News and media focused on art and activism

Category archive

Social Commentary

Keep Your Eye Out For Smoky Mountain Life Center!

in Blog/Charitable Campaign/Current Events/Get Involved/News/Social Commentary by

Try growing up having summers where the temperature is 114 degrees for week straight, to going to a place that actually experiences a winter. I’m talking, it has snowed at my home in Sevierville at least 5 times since October. Like, BIG snows; big enough to build a snowman, and his wife and two children! This is very…different for me. I wouldn’t call it difficult though; not in comparison to those of our community who don’t have a warm bed to snuggle up in to write articles, like me. The contrast between my situation and theirs ignites the fire in my heart to want to bring warmth to those who struggle more than I have ever had to.

The opposition between my situation and that of the street-people reminds me of Samuel Coleridge’s Kubla Khan. In his poem, Coleridge masterfully describes an underground dome as beautiful as the Bible’s garden of Eden.

“So twice five miles of fertile ground /
With walls and towers were girdled round; /
And there were gardens bright with sinuous rills, /
Where blossomed many an incense-bearing tree; /
And here were forests ancient as the hills, /
Enfolding sunny spots of greenery.”

The comfort that I enjoy is like that! Sure, I have worries, stresses, anxieties, struggles. But -let me just do a little privilege check here- I have never been in a situation where I have had no other choice than to ask someone for help paying for my food, or my utility bills, or clothing for my children (if I had them). Did I do anything to deserve this? Absolutely not. So, do I therefore have a responsibility to my community to ease the suffering of those who are less fortunate? Absolutely. IF you ask me.

As in life, in Coleridge’s poem, there is a bit of trouble in paradise. There is a river running through the lush land that encounters some rough waters.

“A mighty fountain momently was forced: /
Amid whose swift half-intermitted burst /
Huge fragments vaulted like rebounding hail, /
Or chaffy grain beneath the thresher’s flail: /
And mid these dancing rocks at once and ever /
It flung up momently the sacred river.”

I see the rapids…I can use my empathy to try to understand what it would be like to try and stay afloat on such a rushing river, and so I want to help.

I am not the only one.

That brings us to last Monday, where I found myself at the third-ever meeting of a local group called “Smoky Mountain Life Center.” This is a group who wants to provide warm, safe, temporary housing for the homeless population in our community.

The organization is getting the ball moving, as I learned from the meeting! They are working with churches to secure emergency shelters, so that folks seeking immediate help on the coldest and wettest of nights can have a warm and dry place to sleep. They are working with realtors to find a place that can provide a little bit more long term assistance for folks who may need to develop some skills such as resume building, need job-appropriate clothing, or financial advise. They have even contacted beauticians willing to donate their time to offer free haircuts to folks who are down on their luck.

The idea is to network with existing organizations such as SMARM (Smoky Mountain Area Rescue Mission) in order to help the homeless folks in our community reintegrate into a self-sustaining situation for themselves and their families.

Ideas on how to raise funds in order to secure the 501C3 licensing are going around the group of about fifteen people. It is a dream (unlike Coleridge’s pipe-dream) that is currently being built. All it will take is time, dedication, and persistence. Plus, a lot of compassion. But, if I know anything about the people of Tennessee, it is that you have to be tough to weather these cold winters, and that you have to do it by relying on each other.

“That with music loud and long, /
I would build that dome in air, /
That sunny dome! those caves of ice!”

Creating a warm place for the least fortunate of our human brothers and sisters around us is a cause that I am happy to be a part of. I have plenty enough to share.

This was the first meeting that I attended for the organization, and the next one is on the 19th of this month. I absolutely look forward to continuing to brainstorm about what comes next, and I will be there the whole time, chronicling the building of a paradise in my home not just for some, but for all.

“CURRENT MOOD” Supplemental Information

in Blog/Social Commentary by

Activists are the too often unsung heroes of societies. This issue of “CURRENT MOOD” zooms in on the first black president of South Africa, Nelson Mandela.

Check out the issue:

Feed your brain and your friend’s brains with these discussion points:

Leave your answers in the comments!

And finally, learn more about the life of Nelson Mandela! See what one man with a focused purpose can accomplish not for himself, but for the betterment of his human brothers and sisters.

This is the website for everything about the life of Nelson Mandela!

If you just want to go ahead and order the book about his life, here it is!

Girls Don’t Rule, but They Should

in Blog/Social Commentary by

Professional women are a long way from gloating “girls rule and boys Drool,” and our country is a long way from women not having the Right to vote, but does that mean that women and men are now Equal? Though 1st wave feminism fought for women’s suffrage, and 2nd wave feminism gained women some fair property & reproductive Rights, our current 5th wave of feminism is not without a worthy cause.

Let’s not wave goodbye to feminism when only 6.4% of Fortune 500 CEOs are women, and not one is a black woman. Not to mention only About 20% of our Congress, Senate, and House of Reps are women. Women also disproportionately earn less, when 62% of workers Earning minimum wage are women. Women still have a long battle Ahead to even the playing field.

How do we progress from “you drool, I rule?” By learning to rule Together. Let’s respect the women breaking the mold; the woman Business owner, manager, or professional in any position of authority Like we would a man. Let’s stop allowing “locker room talk” about a  Women to continue after she leaves the room; women are not sex
Objects. Let’s stop saying things like, “A man would be better in that Position than a women because she would let her emotions get in The way.” Women are not doomed to be swept away by their Emotions any more than men are unable to control their aggression. Girls should rule; men should too. We should rule together.


More Statistics About Inequality Between Women and Men in Society: 


Who Is Malala Yousafzai?

Malala Yousafzai was born on July 12, 1997, in Mingora, Pakistan. As a child, she became an advocate for girls’ education, which resulted in the Taliban issuing a death threat against her. On October 9, 2012, a gunman shot Malala when she was traveling home from school. She survived, and has continued to speak out on the importance of education. She was nominated for a Nobel Peace Prize in 2013. In  2014,  she was nominated again and won, becoming the youngest person to receive the Nobel Peace Prize.

^The above is a direction quotation taken from This link will take you to Malala’s page on that site.

Dressing Up

in Blog/Social Commentary by

Lights flash,
all day.

Welcome to my day.
Anything, everything can look foggy, cloudy, if your focus is on anything, everything.
Sharpen it, and you will see,
little kids smiling at the antics of our photographers as the professionals act anything but, sniffing feet and making animal noises to coax the smiles out of children they have just met moments before.

If you focus, you will see,
life celebrated by couples who chose to dress up as saloon girls and cowboys and take photos together, traveling back in time to the crazy days of the wild west, making memories that will last a lifetime.

You see, I can dress my vision up to be anything I want.
I can take portrait photos of these families, simply going through the motions, pushing buttons. Not even buttons, just one button, over and over.

However, if I sharpen my focus, I see beauty more valuable than all of the gold in all of the banks that a cowboy in the wild west could ever dream of robbing.
And it’s free, for those who choose to focus their perspective on it.

Not only can I find gold, I can turn that flashing light on the top of my camera into a beacon of happiness. A request from me to my models to smile a genuine smile. To be themselves and play along with the story I am creating for them to match their old timey garb. I can share the treasure with them.

Being a photographer has taught me more than just focus. It has also taught me about dressing the moment up.

* * * * * * * * * * * * *

If you walk through the front door of the studio, past the sheriff’s office with its bars and key-ring hanging nearby, past the bar where many an empty liquor bottle sits, and where many a saloon girl has sat as well, you will find the swinging saloon doors that lead to the men’s dressing room.

Part of my job is to dress people up. Guests at the old time photography studio where I work can dress up to fit the wild west era, the Southern Belle era, roaring ’20s, civil war, or Native American. I was in the men’s changing room, hanging hats and arranging boots as a civil war general came strolling back in.

I began helping him with the mess of strings on the back of his costume so he could shed it, back to normal in his civilian clothes that lay underneath his costume.

John Buford, Jr. Our costumes are exact replicas of these.


Focus to the general’s conversation (and ignore the fact that yes, I undress grown men for a living. But hey, they just put the costumes on over their clothes). He says he is a schoolteacher in real life. He had just changed from teaching 5th grade to teaching kindergarten. I automatically have respect for anyone who wants to educate the youth of our culture. Especially since the wages aren’t that great. Traditional teachers in America get paid between $16 and $20 an hour. Many jobs not requiring a degree have similar wages. Hearing the general talk about what he deals with made me feel as if he deserved much more; if not more money, than more recognition.

Speaking on what he thought of teaching kindergarten, he said, “I can deal with it. I can deal with the boogers and goo that I somehow get on my hands throughout the day.

“I can deal with the tears. There are tears every day. Especially on Mondays. Those are the days that the kids find most difficult to leave their parents, after they’ve been together for a few days non-stop.

“I can deal with the parents that want to come in and watch me and see what I’m doing and how I’m teaching their kids.

“I can deal with the hyperactivity, how the kids want to bounce around. I don’t force them to sit in seats. We do a lot of floor time. And for the kids who just can’t sit still, I let them sit on those yoga balls so they can just bounce it out, and that seems to solve the problem. They’re kids. Some of them aren’t even 5 years old yet, and they’re just not ready. I can deal with it.

“Finding out what works to allow growth in their minds is just crazy. I mean, I am coming up with rhymes to help these kids understand how to write the number two! There are fun songs I make up to get them to understand what the color red is. It is honestly such a joy, such a fun job. I love it. ”

I MEAN, MAN! Talk about focus! The general is not kidding himself about the glamour, or lack of, in his job, but his attitude blew me away. His positivity and ability to focus on the good work that he is a part of, even amidst stressors of which one would break many down, made every color that came into my eyes in that moment seem brighter. The vibrancy of his words struck my heart.

We are all still learning things that some might find just as basic as writing the number two.

An unforgettable chord rang out to me, and that is that there are people out there that make the learning experience magical for others. If the general can do that for a room of goo-covered, crying, hyper little ones, why can’t we do that for each other? With the awareness that we were all once children and that age does not entitle one with all of the information in the world.

We can make life magic for each other.
If we choose to focus on that.
If we choose to dress it up.

Safely Surfing the Web

in Blog/News/Science & Technology/Social Commentary by

Without it, you would not be able to read this article.

I wouldn’t have been able to research the information contained within, and further, folks worldwide would be disconnected in a way that most people my age can hardly even imagine.

I’m talking about the Interwebs, of course!

Fellow web-crawlers, our dear Internet is 28 years old as of this year, 2017. It has been twenty-eight glorious years of sharing information faster than anything else human history can recall.

With all of that information floating around in cyberspace, I figured it was time to educate myself on how to keep my own information secure from criminals, hackers, unwanted solicitation, and agencies that I never gave permission to. The following is what I found!

Before you proceed, I would like to give you a mission as you read. I challenge you, dear deep web surfer, to take the time to complete each point as you read it. Don’t just read this article and feel all safe and educated afterwards. The information will do you no good unless you actually utilize it.

You have a mission. I believe in you.


1-Personal Information

Personal information is just that: information that you alone should have knowledge of, until you decide to give it away. That information should be given away to loved ones and friends and your own discretion.

This information is at risk in that if you leave it lying about, anyone could come around and do with it whatever they wish. You wouldn’t hand a stranger a piece of paper with your name, phone number, home address, kids’ names and where they go to school written on it. It’s much the same on the world wide web, you have to take extra steps to safeguard it from the hands of strangers.


Whether it’s a stalker, a company, or an agency, some folks just don’t want others to have a tab on where they are at all times. Enabling your location data to be tracked on your phone or social media accounts is basically like giving the entities that own them the ability to know when you are doing, pretty much anything.

3-Credit Card Information

This one is simple to explain. Putting your credit card information on sites that aren’t known, trusted, or secured greatly increases the chances of that information being stolen and money taken from you. Even secured sites are at some amount of risk. Just know that anytime you shop online or in a store with your credit card, there is a risk involved, same as carrying money around.


Like location, keeping your messages secure is a matter of privacy. Even if you are simply talking about how your day went, it’s not anyone else’s business what the content of your conversation is, unless you choose to reveal it to them. If you are talking about things better left private, such as business ideas, surprises, embarrassing information, or personal details, do you really want it to fall into the wrong hands?


Viruses are malicious creations that serve to steal information, ruin your computer, and disrupt internet infrastructure systems like email services and various servers.




Thieves stealing money and identities, predators preying on vulnerable individuals, companies and agencies abusing our right to privacy.


Hackers are the ones creating viruses that destroy your computer and take information.

3-Unwanted Solicitation

If you’re not careful about where you post information and pictures about yourself, you could end up seeing your photo on an advertisement one day, and unable to do anything about it.


You may not realize it, but your phone service provider or favorite websites/services may be required by law, or voluntarily, giving government agencies what you thought was your private information.




a) Phone

Adjusting the security settings of your phone is a very important way to secure the data contained within. When you first set up your new phone, you will usually have the ability to choose many of your own security settings right then and there. Even if you have had your phone for a while, you still have the option of going in to your phone’s security settings and personalizing them. Every phone is different, but in general to get to these settings, you will find the settings tab (usually will look like a gear), then go to the tab that says “security.”

Some examples of how to set up these settings to the maximum security: not allowing your device to access your location, setting up a passcode to unlock your phone (can be a numerical code, a fingerprint, both, even an eye scan), then having your phone erase all saved data after a certain number of failed attempts on the passcode.

Anti-virus software is another way to secure your phone (here are some good ones). Androids need this more so than iPhones since Apple only allows you to download apps from the iTunes store. That being said, please note that jailbreaking your phone will increase your chances of obtaining a virus if you aren’t careful.

Update your phone’s software as soon as the updates are available. Oftentimes, these updates occur primarily in order to make sure that your phone’s security is up to date and able to handle the latest threats. The same advice is recommended for any apps you are using; update them.

Back up your files. I use OneDrive and DropBox to back up the files from my phone. Then, whenever those are full, I move them all to my external hard drive. Backing up your files ensures that if your phone is lost, stolen, or crashes, you won’t lose your memories or your files used for business purposes.

The most secure thing you could possibly do if you are not a tech-guru is to purchase the purported ultra-safe Blackphone.

b) Computer:

Firewalls are one great way to keep your computer from accepting information from the internet that is considered a high risk for being unsafe. Here are some that you can consider. Most good firewalls will cost you a little bit of money.

Anti-malware can be used to protect your computer from “malicious software.” Even if you have a firewall, it may not always be enough to protect your computer from attachments sent in emails and other threats. Here are some anti-malware options that come highly recommended.

Update everything. Just like with your phone, your computer’s updates mostly serve to fix security issues.

Back up your data. I personally use an external hard-drive to save all of my files that I am finished editing or working with. Then I delete them from my computer. This saves space on my computer and makes sure that all of my files are safe in the event that my computer crashes or is attacked.

Here is an article for more information:


2-Knowing the law

It’s such an exciting time to be an internet-using, active & informed voting citizen of the United States right now, as policy is being created AS WE LIVE AND BREATHE RIGHT NOW as to how to govern the world of the wide web.

I *firmly* believe that as someone who enjoys utilizing the tools that the internet has to offer, I deserve to have a say in how it is regulated, and you do too!

The Federal Privacy Council is a name to know. It has a legislative membership list of committees and subcommittees related to privacy and surveillance issues.

There are a couple bills to keep an eye on:

-Section 702 of the FISA Amendments Act of 2008

-The Email Privacy Act

As it stands now, internet and phone service providers do not have to have permission to give your information out to be used for advertising purposes.

Not to mention the fact that the information can also be given up if it is thought that it is going to be used to stop any illegal activities. Here is the analysis of a case that is a few years old. It explains what information police are able to glean from your phone if they choose. Here is a broader analysis of what phone companies can give to police to help aid an ongoing investigation.

It is time for states to begin creating their own regulations as to what the police and feds are allowed to take, and how they will be allowed to use it.

***TAKE ACTION!!!*** If you are interested in preserving the freedom of the frontier that is the world wide web, you must realize how important it is that you take action to protect it! If you don’t, who will? This article is EXTREMELY helpful in giving you easy instructions on which of your elected officials to contact about this issue, and what some of the technical jargon you will need to include is.

Additionally, here are several other articles that will give you plenty of information to get you started on where we stand with governing the Internet, and Internet privacy:


4-Personalizing Web Use

Know where it’s okay to use a credit card. You can tell if a website is secure by looking a a couple of things. The first is the title bar. That is the part of your screen at the top where the name of the website exists. If it starts with “https,” that means it is secure.

Another thing to look at is the domain name. Some websites will mimic the name of well known websites to make you think that it is that certain site. They can even make their webpages look like the sites that you know and trust. Be sure to check the domain name to make sure that it is spelled correctly.

This article has some other pointers.

Website owners need to take precautions to protect their information by securing their websites. The following information is advice that I got from a customer service representative from GoDaddy, which is the service I use to house my domain and to host it. He recommended that I 1) use WordFence which is iTheme’s free malware security plugin, 2) Check for updates from my hosting, theme, and domain registration site once a week, 3) use Word Fence which is iTheme’s security, 3) use Sitelock which is a paid service which will remove and prevent harmful attacks to your website, and 4) try to hack into, a website that a GoDaddy customer representative created. That site uses the security precautions mentioned above and challenges people to try and hack into the site. So far, according to the representative I spoke with who is friends with the creator, no one has been able to do it.

For messaging, you can use an application that sends encrypted messages. For phone messaging applications, some that come highly recommended are Signal and Wickr. Signal was created by the head of security of Twitter, and Edward Snowden endorsed it.

If you have completed all of these steps, you may consider yourself a cyber security ninja warrior that few hackers or viruses can even mess with!

Congratulations for making it through this article, and for taking the steps to protect yourself and your personal information against the dangers of the world wide web.

You may now surf in peace.

The Un-Holy Days

in Blog/Social Commentary by

“Dashing through the oil-covered sluuuuush,
In a 5-speed Honda Civic.
Over the highways I go,
At 10 mph the whole way (hahahaha).

“Rushing to buy gifts
With money I don’t have.
What fun it is to stress and cram
During the holidays again, hey!”

If this version of “Jingle Bells” fits your holidays better than the original version, I would say that you will enjoy this article.

With an attitude that, like my song, is a little silly, a little sullen, I figured I’d take a crack at one of the most beloved and esteemed occurrences in our known society: the holidays.

It’s not that I don’t like the holidays, I do. Family, food, presents, games, an abnormal amount of cheer, songs on repeat that you’ve known since childhood, it’s all great.

However, there is more to the holidays than what is presented on the glistening surface.

Here is a look at the origins of some major holidays celebrated in America, what they look like nowadays, and some alternatives to these traditions.



I was taught since “I” was a drooling baby that baby Jesus is the reason for the season. That we celebrate Jesus’ birthday on December 25th, and that we give presents because the three kings of Orient gave Jesus presents when they found him by following that one really bright star in the sky. That’s why there is a star at the top of the Christmas Tree. Although one year a friend put a t-rex at the top, at their daughter’s request. I like her style.

All of these symbols folks celebrate are good and fine, but these traditions are not what Christmas was all about originally. *gasp* Tis true my friend, tis true.

They say if you can’t say it better than someone else already has, then you should quote them. That is essentially what I will do now when talking about the origins of what we now call “Christmas.” Watch this video that is put out by The History Channel to learn about how Christmas came about. I highly recommend that you read the whole article as well, as it elaborates on what the video talks about. It’s as full of information as Santa’s belly is of cookies and milk! (So, so cheesy…)


Did you watch it? If not, WATCH IT! We cannot proceed in this article until you do!


Good? Good! 🙂

Mind blown? Mine was too. While Christians have reclaimed Christmas and made the holiday their own in certain ways, Christmas is in no way mandated, or even mentioned in the Bible. Jesus didn’t command it, his followers didn’t celebrate it. Christmas as it is celebrated on December 25th was created to “absorb the traditions of pagan holidays.” So you could say that the Christmas that we know it was originally a pagan holiday.

*Note: NOT liable for any heart attacks or conniption fits due to the revealing of this information.*


I am very thankful to my parents that I always had good Christmas experiences.

Now that I am older, my eyes are opened to some…yellow snow in an otherwise perfectly pristine yard, if you will ;P

That is where Christmas originated. But what up with Santa Claus?? How does jolly ole Kris Kringle come into the picture?

Once Santa comes into the picture, that’s where the perfect holy picture of Christmas seems to become a bit…unholy to me. Folks are called on to “keep Christ in ‘Christmas.’ ” Yet Santa gets all the glory for bringing presents! Come to think of it, I can’t recall watching any movies about Jesus on ABC’s Family’s Countdown of 25 Days of Christmas. It was all Santa and Rudolph and Frosty the Snowman, and Jack Skelington! Man, those old animations of Rudolph and Frosty never get old ^_^

Check out the many faces of Santa Claus throughout the years. This is an extensive article of where Santa Claus came from, and how he got to be the tubby, smiling grandfatherly figure he is today. He has worn many hats though; he once resembled a Saint of gifts and children. At another time, he was a stern figure who gave gifts to good children, and switches, not coal, to bad ones.

Though Santa Claus is thought to have originated with Saint Nicholas, the Santa we know today has nothing to do with religion. Unless you consider the repetitive following of a tradition that has been changed time and time again over the years, religion.

Now, my family would say a prayer before the Christmas meal, but the only other time I saw much about Jesus during Christmas (besides nativity scenes in front yards of neighbors) was during church. So you can see why the “time for cheer” for me has turned to a sarcastic “time for sneer.”

These little discrepancies definitely always made me question what the heck that one special day was really all about, but running amok getting love and attention and *presents* from family members silenced my questions. Until now.


Here’s an idea to make Christmas truly about family and giving back. How about instead of spending money that you don’t have on presents for your ever-growing family that they probably don’t really need, how about putting together care packages for the homeless or less fortunate or children or refugees or soldiers? You could all go shopping together, or each person could be responsible for one item for each of the gift baskets and then put them together. You would be spending quality time together, and making someone else’s life a little brighter.

Doing good for others is ultimately the reason for the season 🙂




The yearly Thanksgiving Feast is one of my favorite times of the year. The traditions of Thanksgiving are even taught to most kiddos in school. Do you remember making turkeys created using the cutout shape of your hand, or headbands to look like Native American headdresses? I do.


And what was the story that most of us were painted a lovely picture of what happened between the Puritan settlers and the Native Americans who were already there. Most American kids are taught the story that the settlers came over to the “undiscovered” North America on a ship. It took the settlers a little while to get it right, but once they had their first successful harvest, the Native Americans brought food from their own gardens and meat from their own backyards to celebrate with the settlers. The settlers were so thankful that they formed a friendship with the Native Americans and then decided to commit genocide on an entire group of people, I mean, create Thanksgiving to honor that meal!

From what I can tell, that story is true.


The spirit of thankfulness really shines through on this holiday I believe. The day itself, in my experience, simply brings families back together to share a big meal and remind ourselves what we have to be thankful for. It is the day after Thanksgiving that has been tainted. The all-known “Black Friday.” Hey, since the day is named, does that make it a holiday itself? Hmmm…

Growing up, my mom and sisters would get up early and go shopping on Black Friday. I think I went one year and that was enough for me. Personally, I never saw the appeal in it. For one, they always wanted to get up early, so I was pretty much out based off of that. Not only that though, it seems like every other Christmas-celebrating, deal-loving person in America is going to be out too, in order to get their Christmas shopping done early. I have social anxiety. That does not sound like fun. Here’s another reason why I’m not into it: with everyone out, those lines are crazy! Have you seen the videos of people wrapped around the stores? Here’s one. Nope, no thank you, I’ll stay at home in my jammies!

Black Friday seems to have some sort of magical powers over people, if it can make you want to do that. Not only that, it has growing powers. Seriously, every year, Black Friday lasts longer. Growing up, people would wake up early and show up at the stores on Friday morning. Nowadays, at some places, people show up the night before and wait in line all night long!

Remember when Cyber Monday became a thing? Honestly I was a little bit more on-board with that, since you don’t have to leave the house, and plus things tend to be cheaper online anyways. But now? Oh ho ho no, now, the spirit of Black Friday has crept from Friday to Monday, and now there is shop small Saturday (which I actually value a lot in comparison). I’m here to tell the world, I don’t need my days of the week labeled with what to buy on that day! I am not your obedient little consumer.

The frenzy of Black Friday and all of the other named days turns normal people into greedy, corporate savages. There is a growing list of shopping accidents of folks who are injured and even killed on in the Black Friday Frenzy ( can we take a minute to appreciate what a morbidly funny phrase, “shopping accident” is). This website has compiled them. The first accident I remember hearing about was of a worker who was trampled by would-be shoppers as the doors of Wal-Mart opened.

Those accidents are just the ones that were “headline worthy.” Now let’s take into account the numerous incidents that didn’t end up on the front page of national news. There are fights, fist fights, all over the place as well. Check out this compilation of fights…over stuff. That’s all it is, is stuff… We seem to forget and think that it is the secret to happiness.

Oh, I did learn a few other interesting things about Thanksgiving this year! One is that the Dallas Cowboys and the Indians compete in a game of football on this day every year. I just found this out this year… I’m really more of the creative type, a quiet writer if you please, and thank you. This year, that game marked the first football game I ever watched all the way through. And, heh, something some other folks thought was very funny, I got really excited at one point and declared that I had finally watched my first Superbowl….. Ahem. Apparently, the Superbowl is not, in fact, on Thanksgiving. Sooo, I incited some laughs with that one.

The bigger issue here besides my moment of embarrassing ignorance is that we as a nation are still glorifying the brutal fighting between settlers, the Cowboys, and those Native to this land, the improperly named Indians. I was honestly flabbergasted when I found out that this was a tradition that is celebrated by so many. I don’t mean to knock what so many love; maybe I’m just really not into men smashing into each other over and over as entertainment so much; especially when it has classist, white power undertones. I realize that it’s just a game; I also realize that societies are shaped by culture and what is popular and that symbolism ingrains itself in the mind no matter how “innocent” a game might be.


I don’t have an alternative holiday or way to celebrate Thanksgiving. What I do have is a suggestion of an alternative way to think about togetherness and gift-giving, as well as a reshaping of what we value about our history as a nation. We don’t need a special day to get together with our families, to cook, to watch a game, to be thankful for what we have; and we should be honest with ourselves about the actions of our ancestors and seek a more conscious respectable way of thinking than what has been passed on to us. If Thanksgiving Day is the only day we are celebrating thankfulness and growing in knowledge and wisdom, I feel like we are missing out, which is a shame to our own potential and to the influence we have on our brothers and sister around us.

I say, practice thankfulness every day. In your morning or evening prayers or meditations, in those still moments are you are awakening or drifting off to sleep, consider allowing your mind to exude gratitude for the people and events and things you have in your life. If you want to learn from the Native Americans like the settlers did, try taking a brief moment to send out thanks to the earth and its inhabitants whenever you receive a meal. It will taste so much sweeter, as you will be even just a bit more connected with the energy inside of the plants and animals, if you choose to eat meat. Living things are given life from the Sun and the nutrients in the soil, and when we eat, we are taking this light and these nutrients into ourselves. Having a meal really can be a spiritual experience if your heart is opened to the wonderful blessing of it.

Also please realize the irony of going into a nationwide consumption frenzy the day after we collectively celebrate a day of giving thanks. You don’t need to buy a bunch of things just because they are “on sale” or to make your loved ones love you or because corporations have twisted the meaning of holidays into an marketing strategy to make you help them meet their fiscal goals. The feeling of satisfaction you get when making these purchases are a short-lived illusion. I will let The Beatles drive this point home:


There is one more tradition commonly practiced in the United States that I would like to talk about, and that is breaking piñatas at children’s birthday parties.

Breaking piñatas stuffed with candy and toys is a tradition that is thought to have originated in Spain, although some think it may have come from China originally, then moved to Spain. Either way, it moved from Spain to Mexico, then into the United States.


These days, the American tradition of piñatas has little to do with the beliefs practiced in its roots. It really is quite terrifying if you think about it! You are giving a child a weapon, blindfolding them, then spinning them in circles and hoping that they hit the piñata instead of you, another child, or any unlucky yard decoration that might be in the wrong place at the wrong time. (She says in a joking voice but is actually kind of serious.)

The truly frightening part is that once a child does hit the piñata , it is a free for all frenzy akin to what the children’s adult counterparts are doing on Black Friday! Every child there rushes towards the pile of goodies, kicking, screaming, and knocking each other over so that they can have the most toys and candy. I get that it’s all in good fun, but in a certain light, teaching children to bust open animals and fight each other to consume and have the satisfaction of getting more fallen entrails than their playmates can send a message that the way to the top is by pushing and fighting.


Wouldn’t it be better if the children were intentionally taught a lesson for their betterment than just teaching them greed and consumption? Check out how the Mexican Catholic Church used piñatas as a lesson for good: “The Mexican Catholic interpretation of the piñata rested on the struggle of man against temptation. The seven points [on the piñata] represent the seven deadly sins. The pot represents evil and the seasonal fruit and candy inside the temptations of evil. The person with the stick is blindfolded to represent faith. The turning, singing and shouting represent the disorientation that temptation creates. In some traditions, the participant is turned thirty three times, one for each year of Christ’s life. These interpretations were given to the piñata for catechism purposes. As the participant beats the piñata, it is supposed to represent the struggle against temptation and evil. When the piñata breaks, the treats inside then represent the rewards of keeping the faith.”

Even if you aren’t a Christian, the point about beating down evil and getting a reward for remaining strong-minded in what you believe in can be taken away from this old tradition.


Though these aren’t life-threatening or even terribly politically stirring issues, I do think the undertone of them speaks a lot of the mindsets of the typical American.

My point in writing this is to show my appreciation for the upbringing I had, and to show an alternative way of thinking than the sometimes mindless traditions we engage in. Also, to educate about those traditions so we can at least have the choice of choosing how we celebrate.

Thanks for reading!

Hallelujah, Music Trumps Money

in Blog/Current Events/Media/Music/Social Commentary by

President Trump has stirred up the most controversy and protest that I can remember out of any of the 5 presidents who have held office since I have been alive. Not to mention he has the lowest approval ratings of any president, ever. Not to say that there hasn’t been protest for the others. I remember George Bush especially, a lot of folks on the Internet were saying that he was the anti-Christ, ha.

Trump however, has already shown his lack of basic concern for a whole shlew of people. Women, immigrants, especially from the near south and far east, anyone who is not a ga-jillionaire, anyone who cares about these people, plants animals and people who are affected and will soon be affected more by climate change; all of us are sort of shaking in our boots to see what Trump will do with the power we granted him over the next four years.

Running rampant along with insults and promises of policies that makes many cringe, are protests of these things. There was the Women’s March on the Capital the day after Trump’s inauguration. Smaller protests were held at State Capitols around the country. There was one in Austin I would have liked to go to. There are also reports of marches in Chicago and Denver to name a few. There are still protests going on to this day.

The lay-woman and -man aren’t the only ones calling attention to issues that have been highlighted by the charged atmosphere of this particular election. Some of my favorite artists decided to comment on this election by releasing a song from their upcoming album.

If you’re a Gorillaz fan, or a Benjamin Clementine fan, definitely go listen to this new track satirically called, “Hallelujah Money.”


“Here is our tree
That primitively grows
And when you go to bed
Scarecrows from the far east
Come to eat
Its tender fruits
And I thought the best way to perfect our tree
Is by building walls
Walls like unicorns
In full glory
And galore
And even stronger
Than the walls of Jericho
But glad then my friend
Out in the field we shall reap a better day
What we have always dreamt of having
Are now for the starving
It is love, that is the root of all evil
But not our tree
And thank you my friend
For trusting me.

[Hook: Benjamin Clementine (Choir)]
Hallelujah money
(Past the chemtrails)
Hallelujah money
(Hallelujah money)
Hallelujah money
(Hallelujah money)
Hallelujah money
Hallelujah money

[Bridge: 2-D]
How will we know?
When the morning comes
We are still human
How will we know?
How will we dream?
How will we love?
How will we know?

[Spoken Verse: Benjamin Clementine]
Don’t worry my friend
If this be the end, then so shall it be
Until we say so, nothing will move
Ah, don’t worry
It’s not against our morals
It’s legal tender
Touch, my friend
While the whole world
And whole beasts of nations desire

[Bridge 2: 2-D]
When the morning comes
We are still human
How will we know?
How will we dream?
How will we love?
How will we know?

[Hook: Benjamin Clementine (Choir)]
(Hallelujah money)
Hallelujah money
(Past the chemtrails)
Hallelujah money
(Hallelujah money)
Hallelujah money
(Hallelujah money)
Hallelujah money
Hallelujah money
Hallelujah money
Hallelujah money!”

I love the religious tone in the song. You see it in the lyrics, in the choir singing behind Benjamin Clementine, even some in the melancholy coos of Clementine. I find it sort of ironic that the words at once draw metaphors from the Bible, as well as speaking satirically about the morals embodied by our new president and by many in the United States.

The “tender fruits” from “our garden” are so precious that they need “walls…even stronger…than those of Jericho” to protect them, is the claim in the first verse. It is as if our country is the precious garden of Eden, yet our garden is so full of greed and weeds that the comparison must be noted as asinine.

Later in the song, the idea that money “trumps” morality is shown. The song essentially says, “Hey, don’t worry about morality, we have power, which is what all nations desire.”

Many would say that power leads to corruption and that the love and idolization of money many times leads to the slow degradation of empathy for a great deal of things such as other systems and humans which are not possessed by the rich.

The way Clementine’s voice and hands and seemingly, soul, begin shaking as he belts out the single word “Power” made my heart shake as well. Is it too punny to say that part of the song was very powerful?

The nation itself seems to be shaking. Some anticipation, some fear, some dread. What I find hope in though, is that protesters and artists, movers and shakers, will continue to speak up about issues that are affecting them so that those on the Hill will have to hear.

Read this fantastic article from Uproxxx to find out more about the Gorillaz new album!

Source: Uproxx

Ringling No More

in Blog/Current Events/News/Social Commentary by

If an elephant never forgets, I wonder what thoughts the elephants from the Ringling Bros. and Barnum & Bailey Circus are living with for the rest of their long lives? (They live to be about 50 years old!)

If you ask PETA, the answer of loneliness and abuse ring(ling) a bell. If you ask many of the circus-goers who are disappointed that they will never get to see an elephant perform in “The Greatest Show on Earth” ever again…well, they may not have even thought about it.

Now protestors and circus-goers alike are being forced to think about it, since headlines like this one from CNN are all over the news circuit. And since an elephant can’t, or as I like to say it “ele-can’t” tell us about its glory days and days of pain, we, charged with their care, must tell the narrative.

It turns out that now, an elecan’t perform in the Ringling Bros. and Barnum & Bailey Circus any more. That is because on May 21st of this year, the animals and performers will give their last performance. Period.

This is arguably due to a few different reasons. The reason on everyone’s mind is the protest coming from animal activist organizations and individuals regarding the treatment of animals in the circus, though the Chairman and CEO of Feld Entertainment, who own the Ringling Bros. and Barnum & Bailey Circus has not and will probably not admit to that.

This article from PETA claims that elephants are torn from their families, forced to remain in the same position for 23 hours out of the day, and treated to chains, bullhooks, electrical prods, chains, and confinement. (PETA stands for “People for the Ethical Treatment of Animals.”)

There is also that one…little incident of the circus being made to pay $270,000 for violations of the Animal Welfare Act, the AWA. That is the most paid by an animal exhibitor, ever.

So that means that the animals rights violations are more than hippie’s cries of injustice towards our animal friends; they are real infractions punished by a legitimate policy-enforcing organization.

Something an ele-CAN is be on the endangered animals list. The elephants used in this circus are Asian elephants. At the turn of the century, there were twice as many Asian elephants than are left today.

If you remember middle school, you probably remember being taught about the food cycle, and how every species alive is important. Biodiversity is very important on our Earth. If you remember middle school, you also probably remember The Lion King, and what we learned there about the circle of life. Hey, it moves us all!

Feld Entertainment sort of…balances out the cruelty to the elephants in the circus by providing them a nice retirement home when they are too old to perform. The Elephant Conservation Center is a 200 acre sanctuary in Florida.

Not only can elephants live out their golden years here, the Center is also highly focused on the preservation of Asian elephants through reproduction. There have been over a dozen births at the center since its opening. This really should be recognized as a good thing, even if Feld Entertainment does have a circus of a track record when it comes to treating animals well.

Many consider the move by the Ringling Bros. and Barnum & Bailey Circus to shut down their circus one that is an advancement in human consciousness towards peace for all living things. We will hear the bells and whistles of the circus ring…ling no more. “The Greatest Show on Earth” may be greater for some now that it is closed.

What do YOU think?

Go to Top