Sunday, February 11, 2018

Trump and Nuclear Weapons? We need a different future . . . .

Dunne, Raby, and Anastassiades,
"Priscilla Huggable Atomic Mushroom"
from Designs for Fragile Personalities in Anxious Times

Yesterday I was at the Art Institute of Chicago and saw a staggering piece of art: "Priscilla Huggable Atomic Mushroom," from Designs for Fragile Personalities in Anxious Times by Anthony Dunne, Fiona Raby, and Michael Anastassiades.

The plush mushroom cloud is the perfect size to hug while curled up in a fetal position: "The soft, toylike object allows users to confront (and cuddle) their fear of nuclear annihilation directly."

"The soft, toylike object allows users to confront (and
cuddle) their fear of nuclear annihilation directly."
Dunne, Raby, and Anastassiades,
"Priscilla Huggable Atomic Mushroom"

I immediately thought of the Kurosawa film I Live in Fear, about a man who is alert to the risk of the next atom bomb dropping and can't rest until he finds some sort of solution.

Fearless samurai portrayer Toshiro Mifune plays against type
as the haunted protagonist of I Live in Fear.

And then there is what people in Hawaii experienced recently . . . .

Dunne and Raby have a book entitled Speculative Everything: Design, Fiction, and Social Dreaming, directed to getting us outside the ruts we're stuck in and inviting us to think about how the world could be completely different: "Dunne and Raby pose 'what if' questions that are intended to open debate and discussion about the kind of future people want (and do not want)."

What a perfect coincidence with the events of the past few days! We have just seen a vote of confidence in a new future by the people of Korea, as the teams from the North and the South marched together under one flag at the opening ceremony for the 2018 Winter Olympics in Pyeongchang.

Athletes march under the flag of a united Korea
at the 2018 Winter Olympic Games in Pyeongchang.
(New York Times photo)

Could there be a starker contrast with the stuck-in-the-past behavior of the current US president?

Trump: If N Korea keeps threatening, will be met with 'fire'."

And people in the US were confronted with that very mushroom cloud imagery again this past week as the cover story of TIME described Trump administration efforts to ramp up the US nuclear weapons program. The TIME piece described how the US government is toting out all the old arguments -- "we need more, bigger, better so that they don't get a step ahead of us!" -- while also reporting the argument for an alternative future: "Enough! We don't have to do this!"

For anyone willing to imagine the alternative future, here are two ways to work to make it happen:

(1) Support the effort of members of the US Congress to restrict the US president's ability to conduct a nuclear first strike.

(2) Support the effort of countries worldwide to bring about a global ban on nuclear weapons. (It's happening now at the United Nations!)

Working for an alternative future: do we really have any other choice?

Trump Administration
Collectible Plush Toy
offer good while supplies last . . . .

Related posts

Bunker Mentality

Is Kim Jong-un giving the US its "Suez Crisis"?

Korea: A History of Living Under Nuclear Terror

Nuclear Weapons: People Power Over Trump Power

133 Is a Lot of #Nuclearban-Supporting Countries

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Wednesday, February 7, 2018

MEMES: Moment, Frame, Image, Words, Flow

I make a lot of memes, and I'm trying to work on my technique.

On Monday, I headed for Cambridge to visit my granddaughter. I had a copy of Scott McCloud's Making Comics in my bag. I thought this trip would be a good chance to study McCloud's great analysis of comics ("juxtaposed pictorial/other images in a deliberate sequence intended to convey information and/or produce an aesthetic response in the viewer") and think about how his analysis might apply to the memes I create.

As I walked to the gate, I spotted this TIME magazine cover:

TIME, February 12, 2017: "Making America Nuclear Again"
featuring "Trump's Gamble"by W.J. Hennigan and
"Inside the Doom Factory" by Simon Shuster

"Well, I've gotta have that," I thought.

Later, as I read the first chapter of Making Comics somewhere above Colorado, I made notes about these elements:

* Moment
* Frame
* Image
* Words
* Flow

"I've got a few hours to kill," I thought. "What kind of meme would I like to make right now? Can I put these concepts to work?"

I thought about the TIME cover. It was a pretty good meme all on its own. It captured the moment of nuclear peril, using an image of a mushroom cloud, and all on its own it solved the problem of proper framing by showing the mushroom cloud within the magazine cover context (including the TIME logoface, associated verbiage, and an actual red frame).

I realized the words remained for me to add. It was immediately obvious that I wanted to rise above the ambiguous tone of the cover ("Making America Nuclear Again") and express urgency. The words that came to mind were, "When are we going to learn?"

McCloud stresses that the difference between a cartoon (one frame) and comics (multiple frames) is flow. My first thought was that my meme's flow could be from the TIME cover (frame #1) to the words "When are we going to learn?"(frame #2). Then I decided it might be interesting to show motion in the TIME cover ... starting with the original and fading to nothingness, to suggest the consequences of nuclear weapons.

This is what I ended up with:

@scarry on Twitter:
"Donald #Trump Is Playing a Dangerous Game of #Nuclear Poker"
@TIME @wjhenn …

I tweeted it together with a link to the story in TIME, as shown in the caption above.

I'm still not sure if I like the font and size I selected for the words, "When are we going to learn?" I didn't want to shout, but rather to encourage the viewer to lean in and share in this personal message, and think about it. I hope it's big enough to be visible. (Maybe I'll revise it later, after an interval and then a fresh look at it.)

And now . . . time for me to study Chapter 2 of Making Comics: "Stories for Humans"!

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Wednesday, January 31, 2018

LACMA: Outside Looking In (#lacmaoutsidein)

Oasis #lacmaoutsidein #losangeles #publicspace

A week ago, I was visiting my son in Los Angeles. When he headed out for an appointment one morning, I asked him to drop me off at the LA County Museum of Art.

I was looking forward to seeing the latest exhibitions so much that it didn't even occur to me that LACMA wouldn't be open yet at 9:30 in the morning.

I was momentarily disoriented when I realized I was going to be outside the gate for an hour and a half -- on the streets of Los Angeles! without a car! But then I took a deep breath . . . got my heartbeat back down . . . and started to explore.

Then a few things happened in rapid succession:

* I noticed a phenomenal "shutter" effect as I walked alongside the fence with the sun shining through -- light-dark-light-dark-light-dark.

* I took a picture and shared it with my daughter in Chicago. (When she can't come to the museum with me in person, she cheers me on virtually.) We "LOL'd" about the fact that I was so eager I came before the museum even opened.

* I decided to walk around the (extensive) perimeter of LACMA and take a bunch of pictures.

* I realized I was seeing a new side of LACMA. I was documenting my experience of being "outside looking in."

* I thought about doing an exhibition of my photographs (and video) -- on social media. I decided Instagram was the right place for it.

* I wondered if a hashtag could be used to tie together my "virtual exhibition." I decided to use #lacmaoutsidein.

In the last year I've become aware -- along with many observers of the tech scene and social media -- that Instagram has important lessons for us about how to communicate better. My #lacmaoutsidein experiment was conducted with no particular end in mind -- other than to have fun, discover something new, and perhaps make something beautiful. I did suspect that it might hold lessons for all kinds of communication, including very intentional activist efforts. And, indeed, the images and the way people interact with them in a "virtual exhibition" stimulated all kinds of unexpected thoughts for me.

Please check out my #lacmaoutsidein "virtual exhibition" on Instagram. (And if you're really interested, you can see my "exhibition notes" on Twitter using the same hashtag!)

Meanwhile, I'm getting busy dreaming up my next project . . . .

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Tuesday, January 30, 2018

California and Climate Crisis: The End?

Luke Butler, The End XXIII
Exhibited as part of Way Bay show at
Berkeley Art Museum and Pacific Film Archive (BAMPFA).

A week ago, I was enjoying a beautiful drive through California's Central Valley, en route from Berkeley to Los Angeles. I had just dropped a family member at SFO, and so I had had a rare taste of Bay Area rush hour traffic in two directions. It reminded me of how overwhelming US car culture is.
I thought about the pessimism of a friend of mine -- an environmental engineer -- and I also thought about having heard a local pastor describe a pending building project as a "hundred year decision."

"Where are we headed -- really?" I wondered. "What would it mean to take a realistic 100-year perspective on what's likely to happen with the climate crisis?"

I spent a large part of that long drive thinking about it.

It occurred to me that there is analysis that one can learn from -- I had recently read about FEMA revising the flood plain projections for the New York City area, for instance -- and I promised myself that when I got home from my LA trip, I would look up some studies.

If I needed another nudge in that direction, I saw this the next day:

[T]he world’s diplomatic meanderings — from the ineffectual call in Toronto for a reduction in emissions to the summit meeting in Paris, where each country was allowed simply to pledge whatever it could to the global effort — suggest that the diplomats, policymakers and environmentalists trying to slow climate change still cannot cope with its unforgiving math. They are, instead, trying to ignore it. And that will definitely not work.

("Fighting Climate Change? We’re Not Even Landing a Punch" by Eduardo Porter in The New York Times, January 23, 2018.)

So I've begun to do my homework.

Here are two starting points -- in-depth analyses of the situation we face in California:

Rising Seas in California: An Update on Sea-Level Rise Science

California's Flood Future (November 2013): Recommendations for Managing the State's Flood Risk

(Full supporting documents relating to the latter document can be accessed via the document library on the California Department of Water Resources website.)

I encourage everyone to study them, and take seriously their "unforgiving math."

To be continued . . . . 

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Monday, January 29, 2018

Bunker Mentality

Saturday, January 13, 2018: People in Hawaii this message:
 Emergency Alert

Do you know somebody in Hawaii?

Ask them to share their experience . . . .

The thousands of people who experienced the "BALLISTIC MISSILE THREAT INBOUND TO HAWAII" emergency alert need to be listened to.

Related posts

Korea: A History of Living Under Nuclear Terror

VIETNAM and the NUCLEAR BAN: Out From Under the Shadow of US Nuclear Terror

Why People Want a Pacific (and World) Free of Nuclear Weapons

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Thursday, January 11, 2018

Guantanamo: What's the underlying condition?

Statue of Liberty - January 11, 2018
V @nat_riverascott

Since practically the day I started this blog, I have tried to contribute to reversing the injustices represented by the US detention center at Guantanamo Bay.

I have organized and participated in many events educating about and protesting against Guantanamo. (See website for The Response film and blog posts on Guantanamo and work with the Chicago Coalition to Shut Down Guantanamo.)

I am coming to realize that what Guantanamo says about the US goes very deep.

What's the underlying condition?

In the past year, I've dealt with a cancer diagnosis, and it's changed the way I look at things.

In June I went to the emergency room with a breathing problem that had been getting worse and worse for over a month. An X-ray quickly showed that I had a "pleural effusion" -- fluid accumulated in the lining of my lung. My left lung, itself, was like a deflated balloon, bunched up in the upper corner of the lung cavity, unable to expand because of the way the cavity wall was pressing up from below with all the fluid.

The quick fix was to drain the fluid. The doctor inserted a needle between the ribs in my back and drained away 3 liters of milky white stuff.

Voila! I could breathe again!

(Problem solved, right?)

And then they started taking more scans . . . .

Within a day, the ER doc dropped by to tell me: "It looks like you have lymphoma. It's a kind of cancer. It's treatable . . . but you've got to get on it."

It turned out the lymphoma I had, though low grade, had generated a troublesome mass in my abdomen. I had heavy-duty chemotherapy for the next few months. Things seem to be getting better, and I'm now on a course of lower-impact drugs.

Looking the other way

Now that I'm past the immediate shock of the cancer diagnosis, I have time to think. One of the things I wonder about is, "What if my cancer hadn't exhibited that lung problem? Maybe I would still be in the dark about the underlying condition . . . . "

I should mention that one of the things that was special about my case is that I had avoided all contact with a doctor for the past decade or so. Because, you know, I'm healthy!

In other words, I was not terribly interested in knowing what might be going on inside me.

Picking up on this detail, my doctors were perceptive enough to understand that they needed to start my treatment immediately, and not let me have a chance to slip out the door with the promise to deal with my condition "soon."

An unpleasant truth about US society

In the case of my cancer, I think my body helped with the process: it figured out a way to send me a message, one that I couldn't ignore.

For those willing to listen, Guantanamo is sending us a message. There is an underlying condition in this country, one that we are trying very hard to ignore.

It is up to each of us to search our hearts to see if we can figure out what it is that we really think is going on in this country.

For my part, I plan to dig deep . . . with a special eye for that which I feel afraid to admit.  I suspect that the underlying condition is going to turn out to be pretty scary.

To be continued . . . .

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Monday, January 8, 2018

Is Kim Jong-un giving the US its "Suez Crisis"?

An end to "business as usual"?
(Anthony Eden and his cabinet in The Crown (Netflix))

I wonder if it has occurred to other people watching "The Crown" -- as it has occurred to me -- that the tailspin into which the UK was thrown by the Suez Crisis might be compared to what is happening to the US in the course of the crisis over North Korea and nuclear weapons.

(See "The Crown: What was the Suez Crisis and why did it bring down Prime Minister Anthony Eden?")

Today I am sitting down to study the chronology of developments during the past year. But even before beginning, I'm aware of similarities:

* Before the Suez Crisis, it was just assumed that it was for the UK to decide the disposition of the canal. It never occurred to anyone that that particular piece of infrastructure might be controlled . . . by Egyptians!

* Before the Suez Crisis, it was just assumed that the UK could brandish its military might, and its allies would applaud it. UK leaders didn't expect the rest of the world to say, "What gives you the right?"

* Before the Suez Crisis, UK leaders (like Anthony Eden) never thought of leaders of other countries (like Gamal Abdel Nasser) as being entitled to stand up to them. That changed . . . .

The slow-boil crisis over North Korea and nuclear weapons is changing assumptions about how the US acts, and where it stands in relation to the other nations in the world.

As of today, there are 73 House members and 13 senators calling for restrictions on the ability of the US president to unilaterally call a nuclear first strike:

Co-sponsors of  HR.669 "Restricting First Use of Nuclear Weapons Act of 2017" (introduced by Rep. Ted Lieu)

Co-sponsors of S.200 "Restricting First Use of Nuclear Weapons Act of 2017" (introduced by Sen. Ed Markey)

AND . . . the UN treaty on a global nuclear weapons ban has been signed by 56 countries and ratified by 3 already: "Signature/ratification status of the Treaty on the Prohibition of Nuclear Weapons."

So I am beginning to wonder:

* Is the issue any longer: "How will the US control North Korea?"

* Perhaps the issue has become: "How has North Korea managed to change the position of the US in the world?"

Some of my previous posts on this topic:

Who Has Been "Begging for War"?

Korea: A History of Living Under Nuclear Terror

North Korea and #NuclearBan

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