Tuesday, August 09, 2011
Some serene beauty and some very real ugliness
I first saw the original of this strikingly austere and geometric view of Japan's Mount Fuji in the Art Gallery of New South Wales, Australia in the summer of 2002. It dates from 1818-1819 and is rendered in ink and other color media on paper in the form of a scroll, not a hanging scroll but a horizontal handscroll which is in the collection of The British Museum. It's title is "The Summit of Mt. Fuji in All Seasons." It's dimensions are given as Height: 13.3 centimetres, Width: 1341.1 centimetres, meaning that the scroll is approximately 100 times as wide as it is tall. The curator's note on the work is below:
"The identity of Minamoto (no) Sadayoshi, author of the preface and painter of the handscroll, is otherwise unknown, but he explains that the depictions are based on observations made of Mt Fuji from the early spring of Bunsei 1 (1818) onwards, after an unusually heavy snowfall. The scroll shows a total of thirty-one views of the mountain, all from the same vantage point with the bulge of Mt Hoei in silhouette on the right slope, and thus seen from the west. Two views are drawn at the beginning and middle of every month, recording the receding snow-line, and then seven extra views are given of unusual meteorological phenomena. In the section illustrated the inscription reads: 'Cloud shaped like a flat travelling-hat [kasa]: when this moves south it is fair; when it moves north it rains'. It is followed by pictures of double- and treble-'travelling hat' cloud formations."
Lenticular clouds as they are called, form with some frequency on mountains when the proper combination of wind, temperature and moisture coincide.
Mount Fuji with an actual lenticular cloud, not as strictly symmetrical as Minamoto's. He apparently went by several different versions of his name, but is such an obscure figure that his biographical note is a very bare bones affair. I was deeply impressed by the scroll when I saw it and have always been surprised that the artist was not better known. Had he worked in the famous woodblock print medium, as with Hokusai's 100 Views of Mt. Fuji series of individual, easily replicated pieces of art, he would surely have achieved notoriety. But the single and very sizable scroll format would seem to indicate a treasured work in the collection of a connoisseur, perhaps with servants on each end of the scroll, rolling the images past important guests, other artists and collectors, and not available to the general public.
Sunrise on a lenticular cloud over Sicily's Mount Etna. These clouds have frequently been reported to police and the military as UFOs.
NOM, the conservative National Organization for Marriage, has issued its own anti-gay hate pledge to members of the GOP presidential field. Michele Bachman, Mitt Romney and Rick Santorum rushed to sign it. Signers of the pledge vow that if elected president, they will:
A) Promote a federal constitutional ban on same-sex marriage,
B) Nominate and appoint Supreme Court and federal judges that oppose LGBT equality,
C) Vigorously defend DOMA,
D) Establish a presidential commission to investigate the harassment of anti-gay Christians,
E) Establish legislation to repeal DC marriage.
Now it worries me that many gay men who are justifiably disappointed in Barack Obama's record and pace on LGBT rights are declaring that they will either not vote in the coming election, or will vote for a Republican. Given the sentiments above, to which those candidates have enthusiastically subscribed, and the rampant homophobia current in the Republican Party and its rogue spur The Tea Party, any gains made by Republicans in the next election could be disastrous for gay rights. Here's a completely insane statement:
"I will tell you ladies and gentlemen, I detest and despise everything the left stands for. How anybody can endorse and embrace an ideology that has killed a billion people in the last century is beyond me." - Tea Party Nation CEO Judson Phillips, speaking at a Republican event in Wisconsin.
Now here's another example of a Republican twisting history totally around and presenting it as truth. In contemporary parlance, Left = Liberal. Who, exactly, was responsible for the many deaths during the last century? World War I began with an assassination that unleashed total European war due to a convoluted network of alliances that guaranteed every nation on the continent would have to fight. With almost no exceptions, the combatant nations were conservative, imperialist monarchies that could hardly be considered Left/Liberal.
Joseph Stalin slaughtered vast numbers of Russians in the Gulags, in the basements and courtyards of secret police headquarters, in slave labor constructing vast public works projects like canals, dams, and subway systems before, during and after World War II. Utilizing the existing network (or in Aleksandr I. Solzhenitsyn's memorable book title, Archipelago) of concentration and slave labor camps while enjoying the services of a secret police system directly descended from Ivan IV (the Terrible), Stalin was simply an absolutist Tsar in a business suit. Liberal? I think not.
World War II itself was triggered by the conservative, reactionary, Fascist Nazi regime's invasion of Poland and stunning invasion and occupation of the majority of the continent. The Final Solution to "the Jewish Question" was an act of simple genocide partly suggested, apparently, by the Turkish massacre of Armenians earlier in the century. In Italy the conservative and reactionary Mussolini regime became Germany's partner with the militaristic, conservative Japanese militarist regime joining in as well. Not a Liberal in sight.
Mao's revolution in China led to the slaughter of huge numbers of Chinese citizens, in a country already reeling from the Japanese massacres in the recently-ended war. Mao's China was a seriously reactionary, anti-intellectual, absolute monarchy thinly disguised as a People's Republic Liberal? -- not within a country mile.
Further genocides in Cambodia, the Balkans, Africa and elsewhere were perpetrated in the name of "cleansing" countries ethnically. Liberals are progressive, not reactionary, and favor granting and guaranteeing people's rights. The vast slaughter of the 20th century was intended in all cases to be the ultimate denial of people's rights by denying them everything, right down to their very lives.
When will Americans wake up to the lies of these people?
I have lightly edited this tragic and infuriating story from today's San Francisco Chronicle. It is precisely the sort of thing that frustrates gays and other well-intentioned people who voted for Mr. Obama, whose intentions are difficult to determine given incidents like this one. This issue has appeared on several blogs today and I am including it on mine in the interest of spreading the story and, hopefully, inspiring people who read it to register a protest in support of these two besieged men.
S.F. gay married couple loses immigration battle
Citing the Defense of Marriage Act, the Obama administration denied immigration benefits to a married gay couple from San Francisco and ordered the expulsion of a man who is the primary caregiver to his AIDS-afflicted spouse.
Bradford Wells, a U.S. citizen, and Anthony John Makk, a citizen of Australia, were married seven years ago in Massachusetts. They have lived together 19 years, mostly in an apartment in the Castro district. The U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services denied Makk's application to be considered for permanent residency as a spouse of an American citizen, citing the 1996 law that denies all federal benefits to same-sex couples. Makk was ordered to depart the United States by Aug. 25. Makk is the sole caregiver for Wells, who has severe health problems.
"I'm married just like any other married person in this country," Wells said. "At this point, the government can come in and take my husband and deport him. It's infuriating. It's upsetting. I have no power, no right to keep my husband in this country. I love this country, I live here, I pay taxes and I have no right to share my home with the person I married."
Husband's pleasWells pleaded with Homeland Security Secretary Janet Napolitano and President Obama to intervene.
"Anyone can identify with the horror of having the government come in and destroy your family when you've done nothing wrong, and you've done everything right, followed every law," Wells said.
The agency's decision cited the Defense of Marriage Act as the reason for the denial of an I-130 visa, or spousal petition that could allow Makk to apply for permanent U.S. residency. "The claimed relationship between the petitioner and the beneficiary is not a petitionable relationship," the decision said. "For a relationship to qualify as a marriage for purposes of federal law, one partner must be a man and the other a woman."
Obama and Attorney General Eric Holder decided earlier this year that the law, commonly known as DOMA, is unconstitutional on equal protection grounds and that the administration would no longer defend it in court. House Republicans hired an outside counsel to defend it instead. However, the administration said it would continue to enforce the law, while exercising discretion on a case-by-case basis.
ICE's director, John Morton, issued a memorandum in June that offered guidance to agents in making enforcement decisions. Because no law enforcement agency can pursue every case, they routinely prioritize where to commit the government's limited resources. The memorandum said prosecutions should seek to promote "national security, border security, public safety and the integrity of the immigration system."
Makk meets several of the circumstances specified in the memorandum. Aside from being a spouse of an American citizen, he is also the primary caretaker of a citizen, has no criminal history, and has legally resided in the country under various visas for many years. The couple said they spent nearly $2,000 to file the petition that was denied, and now must decide whether to file a motion to reconsider the decision, which Wells said would almost certainly be denied, giving the couple at most another 30 days of residency.
Poor alternativesWells could move to Australia, but he said doing so would require him to give up his extensive medical care and insurance in the United States. "We are appealing to the Obama administration to begin to put into action what they've said repeatedly they can do," said Immigration Equality spokesman Steve Ralls. "The Department of Homeland Security and ICE have said again and again that they can exercise discretion in individual cases, but they have not done so for a single gay or lesbian couple yet."
Drew Hammill, a spokesman for Rep. Nancy Pelosi, D-San Francisco, said Pelosi has contacted immigration officials on behalf of the couple and "will be working to exhaust all appropriate immigration remedies that are open to pursue.
At some point, certain people need to grow up and realized that even if Democratic politicians cannot move as fast as we'd like on our issues, they're the only politicians that we have a chance with. They have to work against a very strong group of conservatives for any and every gain. And the repeal of DATD puts a very positive accomplishment in Obama's column.
With Republicans in charge, that would never have been on the table. And just read that "pledge." That's better than Obama?
Seriously, start whacking yourself (not you, Will) on the head with a hammer. Repeatedly. Or get a clue.
Rant over. ;)
I despair when I read the obscene policies of the republican party with regard to equal rights.
Walt is quite right, just because Obama hasn't been able to fulfill all expectations (which were probably unrealistic to begin with)is no reason to hop into bed with the enemy. And enemy is the right word... these people are evil as your poignant story on immigration highlights.
Anyone who can read the rest of this and not get sick to their stomach has no humanity within them. The only reason people think lgbt have it so good is because we don't get national coverage of stories like this...how many lives must be disrupted, homes destroyed, marriages denied, worlds shattered before this government, this country, this world...says enough?
The couple from SF's story is heartbreaking & I fear we are possibly moving into even more reactionary times.
I am always baffled when people vote against their won best interests.