Category Archives: politics

Interview: Edward Sorel and a Grand Career in Illustration

Edward Sorel in his studio.

Edward Sorel in his studio.

Anyone interested in illustration, art, satire, or the specific art of drawing, will know something about the career of Edward Sorel. The work of Edward Sorel covers a wide spectrum resulting in a hefty portrait of the human condition, with a notable eye to speaking truth to power.

My interest in Edward Sorel runs deep. I checked out from my school’s library Sorel’s 1972 collection, “Making the World Safe for Hypocrisy.” It was 1973 and I was a sensitive and highly impressionable lad of 10 years-old. I was filling sketchbooks with portraits of Watergate personalities, both villains and heroes. I tore into that book and marveled over Sorel’s distinctive crosshatching and his lively expressive line work. I was in awe with how he brought to life various dignitaries, politicians, and movie stars. The gold standard had been set in my mind and it hasn’t changed ever since. What really wows me now goes back to my early introduction to the work of Edward Sorel.

Quotes from reviews for Mr. Sorel’s new book, “Mary Astor’s Purple Diary: The Great American Sex Scandal of 1936,” published by Liveright/W.W. Norton & Company:

“Life is so unfair. I tore up the old linoleum in a grungy apartment I rented years ago and found under it only schmutz, hardened chewing gum and a torn ticket stub to ‘Moose Murders.’ Ed Sorel tears up the old linoleum in his apartment and finds yellowing newspapers with headlines screaming about a scandal that gave him material for a terrific book. Not only does he then write a terrific book, but he illustrates it with his wonderful caricature drawings. Who would figure that Mary Astor’s life would provide such entertaining reading, but in Sorel’s colloquial, eccentric style, the tale he tells is juicy, funny, and in the end, touching.”
—Woody Allen, The New York Times Book Review (cover review)

“Rapier-sharp…With a tip of his pen to Daumier, the artist evokes the quaint, febrile glamour of Astor’s Hollywood, and his affectionate, conversational prose gives Mary and her story a kind of valiant dignity never bestowed while she lived.”
—Edward Kosner, Wall Street Journal

“Delightful, colorful, and occasionally cheeky.”
—Allison Sadlier, Entertainment Weekly

From "Mary Astor's Purple Diary" by Edward Sorel

From “Mary Astor’s Purple Diary” by Edward Sorel

Edward Sorel (born Edward Schwartz, 26 March 1929, The Bronx) has recently released a book from Liveright/W.W. Norton. The book, entitled “Mary Astor’s Purple Diary” is about his lifelong obsession with film star Mary Astor but it’s also a memoir of a sort. You may have read Woody Allen’s review of the book in The New York Times Book Review. Allen had the honor of introducing many new readers to the opening story in the book: It is 1965 and Edward Sorel, newly married and settling into new digs, is left with the task of replacing the old linoleum kitchen tile. Lo and behold, buried underneath is a stash of old newspapers chronicling the scandalous 1936 custody battle of Hollywood star Mary Astor. Well, the rest is history and this most engaging book.

I interviewed Mr. Sorel this last Wednesday, February 8th. I hope you enjoy it.

HENRY CHAMBERLAIN: Turning our attention to Mary Astor, what is intriguing about her is that she had a life where one plus one kept equaling three. Despite a series of bad choices, whether in lovers or career options, Mary Astor managed to persevere. Is that part of the appeal, that she took such an offbeat path?

EDWARD SOREL:
The appeal came when I read her memoir. She was a self-denigrating and witty writer. Very observant. Somewhat cynical about Hollywood. She had an intelligence that appealed to me. Then I started seeing her movies and I was hooked on her. Her bad decisions that you refer to have to do with having had an abused childhood, not in any physical way but in a mental and psychological way.

Her father kept her from having friends because he didn’t want her to see how Americans lived, how Americans treated their children. He wanted to be the dictator of his home. And he succeeded. She was unable to break free from him until quite late in her life. And it kind of ruined her. And God knows she made a lot of terrible mistakes in her life.

Marry Astor and John Barrymore.

Marry Astor and John Barrymore.

I was watching 1924’s “Beau Brummell” and I am intrigued by the relationship Mary Astor developed with her co-star, John Barrymore, of all people. In their case, the twenty year age difference was inappropriate. However, it was what it was. And it was through Barrymore that Mary Astor learned a lot and gained self-confidence.

He did do her a lot of good but not for any altruistic reasons. He was out to nail her. He was on his way to Hollywood on the 20th Century Express. He had just completed the most successful run of “Hamlet” that America had seen. He was acclaimed as America’s greatest actor. He was on his way to the coast to make “Beau Brummell” for Warner Bros. because they were paying him a lot of money. And he picks up a magazine that has a photograph of Mary Astor about the age of 16 and under the photograph it said, “On the Verge of Womanhood.” Barrymore had a particular liking for virgins.

As I pointed out in the book, it was Barrymore who had his way with Evelyn Nesbitt, who later married Harry Kendall Thaw. And it was Thaw who shot Stanford White, America’s great architect, because he thought Stanford White had taken his wife’s virginity–when, in fact, it was Barrymore. That is a sidebar I’m proud of since I pieced together that bit of information.

According to Mary Astor, Barrymore really believed that he was going to marry her. And maybe he did plan to. But when Mary would not break free from her parents, after Barrymore offered her starring roles, because her father forbade it, Barrymore realized that she was just a child. She was completely under the sway of her father. Marrying a woman twenty years younger was one thing but marrying a child was something else. He broke her heart by calling it off.

I think it’s a cartoonist thing, as I’m a cartoonist, that we keep seeking out the offbeat. So, in the spirit of that I throw out a curveball, and ask you about your changing your last name to Sorel. You are referring to Stendhal’s “The Red and the Black.” I loved that book and the main character, Julian Sorel. Is there something interesting going on there with that connection?

I liked to think that I saw myself in Julian Sorel because he was like catnip to women, which I really wasn’t, and he hated the corrupt society of his time, as I hated mine. The first election that I voted in was the one between Eisenhower and Stevenson. I took a dim view of both of them and voted for a third party.

The other thing about Julian Sorel was that he hated his father. God, I certainly hated mine, not only because he tried to discourage me in wanting to be an artist but because he was a mean-spirited ignorant man not kind to my mother, not kind to anyone. And I didn’t want anything to do with him. I was going to be a cartoonist and I didn’t want to sign my name, Schwartz, in the right-hand corner. And I chose the name, Sorel, because of the novel. It seemed as good a name as any.

"Stagecoach." 1980 illustration for Esquire magazine.

“Stagecoach.” 1980 illustration for Esquire magazine.

I think back to myself as a boy wondering about how you created your work. You’ve spoken about “finding lines.” Could you share a little bit about that?

When you work commercially, and you’re taking assignments, you have to show the art director what you plan to do. So, you do sketches of the drawing you plan to do. And, after a while, I began to notice that my sketches had more vitality and life than my finishes did. My finishes were often dead and overworked. And so I tried to emulate the quality that I had in my sketches which meant doing it without tracing. In point of fact, that’s impossible to do if you’re doing very complicated scenes. You can work direct if you’re doing a face, a figure, a still life, or anything relatively simple. You can work direct without tracing and the work has a vitality to it. But when you’re doing complicated scenes, with many different elements, you really do have to know where you’re going. So, I found out that if I just had a light outline of where I wanted the elements to be, and didn’t trace, I could keep this sketchy quality that I think gave my art work some distinction.

"The Goodwood Races," 1939, by Feliks Topolski (1907-1989).

“The Goodwood Races,” 1939, by Feliks Topolski (1907-1989).

That quality of your art has influenced so many artists, whether they realize it or not. And, certainly, there have been other artists who have used an “expressive line.” You have talked about some of your favorites, like Feliks Topolski. There’s a certain sensibility that you both share.

Yes, well, he wasn’t trying to be funny like I always have. But his work has spontaneity, which I value in every artist. Wether its Bemelmans or Topolski. What shocks me now is to find so many artists who enjoy doing art work with a computer. I’ve seen some very nice computer art. You can get that nice flat color and can do all sorts of tricks that you can’t do by hand. But, to me, it doesn’t seem like fun. It seems like working on a machine. I just love the act of drawing. I’m a throwback. Most of the illustrations that you see today in magazines, and God knows you don’t see too many, are computer-generated in some form or another.

One compromise is for the artist to draw some of the illustration by hand, scan it, and do the rest on a computer.

It doesn’t seem fun to me but it must seem fun for them. I don’t cast aspersions on their way of doing it.

I think it boils down to being a time-saver. And, once a routine has set in, that’s the way it’s done and that’s it.

The other thing about computer art is that there’s nothing original, nothing to hang on the wall. You could have a show but it would only be prints. To each his own.

"Pass the Lord and Praise the Ammunition," 1967, by Edward Sorel

“Pass the Lord and Praise the Ammunition,” 1967, by Edward Sorel

I wanted to touch on one of the all-time classics, your 1967 anti-war illustration, “Pass the Lord and Praise the Ammunition.” The real life punchline there is that you were all set to roll out a poster when the focal point of the piece, Cardinal Spellman, passed away rendering your satire unsellable. Now, there’s some divine intervention.

The day it came off the press is the day he died. It never sold in any store in America. It is in a museum in Amsterdam. One store in Chicago tried to sell it and had its window broken. Apparently, Cardinal Spellman had some fans in Chicago. That was a bad break. You get some bad breaks and you get some good ones. I was the recipient of Woody Allen’s praise on the front page of The New York Times Book Review. That was the best break I ever had.

From "Edward Sorel: Nice Work If You Can Get It," 2011, by Leo Sorel.

From “Edward Sorel: Nice Work If You Can Get It,” 2011, by Leo Sorel.

I encourage everyone to check out the short film on you that your son, Leo, did. That is quite informative and a treat. It shows you in your studio. And then the Q&A afterward with illustrator James McMullan is very impressive. Towards the end of that, you talk about the pen you favor, a Speedball B6. I’ve always had a devil of a time with steel point dip pens. But the Speedballs I could manage. And then you flip it backwards to get the crosshatching.

Yes! That was my secret. The Speedball does move and it allows you to be kind of spastic over a piece of paper.

"Nixon and Mao," 2007, The New Yorker.

“Nixon and Mao,” 2007, The New Yorker.

I wanted to ask you about Donald Trump. There was that drawing of him as Medusa you did last year. The big news at the moment is all about Mitch McConnell silencing Elizabeth Warren. I could see that as perhaps triggering an Edward Sorel drawing.

I can’t cope with Donald Trump. I haven’t done political cartooning in a number of years. I can’t deal with him. With all other presidents, you could make fun of their hypocrisy and have fun with them. But Mr. Trump is kind of crazy. And he’s dangerous. He’s cruel. Making fun of him doesn’t seem what’s called for. It’s trivializing him. He shouldn’t be trivialized. He’s really a danger. People are really scared. They wake up with Donald Trump on their mind and they go to bed with him on their mind. He’s a heavy presence in our lives now. I don’t know how to deal with that.

You can’t call him the new Nixon. At least with Nixon, there was a mind at work. It’s being very generous, but there was some sense of integrity compared to Trump. Nixon you could call a president. But, with Trump, he’s president only by title.

He seems unhinged. I think it was Bernie Sanders who called him unhinged. He seems too crazy to be in that office. I don’t know what else to say about him.

Donald Trump illustration, 2016, for Vanity Fair.

Donald Trump illustration, 2016, for Vanity Fair.

Especially living it right now. It is stomach-turning. I won’t talk about him anymore. But I do need to mention Melissa McCarthy’s impersonation of Sean Spicer. Have you seen that?

No, tell me about it. I’ve been trying to avoid the news lately.

Well, Melissa McCarthy is a comic genius and she was on Saturday Night Live last weekend. She did a spot on impersonation of Sean Spicer, had the look and mannerisms down.

Oh, wait, I did see that! A friend sent that to me.

I think that has the power of a political cartoon and then some. It captivated everyone. It was an emotional release for everyone to see that.

Yes, I’m sure it was. It was very funny.

It seems to me that every artist needs a hero, someone to play off of. I see your book, weaving your life with Mary’s, as following the artist’s struggle. I think of how Mary evolved. I think of how Mary and Bette Davis were able to rewrite “The Great Lie,” turning that around into a notable film.

She did become a very fine actress. But she also became a little bit like her father, terribly obsessed with money. She twice turned down contracts for starring roles since she believed supporting roles would provide a longer career. She did indeed have a long career. She was in over 100 movies. And she was going strong until about 1959. She didn’t take chances. Maybe she didn’t believe she was a good enough actress. She missed having a chance at great roles and great performances. That was too bad.

My obsession with her has to do with my thinking I wasn’t a great artist because I didn’t have an obsession. So, I was very grateful when people called my interest in Mary Astor an obsession. Yes, it was an obsession and I do think it helped produce my best work.

"Mary Astor's Purple Diary: The Great American Sex Scandal of 1936" by Edward Sorel

“Mary Astor’s Purple Diary: The Great American Sex Scandal of 1936” by Edward Sorel

Can you tell us about your connection with Boston University?

I was very lucky to have Boston University buy my entire work, my oeuvre, as we say. In March, they’re having a retrospective of all my work and, as a matter of fact, I’m still packing up things to send there.

The Howard Gottlieb Center at Boston University has one of the finest collections from all walks of life. They have the second largest Martin Luther King collection. They have many of America’s great writers. They have Fred Astaire and Ginger Rogers. They have most of the actors and actresses from the golden age of Hollywood. I’m very delighted to be part of this collection.

Mural by Edward Sorel at The Waverly Inn, completed in 2007. From left to right: Eddie Condon, Donald Barthelme, Willa Cather, Gertrude Vanderbilt Whitney, Jane Jacobs, John Sloan, and Andy Warhol.

Mural by Edward Sorel at The Waverly Inn, completed in 2007. From left to right: Eddie Condon, Donald Barthelme, Willa Cather, Gertrude Vanderbilt Whitney, Jane Jacobs, John Sloan, and Andy Warhol.

I heard a siren in the background. It brings back my visits to New York. You are a lifelong New Yorker and I know how much you love New York. Could you share some of your thoughts on the city?

I do love New York. I don’t love the crowds anymore. I do worry. When you live in a city like New York, you do begin to see a kind of science fiction future: crowds everywhere, lines everywhere. New York is kind of becoming that. They keep building these enormous skyscrapers without thinking about how the city will accommodate it. They’re not building out, like they did in Los Angeles. They’re building up. It used to be that the only crowds were in midtown but now crowds are all over. And you find yourself walking in the gutter because there’s too many people on the sidewalk.

So, yeah, I love New York. The New York that I grew up with, where the museums were free and everyone went to public school, seems to have vanished. Everything is expensive now, including the museums. It’s very difficult for young people. When The New York Times that I used to buy for three cents is now $2.50, The New Yorker which I used to buy for ten cents, is now something like $7, it’s bizarre. And, of course, the wages that young people get are pitiful. So, yeah, I love New York but I don’t like the time particularly.

Is there anything else that you’d like to add?

I can tell you about my next book. It’s going to be similar in structure to the Mary Astor book. It’s going to be a memoir. It will be about my growing up in New York. And it will be about the thirteen presidents that I’ve lived through.

My point is that every one of these presidents, whether I liked them or not, committed illegal acts, overthrew governments illegally, and did unconstitutional things. Starting with Dwight D. Eisenhower, who became enamored with Billy Graham. It was through those machinations that they put “In God We Trust” on our currency and inserted “Under God” in our oath of allegiance. Somehow, I regard that point in history as the slope we’ve been sliding ever since.

Now, it’s done so garishly with someone like Trump.

Right. Trump, the great Christian, who apparently was much loved by the Bible Belt. I don’t think there’s anything more derogatory I can say about organized religion than that they were responsible for the election of Donald Trump.

Is part of the new book you’re working on sitting on your drawing board?

Not yet. A little bit is sitting on the computer. Nothing has been drawn yet.

I wish you well on that. It’s been exciting and quite a treat to get a chance to talk with you for a bit.

You’re very kind. Thank you so much.

You can listen to the interview right here.

“Mary Astor’s Purple Diary: The Great American Sex Scandal of 1936” is a 176-page hardcover, with full-color illustrations, published by W.W. Norton & Company. For more details, visit W.W. Norton & Company right here.

Advertisements

4 Comments

Filed under Art, Cartooning, Cartoonists, Donald Trump, Edward Sorel, Illustration, Interviews, New York City, Political Cartoons, politics, Richard Nixon

Resist Trump: The Trump Era is Unleashed

RESIST TRUMP! Illustration by Henry Chamberlain.

RESIST TRUMP! Illustration by Henry Chamberlain.

As the Trump era unfolds, the opposition unfolds too. From USUncut:

Some of these numbers are subject to change, but the historically massive scale of this protest can not be denied. The protests in Washington D.C., Chicago, Los Angeles, and New York City alone totals over 2 million people. Over 670 marches took place worldwide, with thousands of people also taking part in demonstrations in Tokyo, Dublin, Capetown, Paris, Vienna, and Yangon, to name a few.

For up-to-date estimates, independently calculated by USUncut and resistant house District 13, you can click here.

Nathan Wellman is a Los Angeles-based journalist, author, and playwright. Follow him on Twitter: @LightningWOW

5 Comments

Filed under Donald Trump, Editorial Cartoons, news, Political Cartoons, politics, Protest, Resist Trump, USUncut

Open Letter to Those Protesting the 2016 Presidential Election: Seek Out Your Electors! And Go to Change.org

donald-trump-2016-electoral-college

There is one way out of Trump Nation and that involves galvanizing the individuals chosen to be electors to vote their conscience. Everyone who wants to make a difference, go out and protest and focus on one key message: “Electors, Do The Right Thing. Vote for Hillary Clinton.” Will that work? Hell, yes! That’s working with what you’ve got, within the system. In the United States, we have an electoral college system created by the Founding Fathers of this country. The idea is to assure equal representation between all states.

However, it is possible within this system to end up with one candidate receiving the popular vote while the other candidate ends up receiving the higher number in electoral votes. Here’s where it gets very interesting: according to the Constitution, chosen electors of the Electoral College are the real people who will vote for president, when they meet on December 19 in their respective state capitals. And you can reach out to them now and ask them to vote for Hillary Clinton. The message can be general as well as specific to each elector. Seek them out. Follow these steps right here.

Tell your electors, your fellow Americans who will cast the final vote on Dec. 19th, to vote their conscience.

Take it the streets, take it to social media, tell your electors, your fellow Americans who will cast the final vote on Dec. 19th, to vote their conscience. That’s the only route that could prevent Trump Nation. If only the Founding Fathers were here, I am sure they’d agree. It is the only way to turn it around given that Hillary Clinton won the popular vote by 200,000.

EDITOR’S NOTE: As of November 19th, according to new figures released by The Associated Press, Clinton received more than 1.5 million votes than her Republican rival. Clinton received 63,390,669 votes, while Trump received 61,820,845 votes — a difference of 1,569,824, according to The AP. Rounded off to whole numbers, that translates to 48 percent vs. 47 percent.

It’s worth a try, isn’t it? If ever there was a time to break the glass and go for the emergency hatchet, this is it. The Founding Fathers would give that a thumbs up. Trump is a product of the media. So, go out and spread the word to the media. Tell the talk show hosts. Tell anyone who will listen. That’s the best thing I can think to do right now.

For more information, visit change.org. You can sign a petition that will go directly to the Electoral College Electors. Just visit change.org right here.

3 Comments

Filed under American History, Commentary, Donald Trump, Election 2016, Hillary Clinton, politics

Comix Scene: Seattle Cyclists

Cyclists in Seattle are in a highly awkward position.

Cyclists in Seattle are in a highly awkward position.

Seattle would like to be considered a first-rate bicycle-friendly city. Unfortunately, it’s just not up there with Copenhagen or Amsterdam. Not even close. We locals are facing a lot of problems. There’s a huge push to get cyclists on the roads despite intolerant car drivers. We have a poor infrastructure for cars let alone bicycles. We have the City of Seattle with ill-conceived solutions including confusing and impractical bike lanes. We have a city official, Scott Kubly, who used his influence to have the City of Seattle buy a failing bike-sharing system, Pronto Bikes. Cyclists in Seattle are in a highly awkward position. They are risking their own lives to pursue their cycling passion in a city ill-equipped to accommodate them. And, given what they go through, they feel entitled: they push right on through, jump onto sidewalks when they feel a need, and make life for pedestrians just a bit more stressful and even dangerous. I have many fond memories of riding a bicycle. I have fond memories of once driving a car in Seattle–not anymore. Seattle has a long way to go before it can call itself a cyclist paradise.

7 Comments

Filed under Cities, City Living, Comics, Comix Scene, Editorial Cartoons, Henry Chamberlain, Political Cartoons, politics, Seattle, Urbanization

Review: TRUMP by Ted Rall

Ted Rall Donald Trump

TRUMP is an informative guide on Donald Trump presented in a comics format by Ted Rall, published by Seven Stories Press. It is not a satire, nor is it a bombastic attack on Mr. Trump. In fact, if you were only to read a brief passage here or there, you might even warm up a bit to the human being that is Donald J. Trump. Yes, of course, this is a human being we’re talking about. To his credit, Trump has provided quite a reality check to what has usually been a rather rote and bloodless presidential campaign process. Well, the powers that be would much prefer it to work that way. But there’s always room for some sort of change. The last hopeful sign of it was the rise of Barack Obama. This time around, some would have you believe that the winds of change are for Trump. With Ted Rall’s compact and concise guide, you might pick up on a number of facts that have gotten lost in the whirlwind.

When one sings a high note, it is essential to leave room for the climb up. And so it is with Rall’s rendition of events. Rall has had a glorious career in comics leaning hard left or involving highly-charged pieces railing against the status quo. But, through it all, I believe Ted Rall has always had something interesting to say. I’ve had the pleasure to review two of his recent books, also with Seven Stories Press: a bio of Edward Snowden; and a bio on Bernie Sanders. SNOWDEN paved the way for some of Rall’s best work. The format of crisp chapters that hit the main points to each topic leads to greater clarity and seems to foster a well-balanced approach.

Trump, a pacifist? Not so much.

Trump, a pacifist? Not so much.

Of course, Rall wouldn’t be Rall without some provocation. In the case of TRUMP, Rall is playing fair where he can. Sure, Trump has proven to be a good guy in regards to his own family. Yes, Trump has made the establishment cringe in much needed ways. Who else but Trump would dare to so pointedly criticize the U.S. invasion of Iraq? Well, no Republican dared to cross the Bush dynasty in the way Trump did. Like it or not, that rebuke of the war in Iraq was nothing less than brilliant. However, Rall, while giving Trump some credit, is also building a case that a Trump administration would be fascist. In fact, Rall brings up a comparison to Hitler a number of times.

What makes Rall’s argument work is that he thoughtfully and logically presents the facts. Ironically, as it were, Rall does agree with Trump that America, overall, has been in decline these last forty years or so. But Trump is only exploiting a vulnerability. He heavily relies on his charisma and empty slogans. He blames races of people for America’s problems. And, while he was against the war in Iraq, he shows no qualms about “bombing the hell out of ISIS.” Rall refers back to, Robert Paxton, a history professor he studied under at Columbia. Paxton wrote the definitive, “The Anatomy of Fascism.” Of Trump, Paxton says, “He’s very spontaneous. He has a genius for sensing the mood of a crowd and I think to some degree Hitler and Mussolini had those qualities also. I do not think he’s learned this from a book.”

When the U.S. government could have saved Main Street, it sided instead with Wall Street.

When the U.S. government could have saved Main Street, it sided instead with Wall Street.

Or is it possible that much, if not all, of what Trump has said and promised on the campaign trail is a bunch of blustery hooey? Rall’s book came out in time to tap into the recurring theme about Trump supporters: They are willing to overlook his offensive statements and take it with a grain of salt. The overriding goal for them is change. Let Trump be Trump and let him give an upturned middle finger to the political elite. It’s a fairly sophisticated stance coming from what most of the media is willing to dismiss as a steaming pile of racist buffoons.

Trump has been Professor Harold Hill to America’s vulnerable River City. Like that masterful Pied Piper, Trump has ingratiated himself with a larger-than-life persona only to come up woefully short on any of his outrageous promises. Trump has inspired Ted Rall to write this book about him and make a case for him being a fascist! But, alas, Trump may prove to be the most empty suit of them all.

TRUMP is a 192-page trade paperback in full color. For more details, visit Seven Stories Press right here.

6 Comments

Filed under Barack Obama, Comics, Donald Trump, Great Recession, Hillary Clinton, Political Cartoons, politics, Seven Stories Press

Looking Beyond the Nixon Mask

Nixon and Trump masks from PureCostumes.com

Nixon and Trump masks from PureCostumes.com

I went to a costume party just the other night. This ain’t my first rodeo. I wore my first Nixon mask when I was sixteen. I loved how weird and recognizable it was, just like the real Nixon. I was a political junkie way back then. Nixon was already out of office and I just knew from my political Spidey sense that this mask was here to stay. It followed me around quite a bit in my youth from one party to the next. I didn’t take it to every party (I’m no Nixon fanatic!) but, if you wanted a cheap laugh, there it was. Better than a guerrilla mask, although that’s a cool choice too.

I maintain that Nixon will always be the one. Still, I wanted to see what I might have been missing out on. After some careful study, I kept finding creative and unexpected options at PureCostumes.com. Look around for yourself and you will find something for any age and any occasion. You never know, maybe a Sixties theme would be perfect. You can have someone at your party with a Nixon mask but you can also have hippie costumes too.

Go Go Girl and Hippie costumes from PureCostumes.com

Go Go Girl and Hippie costumes from PureCostumes.com

This is my most infamous Nixon mask experience–and then I’ll share with you what I recently did. This was some years ago. I was dating this girl who, early in our budding relationship, invited me to an office party. She worked at a prestigious law firm and they were having their annual winter holiday gathering. It wasn’t a costume party by any stretch of the imagination but I was still pushing limits and decided to try out some subversive humor. Right in the middle of a rather quite and staid event, I whipped out my Nixon mask. I put it on and did a quick skit. Looking back on it, I think it was only meant for an audience of two, maybe three people, but I may as well have been performing for everyone there as it seems all eyes and ears turned to me rather suddenly. People laughed. There were some cheers. I ended by raising both arms with the double peace sign salute.

Now, just the other night, we had a neighborhood block party. I had gotten to thinking it might be fun to wear a mask and do some comedy. Why not, right? But it wouldn’t be Nixon this time. Besides, the old Nixon mask I used to cherish was long gone. So, that’s what got me rethinking the whole mask and costume thing. I gave it some thought and I concluded that a Trump mask was in order. I got one from PureCostumes.com and it brought back memories from my ole Nixon years. It was fun and easy to get into character. And it all ended very well. The important thing in these situations is to remember that you’re wearing the mask and the mask in not wearing you. We all got our Trump fix and it is stored away for now until next time.

Wizard and Violet costumes from PureCostumes.com

Wizard and Violet costumes from PureCostumes.com

Maybe you want to be a wizard. Maybe your kid wants to be Violet from The Incredibles. Well, you see where I’m going with this. My eyes have been opened. I have many options and I can find them at PureCostumes.com. There are numerous reasons for masks and costumes, right? Who knows, you may find yourself starting a whole new tradition with a Trump or Hillary mask. You just never know.

2 Comments

Filed under 1960s, Cosplay, Costumes, Donald Trump, politics, Purecostumes.com, Satire

Review: BERNIE by Ted Rall

Bernie Sanders Ted Rall 2016

“Bernie,” the new graphic biography by Ted Rall, published by Seven Stories Press, is a brilliant portrait of the celebrated iconoclast. Following up on his graphic biography of Edward Snowden, Ted Rall has found a kindred spirit in Bernie Sanders. Something broke in the American political system at the end of the Sixties and we have been grappling with that ever since: the demise of liberal activism and the ascent of corporate influence. We see that debate raging in this year’s presidential campaign. Hillary Clinton represents the centrist Democrat; Bernie Sanders represents a way back to progressive values. Rall not only makes a case for Sanders but, in the process, shows us how far afield the American political system has gone and why it is vital to regain balance.

Bernie Sanders Rall 2016

Ted Rall and Bernie Sanders both do not mince words and get to the point: the American middle class is being shrunken out of existence. The American political system is out of whack. Billionaires rule. The common man is left out in the cold. So, where do we go from here? Whatever your political affiliation, it is hard to make a case for the established way of doing things. Rall begins by looking back at how we got where we are. Rall points to the death of American mainstream liberalism with the stunning and utter defeat of Democrat George McGovern to Republican Richard Nixon in 1972. From that point forward, Democrats made a decided turn to the center right. Not only did Democrats abandon pursuit of social programs and saving the environment, they found themselves scrambling to hold onto past accomplishments. In the meantime, the right-wing of the Republican party became toxic.

Bernie Seven Stories Press

In the spirit of America’s robust liberal history, there emerges a voice that finds many ears, Bernie Sanders. Rall makes the case that with the Great Recession, Bernie Sanders and his vision, is more relevant than ever. Rall’s simple drawing style is quite effective in keeping to a steady pace. As always, he cuts to the chase and provides numerous examples to make his point. Rall speaks eloquently to anything an Occupy Wall Street protestor might want to share with the public.

In the end, as divisive and distracting as politics is, there are some humbling facts to consider. Does anyone really want to see their government in the hip pocket of big business and needlessly avoiding investing in its citizens and infrastructure?

Sanders Teddy Roosevelt

Rall makes a strong case for a Bernie Sanders candidacy and what it means. Even if establishment Democrats are resistant, Sanders is paving the way for a return to progressive values. Sanders isn’t planning to change the Democratic Party but his involvement now, in 2016, is the start of a new wave of involvement. Whatever the outcome, the rise of Bernie Sanders is significant.

“Bernie” is a 205-page paperback available now. For more details, visit our friends at Seven Stories Press right here.

7 Comments

Filed under Bernie Sanders, Comics, Graphic Novel Reviews, graphic novels, Hillary Clinton, politics, Seven Stories Press

An Interview with Donald J. Trump

Donald-Trump

Donald Trump has been in the news a lot, don’t you think? But why? Such an obvious question and yet it seems like there’s no clear answer. Well, I had the opportunity to interview Donald Trump and ask him those sort of questions and a whole lot more. In the interview, Mr. Trump seems candid. He is certainly confident. I hope you enjoy this fictitious, and oddly insightful, interview:

Henry Chamberlain: Thank you for doing this interview, Mr. Trump.

Donald Trump: Glad to be here.

HC: I wanted to start with an observation I made some years back. It was on an episode of “The Apprentice.” I remember that you fired a team leader over the name of the brand he chose to use. He went with a name that began with a lower case letter like, or example, he used “munchies,” instead of beginning with an upper case letter, like “Munchies.” You said you couldn’t work with someone who would make such a huge mistake. But it wasn’t a mistake. It was a style choice. You insisted that it was a flat out mistake and that you’d never seen such a style choice made before.

DT: Do we use a lower case letter to begin the word, America? I rest my case.

HC: I have friends who support you.

DT: Of course you do!

HC: I don’t question their integrity or anything like that. What I think has happened is that it’s so easy to get caught up in the hoopla of your campaign.

DT: Look, we’re going to be doing great things, really fantastic stuff.

HC: I liked the interview you did with Jimmy Kimmel.

DT: I like Kimmel.

HC: At least, he was able to bring up the fact that the character of Biff in “Back to the Future” is supposed to be based on you.

DT: Sounds like fun.

HC: I think the problem is that the media does not want to be too hard on you in fear of tearing down such valuable entertainment content. At the end of the day, you’re an entertainment goldmine.

DT: Listen, it’s going to take a gold standard in leadership to get us out of this mess we’re in.

HC: Every time it looks like you’ve stepped on a political landmine, you survive. If the media wanted to focus on your outrageous statements alone, they could. But they keep moving on. Just the one statement you made about viewing thousands of Muslims celebrating on September 11, 2001 would be enough to end the career of most politicians. Just the video of you mocking the disability of a New York Times reporter which you don’t like would be enough to end the career of most politicians.

DT: Look, what this country needs is less of your typical politician. Remember, I am not a politician. I am beholden to no one. When you get me, you get one hundred percent me.

HC: It’s interesting how your outrageous proposals, by default of the media’s inaction, are given credibility. It’s like out of a bad movie to propose a wall along the Mexican border. It’s like out of a bad movie to propose to keep Muslims out of the country.

DT: Listen, these are extraordinary times that demand extraordinary vision.

HC: When do you think your campaign will come to an end?

DT: I’m sorry, I don’t follow.

HC: When will you have had enough fun with this?

DT: Believe me, I’m having a lot of fun. People are having a lot of fun, feeling good about America. I’ve only just begun.

HC: Do you really believe you’ll go head to head with Hillary Clinton?

DT: Please, such a low energy person and with a whole lot of other problems, if you know what I’m saying.

HC: Is there a place for Jeb Bush in a Trump administration?

DT: Ah, a little joke. I appreciate that. Well, you know, I think he’s proven it’s time for him to retire.

HC: Will Trump Force One replace Air Force One?

DT: We’re looking into that.

HC: Thank you for your time, Mr. Trump.

DT: Glad to do it.

17 Comments

Filed under Donald Trump, Humor, Interviews, Jimmy Kimmel, politics, Satire

DVD Review: EVERGREEN: THE ROAD TO LEGALIZATION

Evergreen-The-Road-to-Legalization

“A compelling, provocative and enlightening glimpse into the complex and sometimes contrary world of cannabis legalization in the United States. All of the controversy, infighting and emotion that is inherent in democracy is included in this fast moving example of what it takes to exact reform under the iron fist of pot prohibition. Any serious reformer, cannabis enthusiast or student of history will want to take the time to view this historic time capsule of a film.” – Vivian McPeak, Seattle Hempfest

Seattle’s annual Hempfest is this weekend, August 14 thru 16. It’s an exciting time for Hempfest as history continues to be made on the road to one day fully bringing to an end the prohibition of cannabis in the United States. With that in mind, there’s a great documentary on the initiative that made recreational marijuana legal in Washington state.

EVERGREEN: THE ROAD TO LEGALIZATION is an essential documentary on the tangled road to legalized recreational marijuana in Washington state. We follow the key players and get an in depth look at the campaign for, and against, Washington Initiative 502 (I-502) “on marijuana reform,” an initiative to the Washington State Legislature, which appeared on the November 2012 general ballot.

Keep in mind that medical marijuana is a different issue. There are 23 states in the U.S. that have legalized it starting with California in 1996. Washington state legalized it in 1998. The distinction is all the more significant given that the push to legalize recreational marijuana would end up threatening the position of medical marijuana. This is where the conflict arises among folks who would seem to be on the same side. A great focus for the opposition to I-502 was its nearly zero tolerance provision regarding driving under the influence of marijuana. This placed medical marijuana users in a no-win situation no matter how well they might argue against it.

This is a lesson in politics as much as marijuana. In order to make this initiative palatable to the average voter, the creators of I-502 believed that sacrifices and compromises had to be offered up. What the documentary makes clear in various segments is that the I-502 machine was geared to be the best possible chance to pass reform. This means victories by increments. And it also means making a case that will appeal to the widest audience.

Now with the stage set, there are three main figures that keep this political drama interestng. On the I-502 side, we have two charismatic leaders: Alison Holcomb who represents the legal work behind crafting the intiative; and Rick Steves who helps the campaign by taking from his capital as a well-known travel expert and allows himself to be the face of I-502. If the opposition had a face, it was definitely that of John McKay, a longtime advocate of medical marijuana.

We find Mckay is a somewhat disagreeable personality but consistent and quite reasonable. What he has is an authentic connection to the subject. Both Holcomb and Steves make no bones about not being cannabis users. Only in a documentary like this do you have the luxury of being able to scrutinize that disconnect. In one segment, we see Steves playing to a conservative crowd in Eastern Washington. He caters to their prejudices by saying in a mocking way, “Hey, if I want to hit my bong and stare at the fireplace for the next three hours, that’s my right.” This gets hearty applause. The damage continues to be done in regards to any real education on marijuana. However, a number of vital votes may have been won that night.

We see Holcomb in another segment in a similar mocking way suggesting she should create a marijuana leaf design on the top of her latte. If she knew anything about marijuana, she would have been able to speak to marijuana’s sativa strain being a great alternative to caffeine. No, instead, the lattes she regularly consumes are quad shots with considerably jittery results as opposed to the clean and non-jittery high of cannabis.

And so it goes, we find that the I-502 supporters are not there to fully embrace weed. But that is, oddly enough, perhaps all for the best to get things done. The motivation for change is simple and compelling: the tragic number of people in jail for simply possessing small amounts of marijuana. And these numbers are significantly African-American. I-502 would prove to be a less than perfect solution. But, after it won voter approval, it immediately helped in changing how we make criminals, and ruin the lives, of many people. Prior to the effective date for the new referendum, 220 marijuana cases were dismissed in King and Pierce counties. No one can argue with that kind of progress. However, the imperfections and compromises of I-502 will lead to the end of medical marijuana dispensaries by 2016. Not a small price to pay for the sake of progress.

How do you stand on the issue of marijuana? This documentary will help in getting a better sense of the legal fight still ahead. For now, we can take some solace on progress being made. I will provide you with coverage of this year’s Seattle Hempfest. So, come back for that and a whole lot more. After viewing this documentary, it adds to the enthusiasm to witness and be part of the social change all around us here in Seattle.

EVERGREEN: THE ROAD TO LEGALIZATION is available now on DVD with plenty of bonus material including a resource guide for helping support the fight for marijuana’s legitimacy. Go to the official website right here.

1 Comment

Filed under Cannabis, Marijuana, politics, pop culture, Seattle, Seattle Hempfest

Comic-Con 2014: A Celebration of Walt Kelly and POGO

Pogo-Walt-Kelly-Comic-Con-Panel-2014

The pure magic of Walt Kelly’s “Pogo” comic strip defies easy description. It appeared in newspapers around the country and galvanized thought among the thoughtful. His strange and beautiful comic strip was, in its day, “Doonesbury,” “The Simpsons,” and “The Jon Stewart Show” all rolled into one, times ten. Its satirical bite was so effective that newspapers would opt for either the innocent joke version or go for the political version of the comic strip. Has Walt Kelly been relegated to the margins? That is where many an odd genius will dwell only to be rediscovered. Thanks to Fantagraphics Books, the Pogo comic strips are getting their due.

Continue reading

Leave a comment

Filed under Comic-Con, Comic-Con 2014, Comics, Pogo, Political Cartoons, politics, Walt Kelly