Friday, July 20, 2018

Photo of the Day

Image: "Red Rock" by Michael J. Bayly.

Thursday, July 19, 2018

Quote of the Day

We know the United States has interfered in elections everywhere, including supposed allies and friends. . . . [It has] done it over and over again, and [there are] lots of examples. . . . Maybe the Russians did these things to the American elections. Maybe they wanted a Trump victory as an outcome. Maybe they wanted to weaken [a potential] Clinton presidency, as people are accusing them of. Maybe it’s all true. But the truth of it is this is normal stuff in the competition between these big countries. And the reason it’s made such an issue now is because various forces want to wound Trump. And he may or may not be complicit in this. So far there doesn’t seem to be any real evidence that he is. But it’s about the wounding of Trump and the struggle that’s taking place in the American elites, and within, very importantly, the state apparatus itself. [It's] a real struggle. And I have to say, I welcome this struggle. Because I think we have to talk about from what perspective do we look at these things.

[The oligarchy of this country] want us to look at these things as Americans, [as if] we’re all the same. You know, it’s an attack on American values. It’s an attack on American democracy. Well, is American values what goes on in the streets of Baltimore every day, where the Department of Justice said that people’s Constitutional rights are violated every single day? Are American values [the] unlimited spending of money, manipulating – the real manipulation – and determining outcome of elections? These aren’t the values of the American people. So let’s really be clear: the oligarchy of Russia is an adversary of the Russian people and the American oligarchy is an adversary of the American people. Let’s start with that. We’re not all in the same boat here. So, this issue of the people all up in arms about this [Trump-Putin] summit, it’s from the perspective of various sections of the American oligarchy. This is not what the American people need or want.

. . . [W]hat really affected the outcome of the 2016 U.S. election? So let’s say [the Russian government] did what they did. But what’s the bigger story? That the Russians did that? Or, for example, that this billionaire Robert Mercer, who brings money, Bannon and Kellyanne Conway and Breitbart News, which he mostly owned, to Trump, and manipulate through Cambridge Analytica, do various kinds of studying of voter patterns, especially in swing states, and are able to message specific messages to individual people. I still talk to people, intelligent, well-informed people, who never even heard the name Robert Mercer. It’s a far more important story to how the outcome of the election was manipulated by a far-right cabal very closely aligned with Netanyahu and Israel, allied with the Saudis. That’s a really big story.

It’s not that the Russians aren’t a story; but you know, where’s the big weight of the issues? And more importantly, given how destructive this Trump presidency is to the social safety net, to any kind of rational legislation that still exists in this country – and there wasn’t a heck of a lot of it, but they’re undoing what there was – given the fact that he’s a climate denier, I mean, what’s the bigger story? The fact that Trump’s undoing even the modest climate change legislation that existed? You know, pulling back EPA regulations on cars, allowing coal starting to drill everywhere any of these guys wants to drill, isn’t that a much bigger story than maybe, or even if, the Russians did whatever they did?

The point is that this Russia thing isn’t being driven by a real defense of values. Because the values of saving the planet, that’s a value. They’re not even talking about it. . . . [Y]es, if the Russians did it, American government agencies have every right to tell the Russians to stay the hell out of American elections. And if somebody colluded with them, yeah, sure, arrest them. I mean, whatever. That’s fine. But it’s peanuts compared to the bigger issues.

Paul Jay
Excerpted from "Trump-Putin and the Real Threats to Democracy"
The Real News
July 16, 2018

Related Off-site Links:
The United States Has a National-Security Problem – and It’s Not What You Think – Rajan Menon (The Nation, July 16, 2018).
Climb Down From the Summit of Hostile Propaganda – Norman Solomon (Common Dreams, July 16, 2018).
Soft Targets: The Muddled and Anti-Intellectual American Brains That Made Election Meddling Possible – Bill C. Davis (Common Dreams, July 18, 2018).

See also the previous Wild Reed posts:
Quote of the Day – July 16, 2017
Hope in the Midst of Collapse
The People's Climate Solidarity March – Minneapolis, 4/29/17

Wednesday, July 18, 2018

Out and About – Spring 2018 (Part II)

Friends, here is the second part of the spring installment of my Out and About 2018 series! (For Part I, click here.)

Spring 2018 got off to a cold and snowy start here in Minnesota. We experienced, for instance, the coldest April 6 in the Twin Cities in 145 years! Then on April 14 we experienced the Spring Blizzard of 2018.

That's my friend Joey at right, cleaning off his car of ice and snow before going to work – April 14, 2018.

Above: The spring thaw begins! – April 22, 2018.

Above: My friend Deandre, just chillin' with a cat.

On the evening of Monday, April 30, my dear friends Ken and Carol hosted a lovely dinner for myself and a number of our mutual friends.

Above (from left): Kathleen, Brigid, Carol, Ken, and Sue Ann.

Right: With my friend Kathleen – April 30, 2018.

Above: Carol and Ken.

Left: Brigid and Sue Ann – April 30, 2018.

Above: The 44th annual In the Heart of the Beast Puppet and Mask Theatre's MayDay parade in Minneapolis – Sunday, May 6, 2018. This year's theme was "What You Feed, Grows! (It's All About Love)."

Right: With my friend Mahad at the MayDay parade.

For more images and commentary on MayDay 2018, click here and here.

Above: Standing with the Prayer Tree – Friday, May 4, 2018. My friend Raul snapped this pic. (And like in the previous picture with my friend Mahad, I'm wearing my Black Panther t-shirt!).

For more images from this beautiful spring day by Minnehaha Creek, click here.

Above: On Mother's Day (Sunday, May 13), my boyfriend Brent (right) hosted a lovely lunch for his mum and other members of his family.

Above: Little Amelia welcomes the return of spring!

Above: Amelia, the dragon girl.

Above: Mother's Day dinner at the home of my friends Noelle and John.

Above: With Brent – May 13, 2018. Note to self: Check your hair before posing with Brent, as his hair is always so immaculate!

Right: With friends Alicia and Scott – May 13, 2018.

Above: Friends Ben, Phil, and Dee – Sunday, May 13, 2018.

On May 14 I was invited to provide the opening blessing at the annual TRUST Meals on Wheels Volunteer Appreciation Luncheon. I'm pictured above at this event with friends Gretchen and Bob.

From June 2011 until June 2017 I served as a site coordinator with TRUST Meals on Wheels. For images and commentary from the farewell reception that my colleagues at TRUST hosted for me last June, click here.

Above: Deandre and Brent doing a spot of spring gardening – Saturday, May 26, 2018.

Above: Deandre, hard at it!

Above: A great portrait shot of my good friend Brian – Saturday, June 2, 2018.

Left: With Brian at Orchestra Hall, Minneapolis. We were there for the Minnesota Orchestra's June 2 "Bernstein and Walton" concert.

Above and right: My friends Hugh and David hosted the third Queer Movie Night on Sunday, June 3, 2018. They chose the 2017 drama God's Own Country to view and discuss.

Directed by Francis Lee, God's Own Country stars Josh O'Connor and Alec Secareanu. The plot follows a young sheep farmer in Yorkshire whose life is transformed by the arrival of a Romanian migrant worker. Since its release, God's Own Country has received critical acclaim. It holds a 99% approval rating on review aggregator website Rotten Tomatoes. The site's critical consensus reads: "A quiet, moving rumination on loneliness and newfound intimacy, God's Own Country marks an outstanding directorial debut for Francis Lee." Ed Potton, writing in The Times (of London), gave the film four stars out of five and described it as "splendid" and "a potent film, a Yorkshire Brokeback Mountain."

For more about our Queer Movie Night series, click here and here.

Above: David and Hugh – June 3, 2018.

Above: The view of downtown Minneapolis from David and Hugh's apartment.

Above: Omar, Brent, and Kathleen – June 3, 2018.

Above: Brent and I with friends Omar, Pete, and Jeffrey – June 3, 2018.

My friend Mahad, pictured above at the shop of Dave the Pie Guy, Tuesday, June 5, 2018, and, right, at Merlins Rest Pub, Sunday, June 10, 2018.

Mahad would have to have one of the best smiles around, wouldn't you say?

Above and left: On the afternoon of Sunday, June 10, Mahad and I spent time in an area of urban wilderness close to the Winchell Trail, a largely unpaved trail that winds about 2.5 miles along the west bank of the Mississippi River in Minneapolis, from Franklin Avenue to Minnehaha Park. It follows what was once an Indian trail, and is mostly hidden.

For more images and commentary about our time at this beautiful spot in south Minneapolis, click here.

Above: Mahad – June 10, 2018.

On the evening of Friday, June 15, 2018 my friends Joan and Matt hosted a lovely dinner party in the famous kitchen of their Mendota Heights home!

Above (from left): Brent, Kurt, Matt, Joan, George, John, and Cesar.

Right: With Cesar and Brent.

Above: A lovely shot of Kurt and Cesar -- June 15, 2018.

Above: On Sunday, June 17, 2018, I joined with several hundred other people in a protest organized by the Minnesota Immigrant Rights Action Committee. This protest was against the Trump administration’s border crossing policy, which had forcibly separated more than 2,000 immigrant children from their parents.

Left: With my friend Sue Ann. (I'm wearing my Buffy Sainte-Marie t-shirt.)

For more images and commentary on this event, click here.

Spring 2018 Wild Reed posts of note:
Thoughts on Queer Cinema
The God from the House of Bread: A Bridge Between Christianity and Paganism
Congratulations, Buffy
The Student-Activists of 2018 – Leading Us to the Future
Easter Bodiliness
Spring's Snowy Start
Celebrating Al Green, Soul Legend
The Spring Blizzard of 2018
Happy Birthday, Dad!
What a Difference Four Days Can Make
Let's Dance
Welcoming the Return of Spring
Beltane: Casting Off the Darkness and Celebrating the Light
Umberto and Roberto: Love in Motion
In the Garden of Spirituality – David Richo
Quote of the Day – May 8, 2018
Deconstructing Childish Gambino's "This Is America"
"What You Feed, Grows! (It's All About Love)" – MayDay 2018 (Part 1)
"What You Feed, Grows! (It's All About Love)" – MayDay 2018 (Part 2)
A Longing and a Prayer
Quote of the Day – May 15, 2018
Reclaiming the Power of Male Touch
Spring Blooms
The NFL: "A Modern Example of Nakedly Racist Authoritarianism in America"
Something to Think About – May 27, 2018
Yeah, You Know You've Got It
Meeting (and Embodying) the Lover God
The Gorgeous One
Jeremy Scahill on the Historical Context of the Trump Administration's "Pathologically Sick" Anti-Immigrant Agenda
Time By the River
Michelangelo Signorile on the Rebellious Purpose of Queer Pride
Opposing the Trump Administration's Inhumane Treatment of Immigrant Families

See also the previous Wild Reed posts:
Out and About – Winter 2017-2018
Out and About – Autumn 2017
Out and About – Summer 2017
Out and About – Spring 2017

Images: Michael J. Bayly. (With thanks to my friend Mahad Abdullahi for the opening image.)

Tuesday, July 17, 2018

The Tragedy of the Romanovs, 100 Years On

Today marks the 100th anniversary of the murder of the Romanow family in the Ural city of Yekaterinburg, Russia.

The photograph above shows the Romanovs, the last imperial family of Russia, in 1913, the year of the Romanov Tercentenary; while the image at right shows the 2003 consecration of the Church on Blood in Honor of All Saints in Yekaterinburg. This church is built upon the site of the infamous Ipatiev House – the place of imprisonment and execution of the Romanovs.

After Tsar Nicholas II's abdication in March 1917, the imperial family were held captive in Russia – first by the Provisional Government and then, after the October Revolution, by the Bolshevik regime. The family included Nicholas, his wife Empress Alexandra Feodorovna, and their five children – the Grand Duchesses Olga, Tatiana, Maria and Anastasia, and the Tsarevich Alexei.

One of the things that draws me to the Romanovs' story is how through their responses of fortitude and love during the months of imprisonment leading up to their murder, they came to perceive more clearly the strengthening and transforming presence of God. This resulted decades later in their canonization as passion bearers by the Russian Orthodox Church.

Virginia Cowles in her book, The Romanovs, encapsulates this period of the family's life beautifully and succinctly when she writes:

The sixteen months that followed the overthrow of the monarchy revealed a new and noble Nicholas and Alexandra. These lamentable rulers, these tragic, misguided autocrats, who possessed not an inkling of understanding of the swift currents swirling around them, endured the trial and humiliation to which they were submitted with such rare dignity and courage that none but the coldest heart can fail to admire them. Their love for each other, their unquestioning faith in God, gave them a nobility that shines through the mists of time. The vacillating monarch became a man of strength; the censorious consort, a woman of compassion.

As I mentioned in a previous post, I've been fascinated by the story of the Romanovs since high school, when I saw Franklin J. Schaffner's film Nicholas and Alexandra on Australian TV. It had quite the impact on me, not only because of its epic depiction of the downfall of Russia's Romanov dynasty, but because it movingly told a very intimate, very human story: the story of a loving family's attempt to deal with momentous circumstances and events, many of which were beyond their comprehension and control.

In particular, I'm thinking of the then-incurable haemophilia that inflicted Alexei, the couple's son and heir, and the consequences that flowed from the way Nicholas and Alexandra chose to respond to this tragedy of fate: their clinging stubbornly to the idea of absolute monarchy, their turning to Rasputin. Such responses ensured epic and tragic consequences for their family, the Russian empire, and, indeed, the world.

Not long after, I found in the library of my high school the book upon which the film is based, Robert K. Massie's Nicholas and Alexandra. So began a fascination with the Romanov family that continues to this day. (For more about my interest in the story of the Romanovs, click here.)

Above (from left): Grand Duchess Olga, Grand Duchess Maria, Tsar Nicholas II, Tsaritsa Alexandra, Grand Duchess Anastasia, Tsarevich Alexei, and Grand Duchess Tatiana (1913).

Previous Wild Reed posts about the Romanov family:
Remembering the Romanovs
Remembering Olga Nikolaevna and Her Sisters

Related off-site links about the 100th anniversary of the family's murder:
The Terrible Fate of Russia’s Imperial Family – Joe Sommerlad (The Independent, July 12, 2018).
A Century After the Tsar and His Family Were Murdered and Lenin Seized Power, How the Daily Mail Might Have Recorded This Event If It Happened Today – Tony Rennell and Guy Walters (The Daily Mail, July 15, 2018).
A Century Ago, the Romanovs Met a Gruesome End – Anna Diamond (Smithsonian Magazine, July 2018).
The Romanovs’ Art of Survival – Anastasia Edel (The New York Review of Books, July 16, 2018).
The Legacy of the Romanovs: How Is the Last Russian Royal Family Remembered in Russia? – Helen Rappaport (, July 16, 2018).
Russia Split Over Remains of Last Tsar on 100th Anniversary of His Murder – Alec Luhn (The Telegraph, July 16, 2018).
Fresh DNA Tests Authenticate Bones of Russian Tsar and (July 16, 2018).
Inside the Romanov Family's Final Days – Caroline Hallemann (Town and Country, July 1, 2018).
The Race to Save the Romanovs and How It Fell Apart – Bob Ruggiero (Houston Press, July 11, 2018).
How the Royal Houses of Europe Abandoned the Romanovs – Helen Rappaport (The Economist, June 28, 2018).

Monday, July 16, 2018

Quote of the Day

Donald Trump’s press conference performance in Helsinki rises to and exceeds the threshold of “high crimes and misdemeanors.” It was nothing short of treasonous. Not only were Trump’s comments imbecilic, he is wholly in the pocket of Putin. Republican Patriots: Where are you?

– John Brennan
Quoted in The Washington Post
July 16, 2018

Above: The cover of the July 17, 2018 edition of the New York Daily News accuses President Donald Trump of siding with Russian leader Vladimir Putin over his own country. The cover's illustration by Bill Bramhall alludes to a statement Trump made during his presidential campaign that he could shoot someone on New York’s Fifth Avenue and not lose voters.

Related Off-site Links:
"Shameful," "Treasonous," "Disgraceful": Trump Slammed From All Sides for News Conference with Putin – Dartunorro Clark (NBC News, July 16, 2018).
Trump Sides With the Kremlin, Against the U.S. Government – Krishndev Calamur (The Atlantic, July 16, 2018).
Trump, Treasonous Traitor – Charles M. Blow (The New York Times, July 15, 2018).
The Crisis Is Upon Us – Charles P. Pierce (Esquire, July 16, 2018).
Trump Sheds All Notions of How a President Should Conduct Himself Abroad – Mark Landler (The New York Times, July 16, 2018).
In Helsinki, Trump Violated His Oath of Office – Thomas L. Friedman (The New York Times via The Star Tribune, July 17, 2018).
Is Donald Trump Committing Treason? – John Shattuck (The Boston Globe, July 16, 2018).
Is Donald Trump’s Dark Russian Secret Hiding in Deutsche Bank’s Vaults? – Luke Harding (Newsweek, December 21, 2017).
How Russian Mob Money Helped Build Trump Business Empire – Craig Unger (The New Republic, July 13, 2017).
Putin Does Not Deny That Russia Has "Compromising Material" On Trump – Marina Fang (The Huffington Post, July 16, 2018).

UPDATES: Trump Backtracks on Russian Meddling, Says He "Misspoke" During Putin Meeting – Zeke Miller and Lisa Mascaro (Associated Press via Chicago Tribune, July 17, 2018).
Trump Now Says He Accepts U.S. Intelligence Reports on Russian Election Meddling – Eileen Sullivan and Mark Landler (The New York Times, July 17, 2018).
National Security Experts Warn Trump Is Behaving More and More Like a "Controlled Spy" – Sonam Sheth (Business Insider, July 17, 2018).
Soft Targets: The Muddled and Anti-Intellectual American Brains That Made Election Meddling Possible – Bill C. Davis (Common Dreams, July 18, 2018).

See also the previous Wild Reed posts:
Quote of the Day – May 23, 2018
Quote of the Day – February 6, 2018
Global Condemnation for Trump's Latest Ignorant and Racist Comments
Hope in the Midst of Collapse
With Republicans at the Helm, It's the United States of Hypocrisy
Donald Trump: A View from Australia
Trump's America: Normalized White Supremacy and a Rising Tide of Racist Violence
Quote of the Day – April 6, 2017
Quote of the Day – March 26, 2017
A Profoundly Troubling and Tragic Indictment
On International Human Rights Day, Saying "No" to Donald Trump and His Fascist Agenda
Progressive Perspectives on the Election of Donald Trump
Election Eve Thoughts
Carrying It On
Progressive Perspectives on the Rise of Donald Trump
Trump's Playbook

Sunday, July 15, 2018

Tous les Mêmes

A musical interlude this sultry Sunday afternoon with "Tous les mêmes" by Stromae. About this song and its music video, Wikipedia notes the following.

"Tous les mêmes" (French for "[They are] All the Same") is a song by Belgian singer Stromae, released in 2013. The song has peaked at number one on music charts in both Belgium and France. The music video, directed by Henry Scholfield, was released on YouTube on December 18, 2013 and features Stromae partly dressed as a woman. The track shows the life of female Stromae, annoyed with the attitude of men and what they do. Throughout the video, Stromae depicts various stereotypical remarks women make about men, accompanied by the non-verbal cues the other characters in the video make. The lighting effects in the video (green light for male Stromae, pink light for female Stromae) aid the interpretation of the song. The video has received over 200 million views as of June 2018.

"Tous les mêmes" is from Stromae's second album, Racine Carrée (French for "square root"), which artfully blends Caribbean and African musical influences along with Stromae's signature 1990s-inspired dance beats. The album explores themes as diverse as alienation from social networks, relationship issues, discrimination, cigarettes and lung cancer, AIDS, and absent father figures. Prior to its official release and afterwards, Racine Carrée received critical acclaim for its thoughtful lyrics. It also gained comparisons to the work of fellow Belgian recording artist Jacques Brel. The album was a commercial success across Western Europe, including non-francophone countries, and yielded three chart-topping singles: "Papaoutai," "Formidable" and "Tous les mêmes."

I must admit the lyrics of "Tous les Mêmes" (translated below) don't resonate with me at all. I know they're supposed to reflect an argument between two (heterosexual) lovers but they're just too petty and catty, and too reliant on stereotypes, for my liking. Perhaps that's Stroman's point: the ridiculousness of so many interpersonal clashes. What I do appreciate, however, is the song's overall sound and its music video, especially the latter's dance sequences.

All you men are all the same
Macho but cheap
A bunch of unfaithful fools
So predictable, I’m not even sure you deserve me
You’re lucky that we love you
Go on, thank me

We’ve set the date for our next argument
We’ve set the date around that time of month

The beginnings of another argument
Between Stromaette and her boyfriend:
Take one last look at my ass
It’s right next to my suitcase
Say goodbye to your mommy
Who puts you on a pedestal
You have no idea what you’re losing
You’ll never find anyone as good as me
What? You wanna break up now?
You’ve got it all wrong
I was only saying that to get a reaction
And you were actually thinking about it!

It’s easy to say I’m whiny and emotional
And I talk too much “blah blah blah”
“But no no no, it’s important
That thing you call your ‘period’”
You know, life is for having kids
But as always, “It’s never the right time”
Oh, sure, you’re there to make them
but will you be there to raise them, too?

By the time I’ve turned ugly
Or at least au naturel –
Stop, I know you’re lying
Only Kate Moss will stay forever beautiful
Ugly or stupid? – It ain’t right!
Beauty or beast? – It ain’t right!
Beauty or me? – It ain’t right!
Me or her? – It ain’t right!

All the same and we’re fed up

Previous featured artists at The Wild Reed:
Dusty Springfield | David Bowie | Kate Bush | Maxwell | Buffy Sainte-Marie | Prince | Frank Ocean | Maria Callas | Loreena McKennitt | Rosanne Cash | Petula Clark | Wendy Matthews | Darren Hayes | Jenny Morris | Gil Scott-Heron | Shirley Bassey | Rufus Wainwright | Kiki Dee | Suede | Marianne Faithfull | Dionne Warwick | Sam Sparro | Wanda Jackson | Engelbert Humperdinck | Pink Floyd | Carl Anderson | The Church | Enrique Iglesias | Yvonne Elliman | Lenny Kravitz | Helen Reddy | Stephen Gately | Judith Durham | Nat King Cole | Emmylou Harris | Bobbie Gentry | Russell Elliot | BØRNS | Hozier | Enigma | Moby (featuring the Banks Brothers) | Cat Stevens | Chrissy Amphlett | Jon Stevens | Nada Surf | Tom Goss (featuring Matt Alber) | Autoheart | Scissor Sisters | Mavis Staples | Claude Chalhoub | Cass Elliot | Duffy | The Cruel Sea | Wall of Voodoo | Loretta Lynn and Jack White | Foo Fighters | 1927 | Kate Ceberano | Tee Set | Joan Baez | Wet, Wet, Wet | Stephen “Tin Tin” Duffy | Fleetwood Mac | Jane Clifton | Australian Crawl | Pet Shop Boys | Marty Rhone | Josef Salvat | Kiki Dee and Carmelo Luggeri | Aquilo | The Breeders | Tony Enos | Tupac Shakur | Nakhane Touré | Al Green | Donald Glover/Childish Gambino | Josh Garrels