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December 2003


Art Sharing
Sunday, November 2, 2003

Lida Sloan read her poetic attribute to Roberta for the special honors Roberta received among the comic strip artists of Spain - “Ole Roberta”. Todd Christoffel played two pieces on his guitar - “The Door” and “Pure Desire”. Carl Sloan showed photo promotional materials. Elizabeth Pankey modeled a beaded and pierced blouse and a pearl oyster shell necklace that she made for a forma Masonic event. Seiko Olson demonstrated preschool origami. Roberta Gregory showed the ½ hour video of the first episode of “Life’s a Bitch” animated cartoon. Her Bitchy Bitch character now airs in these cartoons at 1:00 PM every Sunday - Oxygen Network channel 50. Bruce Taylor read his short story “Alternate Reality 478.4”. Bob Olson read his short piece “Nicknames.” Todd Christoffel’s son Max had a new nickname for Bob, “Uncle Festus”. Kathleen Hammond, Roger Pankey and Pippin Sardo provided an audience.

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Bruce Taylor's Editorial

As So Go the Politics--

(My editorial comes by way of The Seattle Times, page A4, Thursday, November l3, 2003. There really isn't much to add to this, except to say, As So Go the Politics, So Go the Arts. Looks like all of us risk a lot these days if we dare challenge the “Political Take On Reality” coming out of Washington, D.C. This news item is run ver batim; nothing added, nothing changed)


BAGHDAD, Iraq -- Media people have been detained, news equipment has been confiscated and some jouralists have suffered verbal and physical abuse while tryiing to report on events.

Although the number of incidents involving soldiers and journalists is difficult to gauge, anecdotal evidence suggests it has risen sharply the past two months.

The president of the Associated Press Managing Editors, an association of editors at AP'bs representing more than l,700 newspapers in the United States and Canada, sent a protest letter to the Pentagon yesterday, urging officials to "immediately take the steps to end such confrontations."

"The effect has been to deprive the American public of crucial images from Iraq in newspapers, broadcast stations and online news operations," wrote Stuart Wilk, managing editor of the Dallas Morning News.

In October, the Belgium-based International Federation of Journalists, which includes unions representing 500,000 journalists in more than 100 countries, complained of increased harassment of reporters, including beatings.

Sami Awad, a Leanese cameraman working as a freelancer for a German TV network, said that when his crew tried to check out a report Friday about hand grenades being thrown at a US. patrol in Baghdad, soldiers threw them to the ground and pointed their weapons at their heads.

Two weeks ago, coalition troops detained two Al-Jazeera staff members covering an explosion at a police station in western Baghdad on accusations that they had prior knowledge of the car bombing. The men were later freed.

In August, Retuers TV cameraman Mazen Dana was killed while videotaping near a U.S.-run prison on the outskirts of Baghdad after a mortar attack. The military later said the troops had mistaken Dana's camera for a rocket-propelled grenade launcher.

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How sad, demoralizing, awful to have to know that this is going on; who's next? What's next? What if you're an artist doing art that may be defined as not "politically correct"? Death threats? IRS come knocking on your door? Ashcroft & company busting in to your home, gathering evidence, and you not there or aware of it happening until you get tossed into jail without due process or access to counsel? As so go the politics, so go the arts. Beware, beware, beware. Join the ACLU, urge your friends to do the same. Call up your senators about this intimidation of journalists. Ask your local paper if they plan to do an article on this. With this sort of intimidation going on, who, among us, is safe? Especially artists. In particular--artists. Artists are "out there", visible, speaking their truth. When one becomes afraid to speak out--via artistic expression or through protest, there is no freedom and without freedom, all you are left with, no matter what the motivation or how well meaning or well intentioned it is--all you are left with--is tyranny.

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Patti Padgett Writes...

Writer’s Block

It is a funny and mysterious thing, writer’s block. The blank paper, the blank mind. ‘I had a wonderful idea just a while ago…’ but where did it go? It hides, will not be snatched back. And the mind begins to lose focus; smears, twists, moves into a field of disconnected thoughts with no tails, nothing to grab hold of, nothing to tether to the ground, to stabilize. No, nothing stable about the mind at this juncture at all.

And the thinking wickedly reaches out to others in the group you attnd, others who have been published, or worse still, who are regularly published. You think about the remarks those people make about your work. How they think you should slant it or aim it, or whatever they do to get theirs published, with the unspoken end-phase, ‘this is why yours is NOT published!’ But they are not vicious, they have your best in mind. They are friends.

Then, there was this man, long ago, who attended once. Just once. Now I must interject the fact that all the people in my group are extremely nice to me and my work, mainly because (as they so often tell me) they don’t always understand what the heck I am writing about. Sometimes they want information moved around, or added, or even left out… but not this one man. No. He must have been an expert or something. No one ever figured out if he had been published or not, or where exactly he came from. I have my suspicions. South, and hot.

He ripped my piece, that piece of myself, my soul, my innermost being, to shreds. Our rule is we don’t do that to one another. ‘Don’t touch the subject matter, just the form.’ I was frozen with shock and coulld not even open my mouth, but retained a stupified grin. And he continued to disembowel it, and me with it… I felt as though flies might be gathering for the feast (I looked around). Disgorged. Undone.

As this expert man spoke I did search his hairline diligently, looking for the bumps where horns might protrude. I thought I did, in fact, see evidence of such.

And then the ultimate insult. Blow. Undermining. Burying.

And the Block.

He said to me, “And don’t try so hard to be literary, because you aren”t.”

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I am what I am, this is the way I write. Wrote. Years ago when I did write, I wrote that way. But the tablet sits empty whether beside my bed or in my lap, or fingers idle on the keys. I switch to a computer game, testing my brain (hello, are you still there, do you still function?). But Brain doesn’t answer. It is tucked in the shirt pocket of that awful man, whose name I don’t even know.

It reminds me of longer ago when I used to sculpt a little. I formed a lovely nude female. It took me a week. A friend of the family also sculpted, so I showed it to him… he said that it was easy to sculpt a nude figure, the hard part was putting clothing on it, and he proceeded to squeeze my lovely little figure down to a ball and show me what he meant.

These men had one thing in common, they wanted to decimate me, to bring me down to nothing, discourage me from doing what I do.

And try as I may, whether with pen or touching computer keys, my fingers sit upon a block.

Patti Padgett is a writer interested in FOKUS who shared this piece for our publication.

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Editorial Comments from Bob Olson

Let Us Care For America and Protect Our Soldiers

I’m a veteran of the “Forgotten War” - Korea. When I was in military hospitals in Korea, Japan and the United States I was not forgotten. My government cared for and protected me. I received the finest medical care. My doctors, nurses and medical technicians had the available time to spend at my bedside and assure my rehabilitation. During the time I was in military service (as a private and a corporal) the care and concern for the welfare my wife, my baby daughter and myself was a top priority of our government. Our soldiers, sailors and Airforce men and women today are not so privileged.

As our economy spirals to disaster for poor working men and women the most neglected seem to be the most deserving, our soldiers at war in Iraq or Afghanistan and their families. The lack of care for our soldiers today is unpatriotic and emphasizes a lack of care for America.

News stories reveal:

  • Misplaced pay records for reserve soldiers delays the money necessary to allow their families to keep up home payments, make living expenses and feed themselves. In fact, some of these soldiers have been erroneously billed over $40,000 by the government. These catastrophic clerical errors are not efficiently remedied.
  • Wounded soldiers are required to pay eight dollars a day for their meals while hospitalized. (A small stipend for off-base meals does not cover the cost of hospital meals.)
  • Tours of duty are usually extended, constantly jeopardizing military families.
  • More and more often the families of enlisted soldiers have had to go on welfare - for often they are the most impoverished Americans.
  • Funds to rebuild the infrastructure of Iraq and continue the war are forthcoming, while funds to care for all hospitalized veterans are drastically cut.
  • American POWs captured, tortured and disabled by their treatment during the first war in Iraq obtained a court judgement against the confiscated assets of Sadam Hussein. While President Bush has obtained much of Sadam’s international wealth he refuses to release the money legally belonging to these soldiers.
  • Perhaps the biggest drain on the billions pledged by our government to rebuild the infrastructure in Iraq has been the behavior of corporations like Halliburton and Bechtel (which were awarded huge contracts without competitive bidding). Iraqis have proven their creative capabilities in helping themselves by salvaging parts in a devastated cement plant restoring its operation with less production, and restoring oil production in sabotaged plants when American engineers have given up. Halliburton does not contribute to the welfare of Iraq when it hires labor from other countries, at an excessive cost, without making any commitment to put Iraqis back to work.. Iraq is not producing enough oil to meet its own needs, so Halliburton is trucking oil from Kuwait to sell in Iraq at over $2.50 a gallon. Iraqi produced oil sells in the country for 15 cents a gallon. Halliburton’s behavior seems to exceed any limitation on “war profiteering”, making billions at the expense of American taxpayers, while our soldiers worry about their families and risk their lives.
  • Today our government espouses patriotism while mistreating our veterans. A case in point - White Feather, a good friend of mine, is a veteran of the Vietnam War. He lives with cancer caused by Agent Orange poisoning. (Which the government has yet to acknowledge.) White has a total medical disability with cancer treatments that have devastated his immune system, suffering daily with one ailment or another. The doctors and nurses at military and veteran’s hospitals treating White Feather have all but given up on him. He has found these hospitals understaffed with outdated equipment and medical staff forced to work 24-hour shifts. How can any of our soldiers and veterans get adequate care under such circumstances?

    However, White Feather, being an American Indian, is now able to obtain medical care at non-military hospitals through tribal benefits. What about all of our wounded and disabled American soldiers who are not American Indians? Don’t they deserve first rate care to protect their lives and their families?

    We must demand that our leaders set priorities that demonstrate care for America. Care for America must strengthen our economy reestablishing profitable employment for workers. To do this we must reverse many of our policies to allow and encourage industry by making it profitable for corporations to employ and provide for American labor. We must curb the present corporate policies of downsizing for profit by enforcing business ethics to contain the inequity of earnings. (Now, high paid executives earn 450 times the salary of their average worker.) We must revise our tax structure so that the wealthiest pay their fair share. President Bush’s “tax cuts for the wealthy” have only exasperated average Americans who are too poor to benefit and realize the cost of this gratuity will only impoverish their children and grandchildren.

    Under present policies our country, our economy, and our soldiers at risk. It seems strange to me that President Bush touts an economic “recovery” when more and more Americans become unemployed every month. I would like to see our priorities become:

  • The care for our soldiers and their families. The injustices previously stated must be rectified.
  • Profitable employment for every American. The “appearance” of economic recovery that our president touts seems to be based upon American companies showing a profit. More often than not this “profit” is the result of downsizing - cutting expenses by laying off employees or disposing of manufacturing/business operations and inventory. We seem to have a decrease in unemployment because unemployed workers have been out of work so long that they are no longer statistically recorded. We can never have a recovery without putting Americans back to work.
  • Affordable health care for every American with “cost containment” holding pharmaceutical companies and HMO’s to reasonable profits. Our new plan that has just became law is likely to increase taxes for seniors, and all other Americans, because these special interests are not held accountable.
  • The healthy recovery of our economy to reestablish faith in the stock market. Most Americans will only trust investments when corporations can earn trust by demonstrating that they care for America. Our present short-term appearance of a recovery is deceiving. A few investors feel a false sense of security because some investments increase in value through downsizing, allowing opportunistic CEO’s to make millions at the expense of their workers and small investors.
  • Under present policies poorer Americans fund our government with smaller taxes. Recession will quickly become depression. Then, only the wealthy can afford to buy anything and American business will have lost its’ American market.

    Let us care for America. Our soldiers, our veterans and their families deserve first priority.

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     Last updated:  March 7, 2002