. I love sketching and researching and letting my mind wander, letting it be free to make associations that I can bring into my work. I almost see it as a collaboration with material, the concept I’m exploring and myself. There are those times when you get frustrated, and every artist has these moments, when they ask themselves, “Why am I doing this? This is so hard.” and you don’t really get recognized for the work that you do. Art making and art isn’t really valued, at least not in this country. People say, “Oh you’re an artist… What else do you do?” or “Oh that’s nice, but what pays the bills?” And that can be really disheartening, it’s not like we’re constantly living in a state of total bliss, and I just have this ‘need” to create. Sometimes just getting in the studio is the hardest thing to get done in that day, but that is what you do. There are days that I get into the studio and I can’t wait and it’s amazing, but then sometimes, I’m like, “okay, what’s going to get me in the studio today…”. So part of my practice is discipline. It’s easy to get into the studio, or anywhere, when you’re excited. but what gets you to the studio when you’re not excited, and it’s the last thing you want to do? So that’s the discipline; those artist I know who have any degree of success are incredibly disciplined, rational, business people, because they have to be, there’s no other way to do it. The notion of the successful crazy, weird artist is largely a myth.
Emerald: Stepping back into the intersection of religion and art, some artists say all spirituality is just going beyond a routine way of seeing life, and ultimately that’s what art is, do you agree with that assessment?
Jen: I would agree, though I don’t know if every artist would. Many artists describe making art as a kind of a trance. I think anyone who creates talks about it using a religious language – a small “r” religious language – a state of mind that you can get to when you create. Not all the time of course, as there are some times that drudgery is the name of the game and you’re banging your head against the wall because the ideas are coming, you have the idea, but you can’t figure out exactly how to do it but there are times we get into the grove, and we know it’s happening, and we hit the target and we know it’s worked and then you’re trying to do it again, you’re trying for that same spot over and over again and I think that’s what keeps all of us going no matter what kind of artist we are, writers, artists, or musicians.
Emerald: What influence has the South Seattle area had on your art and you personally?
Jen: I’ve always enjoyed a group learning experience, because I enjoy conversation. I think that when you encounter ideas, people, things, that are different from you, that have a different point of view than you do, you are forced to look at the assumptions you’ve made, reevaluate and grow. That’s the only way to grow, to meet resistance. Our bodies are actually meant to encounter resistance. That’s the reason that astronauts’ bones and muscles deteriorate in outer space, because there’s no resistance. We get stronger by lifting things that are outside of our comfort zone. We respond in a positive way to being challenged outside of our comfort zone.
I think that ever since I was little I enjoyed class discussions where people expressed different points of view and I was in that uncomfortable in-between place. That’s why a lot of my work has more than one part to it, so there’s a conversation that’s happening between multiple parts that then makes a sum greater than the individual parts. South Seattle has always been that to me with it’s diversity. Hopefully Seattle can find a way to preserve that, that conversation, because it seems to be disappearing. It’s what’s going on now with people only watching Fox News or MSNBC, if you’re only talking to the people who agree with you, it’s bad. Any place, whether online or South Seattle, where you can bump into and encounter those different conversations and point of views is a great place. I have to keep myself open to different points of view because otherwise I’d be bored, and I hate being bored!
Emerald: Is ceramics undervalued as an art form?
Jen: I do think in comparison to other disciplines that ceramics is the underdog, although that’s changing, and has been for the last few years I think. It’s being seen more and more, for its great conceptual possibilities as well as its functionality. There are now more galleries that are picking up ceramic artists, in addition to painters, and other disciplines. They are seeing that ceramics can contribute to the conversation that the larger art world is having.
Ceramic artists have differing opinions on whether or not that’s a good thing, as with any discipline there’s people who don’t want to interact with that large conversation, and you’ve got potters who are saying, “Why should I?” But I choose to work with clay because this material has everything that I need. It’s a really exciting time to be working in ceramics, and I’m really excited about its history, from porcelain in China that are thousands of years old to the new artist today who is using challenging our ideas of what a permanent piece of art should be by not firing the work to make it a permanent form, and letting it disintegrate back into the ground, creating a temporary ephemeral piece. That’s a huge range and a potential for conversations that ceramics can have that not a lot of other art forms can have.
Emerald: In producing art, when do you encounter your, “aha moment?” When do you know you’re finished with a piece?
Jen: That’s a good question. Sometimes you have to go over the finish line. Working on art is sometimes like looking in the rearview mirror, like,” oops that stopping point was back there.” There is an element of subjectivity to art. The artist has their opinion and you have your opinion. It’s wonderful when we agree. But there are those who are with you, and those who think you’re on a different planet. You can always know that something is well crafted, and that the skill is there. But when you’re finished with a piece it’s when it answers the questions you are asking the work. Does this say what I want it to? Does this communicate the questions I’m asking? For example, does this ceramic cup (she holds up an ordinary looking coffee cup) provide an answer to human anguish? Well no – this “artwork” will fail. It’s purpose is to hold liquid and to drink out of. So it really matters what questions are you asking the work. The answer can sometimes determine whether you are finished or not.
Emerald: You’ve had a great amount of success, with several artist residencies and awards. What advice do you have for those artist who are just starting out or who have persisted without any success?
Jen: You have to show up. In order to make the work you have to be there to make the work. So to the new, younger artist I’d say keep going, even on those days you don’t want to, or you get that 20th rejection letter, you’re not going to succeed if you quit. Sounds obvious, but if you don’t apply you’re not going to get the opportunity, you might as well apply because you’ve got nothing to lose. What’s the worst that can happen? You’re not going to get it? If you don’t apply, you’re certainly not going to get there. You’re not going to make the work. So just do it, just show up.
The second thing is to take risks. The more you put yourself out there, even if every fiber of your being is afraid, and saying oh my gosh who is going to like this? Someone is going to respond to it. There’s something for everyone. Now is it going to be the best thing you ever made? Maybe not, but if you don’t put it out there you’re not going to get any feedback to get better. You’re not going to encounter any resistance to get better to make you stronger. Just keeping putting your work out there, and if that’s at a local coffee shop, just so you can see it outside of your studio on the wall, or outside of your living room or wherever you’re working, the work benefits because it’s encountering a new thing, you’re benefiting because you’re encountering a new thing, and you will see your work in a different way. For more information on Jen Mills, including views of her scintillating ceramic pieces and future exhibitions, please visit http://www.jen-mills.com
Amplifying the Authentic Narratives of South Seattle