Why the Republic Convention reminded me of the Hunger Games

The-Hunger-GamesThe Republican primary season wrapped up last week with Donald Trump crowned the Republican nominee  for President in Cleveland.  Over the course of the last year, the American public has watched the 16  Republican presidential candidates drop to 1. After listening to a week of gloom and doom about the state of America presented by speakers at the Republican convention, I am reminded of the authoritarian spectacle presented in the first Hunger Games movie.

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Trump accepting Republican nomination.
For those of you who haven’t seen the first Hunger Games (2012).  The movie is set in a futurist society, the  Capital of Panem. The leadership keeps the peace by annually hosting the Hunger Games.  Participants in the games, called Tributes, are a randomly selected  boy and girl from each of 12 districts.  The Tributes fight to the death until only one remains in a nationally televised event called the Hunger Games.  The Games are kicked off with much fanfare, drawing the viewer in by being both terrifying  and fascinating in the leadership’s total lack of humanity.  The battle to the last person standing takes place within a televised  bubble in which new barriers for contestants emerge on a regular basis, reports of the progress and trials of the teens is routinely  broadcast throughout the nation.  A solitary cannon boom notifies the nation as each child is killed by another.

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President Snow, presides over the Panem and the Hunger Games with an iron fist.
This event is presided over by President Coriolanus Snow, the ruthless, tyrannical and primary antagonist. He is a cruel and manipulative dictator who has no qualms about using force to maintain discipline.   The Games are intended to give citizens a little bit of hope by allowing the victor to live but not so much hope that citizens revolt.

You may ask what is the similarly between this dark movie franchise and the Republican primary season?  The Republican primaries proved to be a hard test not only for the candidates but for the Republican Party. The divisions created during the primaries have recently been discounted by National Republican  Party Chairman Reince Priebus . But the fracture lines are still there.  Many prominent Republican chose to stay away from the convention. Senator Cruz’s caution to the convention goers of “vote your conscience” resulted in boos, personal rejection by  mega-funders and media assessment of the fall-out of Cruz’s speech possibly  ruining his political career.

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Senator Cruz is booed for telling Republicans to “vote their conscience”.
In between the opening of the convention and the Cruz political theater, Melania Trump became involved in a plagiarism controversy.  Her eloquent speech lauded for it’s sincerity upon close review was remarkably similar to Michelle Obama’s speech in 2008.  While imitation is the greatest form of flattery, I am sure the attendees at the convention would not have liked to have Michelle Obama be their  guiding light. Mrs.Trump’s speech became the major media story for at least 24 hours. Finally, the story was put to rest when a loyal Trump employee, Meredith McIver, was offered up as the responsible person for the mistake. This tempest in a tea pot is still not over.  A major Democratic super pack, the Democratic Coalition against Trump has filed a complaint with the Federal Election Commission charging Trump broke the law by using his personal corporation to help with the campaign.

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The best parts of Mrs. Trump’s speech were from Mrs. Obama 2008.
On the final night of the convention, Ivanka Trump presented a winning view of her father.

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Ivanka Trump presenting a positive image of her father at the convention.

She described Trump as a family man committed to gender equally; evaluating workers results rather than positions, degrees, gender, ethnicity or color;  understanding the need to make child care affordable and accessible for working women (a position ardently opposed by Idaho Republicans  and probably nationally) and committed to making America great again by focusing on results and talent rather than degrees and bureaucracy.  Though I strongly disagree with her dad on many of his political positions, I found Ivanka’s  portrait of her father quite compelling.  To put my faith in Ivanka’s  Trump, I have to forget that this is the man who described women during his highly publicized career as fat, pigs, dogs, slobs, disgusting and when asked about these characterizations by Fox News Megyn Kelly described her as “a bimbo”.  Angry about Kelly’s tough questions during the debate, Trump took to twitter saying, “You could see there was blood coming out of her eyes. Blood coming out of her wherever. ” (August 7, 2015).  These are not comments of a man who understands and respects professional women.

Like the Hunger Games, the entire Republican primary season has been hosted under the magnifying lens created by  the intense and constant attention of national media.  There is no escape either for the willing participants (the candidates) or Americans.  Every sound bite, twitter, picture, comment is captured and reflected out to the world to see.  We know who was fired and why, who said what and when. Similar to the Hunger Games, the media keeps score of each day. During the convention, the Washington Post ran a daily analysis of the winners and losers.  This constant attention to ever minor and major detail has moved campaigns from a civil discussion of legitimate policy differences to the rancor  of realty TV where every day people shout that the opposition should be shot or sent to jail.  Conveners at the Republican convention ganged up on each other  and on those of us with different beliefs outside the convention as if having a difference of an opinion makes one an enemy rather than an neighbor who pays the same taxes, sends their children to the same schools, drives on the same highways  or sits in the same pew  at church.

After listening to the Republican presentations at their  convention, one would think that Hilary Clinton is President Snow come to life on American soil.  In this fiction, Mrs. Clinton is single-handily responsible for every ill in this country rather than one of the most respected women in the world.  Scapegoating, laying the blame for societal ills on one person, is much easier than developing cohesive national policy.  At the Republican convention, we heard many platitudes about “Making America Great!” and very few specifics about how we would achieve a new unified vision of the future.  I wanted to hear specific proposals on how to bring  our nation with admittedly many challenges together so we can build on the multitude of strengths we share.

This election is not a reality TV show, it is not a game with winners and losers, it is not a movie with three sequels, it is about what we as Americans want for our future.  I, for one, am not yet ready to give up on civil discourse and the ability to look for concrete solutions to the many pressing problems facing us.  Like Katniss Everdeen at the end of the Hunger Games, I refuse to follow the rules presented at the Republican Convention.  I will not demonize the opposition.  I am anxious to hear real solutions to real problems.

Katniss Everdeen
Katniss Everdeen, heroine of the Hunger Games, leading the effort at reform by refusing to follow the rules of the Game.
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Malleable Barbie Adapts to the Times

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1959 Barbie.  An icon for 57 years of America’s focus on women’s breasts and looks, over achievements

First introduced in 1959, over the past 57 years, Mattel has tried to update Barbie to adjust to the times. To that end, the company introduced last week, Barbie for President with a female running mate. This combination is intended to be an inspiration for young girls. “By introducing the new President and Vice President Barbie dolls, the first all-female ticket, we hope to inspire girls to imagine themselves as leaders,” Erin Loos Cutraro, co-founder and CEO of She Should Run, tells Babble.

Throughout her life-span, Barbie has become ethnically diverse, moved from a beauty queen  and model to a professional.  Her hair originally a classic long pony tail which couldn’t be combed has transformed to long, short, curly, black, red, blonde, silky and brushable to totally changeable. Barbie’s  originally stiff body is now flexible.

But one thing that has not changed is her shape.  Research suggests that a real woman with Barbie’s figure would be 5’9″,  host  a 39 inch bust, 17 inch waist and wear a size 3 shoe. Given the wildly disproportionate trunk to base,  a real woman with this shape couldn’t walk, would have extremely frail bones, half a liver and probably be anorexic. Mattel is currently working on changing Barbie again by incorporating more diverse body types, though the exact nature of these changes has yet to be specified.

Rather than  launching a new wave of socially engaged little girls, Presidential Barbie seems antiquated.  This is particularly true when viewed in combination with Jennifer Aniston’s For The Record in the Huffington Post (7/12/2016 ).  Aniston writes about unwanted speculation from the media and complains about the objectification of her body in particular and women’s bodies in general.  Given these two pieces of evidence,  it appears  Americans have not progressed very far in their expectations of what an attractive young woman should look like.

I am left in a quandary about what American cultural expectations do to little girls self image.  We are pushing young girls in to pursue STEM programs (we want girls to go into math, science and engineering).  Women’s sports are on the rise with girls participating in every imaginable activity.  Cheerleading is still around but not the sole way for a teenage girl to be involved in a sporting event.  Yet with all these changes, Aniston writes just this week  The objectification and scrutiny we put women through is absurd and disturbing. The way I am portrayed by the media is simply a reflection of how we see and portray women in general, measured against some warped standard of beauty”. 

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President Barbie and her female running mate continue the oddly proportioned Barbie shape.

I would argue the newly released presidential Barbie doesn’t encourage young women to be whoever they want but rather reinforces strongly held  cultural beliefs that attractive women sport large breasts, narrow waists and are stilted rather than engaged in life.  These icons of American woman have fabulous hair styles and always dress correctly.

The Republican and Democratic conventions are rolling into our media space the next two weeks.  Speaking only last night, we learned within minutes of  Melania Trump’s presentation that she wore an off-the-rack white Roksanda dress costing between $1500 and $2000. The dress was described as “perfect for the White House.”  I am willing to bet we  will read about Tiffany and  Ivanka Trumps’outfits as well i.e. who designed it, cost and whether the dress looked appropriate for the setting.  All three women are drop-dead gorgeous so I can’t image any tacky comments about hair or appearance.  I doubt we will read anything about Marco Rubio’s, Newt Gingrich’s or Donald Trump’s suits (what they cost and what fabric they were made of, how did the tie go, did they get wrinkled or hang perfectly on TV).

While snide comments are frequently made about Donald Trump’s hair, these remarks don’t seem to have any traction. In comparison, an article about Hilary Clinton wearing an Armani suit went viral.  Mr. Trump’s suits routinely cost at least $7,000 but this does not seem to be of interest to the American public.  Sara Palin had a budget of $150,000 to purchase clothing for her Vice Presidential run.  Demonstrating that focusing on the importance of women’s appearance  rather than just judging individuals based on competence is not limited to party but rather to gender.

Michelle Obama has made being a Presidential wife or candidate accessible for the everyday woman by wearing clothes from Target along with custom designs from high end designers.   A gorgeous woman and outstanding representative of America women,  Mrs. Obama has also received considerable criticism from the right for “being angry” and  emphasizing “being black”. Passionate women when they speak are frequently seen as “angry” rather than committed.  One can hardly blame Mrs. Obama for sharing her black experience with all of us when so many of us seem to have such limited understanding of diversity. Brown versus the Board of Education, the landmark decision requiring integration of American schools  was decided by the U.S. Supreme Court in 1954, five years before Barbie was launched.

More than fifty years later, Americans  are still struggling with their vision of women and race. Feminism was largely a white movement  and only recently recognized that American women as a group are quite diverse, representing many cultures and colors and have immensely dissimilar experiences.  American women’s commonality is their struggle to be seen as unique individuals with vastly under-recognized and under-utilized potential, capable of crafting a great American future.  It’s seems time to ditch the long-standing, stultifying stereotypes adopted into our culture many years ago.  Maybe instead of saying “Hello”  to Presidential Barbie and her look-alike running mate,  we all should  say”Goodbye” to Barbie and what she represents.

 

 

Crafty Cats

“There are two means of refuge from the misery of life — music and cats.”
Albert Schweitzer

Albert Schweitzer and I have one thing in common, we like cats.  When I am feeling down, I like to lay on my bed with Angel and listen to her purr.

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Angel, our white cat, can be very comforting.

It is not surprising that when I took up paper mache, cats are the first series I worked on.  The cats I have created from various materials have some connections to my past.  For example, the featured orange cat reminds me of my first cat, Puddy Cat, who we got when I was in first grade. Puddy Cat lived at our family home for 21 years (far longer than I did).  Paper mache, Puddy, has a body entirely of newspaper to provide structure.

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Paper Mache, Puddy Cat

I wadded up paper into balls in the shape of a cat and then taped the paper in a few places to hold it together.

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Brindle Cat with coat of many colors

After I completed, Puddy Cat, I worked on a replica of the Satchel, the lord of the Ashtree Manor.  My first effort at Satch  was constructed of a toilet paper roll and Styrofoam ball for the head.  There was no effort to capture the shape of a cat but rather to express the sleek, stylish nature of a cat through paper.  I was pleased with the actual shape which I may try again.  But the color was all wrong.  I started with a black base coat and instead of creating a grey tiger stripe, I ended up with a brindle cat.  I call this cat, “Cat with Coat of Many Colors”.   My son told me that you always have to begin with base coat being light and then add on the darker colors later.

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toliet paper roll and paper mache frame
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Satchel in paper mache
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The extremely handsome Satchel

My next effort at Satch was a combination of experimenting with glue-based paste which creates a white clay and two toilet paper rolls.  The cat structure that evolved from this effort was quite elaborate.  I painted the cat all white and then layered on the various tones of gray.  I am pleased with the coloring but probably won’t do such an elaborate cat structure in the future.  To accurately capture Satch’s beautiful coat, I need to start with a gray base and then layer on.

I am working on paper mache prototypes because I need to have 10 items for a Christmas bazaar, a fundraiser for women’s scholarships.  When I took in the cats to the planning committee, they didn’t think that cats would sell well at Christmas. I am  now moving on to Christmas angels.  I will blog about my angels, wood nymphs, and sprites soon.

I learned when I was visiting one of my good friends in Wyoming that she spends many hours joyfully engaged in adult coloring. She has many beautiful, brightly huged pictures she has produced.  Coloring for her provides a grounding effect.  Adult coloring has become very popular by providing stress relief and improved fine motor skills.

I told her I got similar joy from working on paper mache. The big different is the coloring books are easy to carry and the pens can be packed in a box.  I have paper,  paint, and glue strewn all over our upstairs playroom. Fortunately, the kids have outgrown the room so I can leave my objects out to dry and paint for long periods of time.

The distinction between art and craft is that art is a creation from an emotional response that cannot be replicated.  Craft usually has a structure and can be replicated by others.  Most of the time, I would define paper mache as a craft with structure and the ability for others to copy.  However, I think in the case of my crafty kitties they are more art than craft.  I will probably not make more cats but the ones I have made have reminded me of my furry feline friends.

Violet, our rat terrier stolen

Violet
Violet

Violet, who you have read about on these pages for many months, was stolen on Saturday, June  25 by L.C. and A.T. of Portland formerly of Sandpoint, Idaho. We know who did it because Ms. T. called our home line. We keep the line but don’t use it so did not receive the call in a timely manner. Ms. T. left a voice mail that they had found Violet a substantial distance from our home. Violet was tired and dehydrated.  When my son contacted Mr. Camp, he  accused us of animal cruelty for allowing  Violet to be in a fenced yard, with a covered patio, loads of trees, water, and dog house. The temperature in Boise was in the high seventies at the time. She was also with her dear friend, Shani.  While Violet was missing, Shani would wander the house looking for her.  At night, she went into Violet’s crate searching for her.

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Shani, lost without friend, searching all Violet’s haunts.

After informing me over the phone that I was an abusive pet owner and my son a potential dog killer, Mr. C. promised to take Violet to the animal shelter on Sunday morning.  When we arrived  in Boise from a week long trip through Wyoming, Colorado and Utah, Violet was not at the shelter Sunday afternoon.  I had cried all the way through Utah because Mr. C had sent me a threatening text message telling me I did not deserve to have animals.  I knew intuitively that Mr. C. would not relinquish Violet to us voluntarily.

Upon reviewing the text message, staff at the Humane Society advised us to file a theft report with the Boise Police which we did.  Both Mr. C. and Ms. T. were charged with theft.  The Boise police, however, would not even contact Mr. C.  They  left that to us to do.

My husband, being a wonderful person and concerned about my distress, did contact Mr. C who when confronted with the possibility of being charged with theft said he had left the dog at the pound. My husband went out to the Humane Society on Tuesday to verify Mr. C.’s word and once again no Violet.  Late Tuesday afternoon, we received a call from the Idaho Humane Society that Violet had been dropped off.  We are all so thankful!

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I am of the opinion that Mr. C. and Ms. T. felt they were doing the best thing for Violet.  Unfortunately, they made a series of judgments about me and my family without knowing the facts of our loving family and long-term emotional relationship with our furry friends.  The only way we were able to recover Violet was by aggressive, pro-active actions on our part.  Believe me, Mr. C was extremely unpleasant in all of our dealings with him.   Of course, as you all know from reading these pages, to know Violet is to love her.  I believe Mr. C. and Ms. T. fell under her spell and wanted to keep her.

My suggestions to all of you who have pets you love is as follows:

  1. Make sure your pets have chips and that the chip registration is up to date.  This is how we could document for the police that Violet had not been dropped off at any shelter.
  2. Have ownership tags on your dogs collars.  That is how we received the first phone call.
  3. Update the tags if you have moved from using your land lines to using cells. This is why we gave the impression of not being concerned.  We very seldom check our land line.
  4. Be persistent.  Mr. C was abusive to us but we tried a variety of approaches to getting the dog returned.  We visited the Humane Society every day, contacted the Oregon Humane Society, contacted the Veterinary Association with picture and chip number.
  5. While law enforcement won’t do much to help, having a theft report in hand does provide leverage if you follow-up  with the perpetrator.
  6. Use social media to contact friends.  My son was able to identify the perpetrator on Facebook and we were able to provide the police with CHIP number, phone numbers., Facebook accounts, picture of the dog, etc.

I am so thankful to have Violet returned.

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Violet at home on her fake sheep skin blanket