Friday, December 30, 2011

“An optimist stays up until midnight to see the New Year in.
A pessimist stays up to make sure the old year leaves.”—
Bill Vaughn


I’m no Pollyanna. In fact, I often call on my alter ego, Pollybollocks, to back me up. She’s not shy about voicing her rather acerbic opinion that not everybody thinks threatening clouds have a bit of silver tucked in the lining. Often the grass is not greener on the other side of the conundrum and if it is then most likely some horrible Monsanto product was at work there. Light at the end of the tunnel may very well be the oncoming train.

If it takes seventeen muscles to smile and forty-three to frown, why not employ both expressions for a better face work out? Surely the combination, a kind of smilates, is the best training regimen for a person who is aware, who has a sense of humor but cannot, no matter how hard she tries, see the humor in the likes of Rick Perry or Michele Bachman. We laughed uproariously at the verbal antics of GWB, shared knowing looks as he stumbled through his candidacy. We know how that went. Then we laughed some more when he became the fuck up in the White House, albeit with a little less joi de vivre.

“Keep your face to the sunshine and you cannot see the shadow. It’s what sunflowers do.”

This is a quote famously attributed to a rather impressive woman who was an outspoken Pacifist and a renowned author. She fought for women’s rights and championed the rights of people with disabilities. But Helen Keller, apart from being a genuine Lefty, was also, famously, blind. Before that huff of indignation swells, hear me out. It’s not about what Helen Keller may or may not have actually said. It’s how we bend ourselves, like old Hallmark cards shoved in the back of a drawer, or hang our framed flowery optimism in the hallway and keep our integrity shackled to positive aphorisms that have slipped from their context while everything around us is falling apart.

We aren’t sunflowers, so why risk being hypnotized by sunshine while the powers that continue to be play their evil game in the dark, behind closed doors and on luxury yachts under the kind of sunshine we’ll never afford? I have a feeling if sunflowers could talk they would be pretty pissed off at the beating human beings have given the planet. “Where are the honeybees?” “What the fuck is going on with all this fracking?” “Is that a chemtrail overhead or are you just not glad to see me down here, facing up at the sun?” And before you chide that it’s corporations that are ruining the planet, remember: Corporations are persons now.

If you only look on the bright side then you may very well be blind to the darkness unfolding behind it.

If “Hope” and “Change” are the words you still cling to after 3 years of not only disappointing, but also dangerous returns on your investment in optimism then you’ve kept your face to the sun far too long.

Making resolutions this time of year is, of course, a form of optimism. One gathers the courage to face their demons and, once and for all, tackle them. Procrastination can surely be wrestled with and I know it’s something I’ll get around to. Eventually.

I have every confidence that I will reactivate my love of and pursuit of printmaking. A wonderful man who works with The Mister has neatly and expertly sharpened my woodcutting tools, some of which belonged to my father. I have a good supply of rice paper that has remained untouched since I last put down my chisels and knives too long ago.

I’ll write because when I don’t, I don’t feel well.

And the songwriting will grow with The Mister and me. We have stories to tell and will continue to do so. He’ll advise me to “Pecker up, Lad,” when I am down and I will laugh. Sometimes.

I’ll pay close attention to friendship. What makes one stronger and what simply detracts? Who can teach me how to be a better friend? Who understands a hug is something one may not necessarily need at any given moment of upheaval but who is there when that embrace is wanted. I’ll strive to take on differences that make us all stronger as a whole.

When something is funny I will laugh. The dangerous differences will not make me laugh. Bumbling right wing contenders for the role of Corporate-Commander-in-Chief will not make me laugh. The present Corporate-Commander-in-Chief will not make me laugh. People who follow a candidate blindly and act as if our country was not well over the dangerous brink will not make me laugh. Trampling of civil liberties, rogue cops and pepper spray will not make me laugh. The death penalty has many volunteers who befriend each other and make each other laugh, but we never laugh about the vengeful system we are working to abolish. A man on death row may inadvertently make me laugh because of his sharp wit but he will also make me cry and he will make me angry. He will show me that the spirit can soar even under the most heinous circumstances. He will also remind me that this is no laughing matter.

I will cherish those friends, new and old, who understand anger and how it can be channeled into something productive, even if it’s just a simple sharing of information. I will cherish ones who re-align me when I veer off road without regard for critical thinking and facts; who will gently tell me I am wrong. I’ll pout, probably, when criticism is not so kindly offered, but I will take it all on if it is well intentioned. If it is not well-intentioned criticism I’ll look for the kernel of truth I’m meant to unearth and then I’ll get my Pollybollocks on and tell them, “Thank you, now fuck off!” Anger, for the sake of it, will leave me inching away, looking for the door. And if I am the culprit, I’ll take my comeuppance, apologize, and learn from it.

Anger and pessimism is often sorted out on long rambling walks. I love a walk in the park, sun shining above and cool crisp air urging me onwards. But the fact is, so often many details of Nature are obscured by strong sunlight. That rock that trips you because the light is in your eyes. An overcast sky makes it easier to pick out the source of all that birdsong in the trees.

My year-end resolutions have been written, in the nick of time, looks like. There are those afore-mentioned passions I will re-ignite like printmaking and the ones to continue stoking, like songwriting. I’ll continue writing stories in short story form, striving for each one to be a little bit better in its own universe. The much-loved screenplay that seems to have taken my writing partner, Lauren, and I a lot of time and no time at all will be finished and prodded into a new life off the page. There may be the beginning of a new novel if I can win my battle with procrastination. There are more personal resolutions I won’t share because I might very well fuck them up. Or I might not. Life is full of surprises.

My glass is half-empty. And I’m fine with that.

Tuesday, December 13, 2011

“Happiness exists on earth, and it is won through prudent exercise of reason,

knowledge of the harmony of the universe, and constant practice of generosity.” —José Marti


It’s that time again. A holiday season that grows inexplicably in length from year to year, a season that one clever friend has dubbed “Hallowthanksmas.” Children and parents flood the streets at the start of this season and beg door to door for sweets, which can no longer be homemade, must not be offered unwrapped and pretty much becomes an advertising campaign for manufacturers of cheap, mass produced candy. Costume outlets clean up because what I see, especially on the toney upper eastside, has been more store bought and less the result of an involved parent and a child's imagination.

Vampires were big this year. And not just among the knee-high trick-or-treaters, as the popular movement known as Occupy Wall Street has made undeniably clear. We, as a nation—specifically 99% of the nation—are being sorely tricked by the 1% who seem to own everything. What treats OWS has in store for them continues to unfold. That’s the crowd The Mister and I have joined and we don’t need to wear costumes, though we are happy to see others who protest and demonstrate in various homemade costumes that sparkle with originality and that lighten the mood of a serious attention to the destruction of our civil liberties, our way of life. We have brought treats to those who staunchly occupied Liberty Square, otherwise known as Zuccotti Park, like bags loaded with apples and oranges and then, when the colder weather set in we brought bag loads of thermal socks.

We also brought fliers.

Because around July of 2010 I began a journey with a man who I call a friend. Before that, I had searched for a way to broaden a personal dedication to ending the death penalty in this country. I joined a book club specifically geared to that cause. I needed an education, to arm myself with the facts that continue to shame our so-called civilized nation. I learned a lot. I am still learning, but at some point I felt ready to make a deeper, more personal connection. In my search I met a woman online who directed me to a young man on Texas Death Row. I read his story on the website volunteers have organized for him. He desperately needed another volunteer to type his handwritten updates that are posted on his website and facebook page. I ‘auditioned’ as it were and soon became a self-described amanuensis to Robert G. Will, a man who I would quickly learn was remarkable.

So, in October, when one of his chief supporters in Texas—a dedicated young woman with a family of her own, who still manages visits to Rob every week—sent me a batch of fliers in support of Rob’s cause The Mister and I headed downtown to OWS and did our best to engage, inform, and thank the passersby who took them from our extended hands.

Rob has been at the Polunsky Unit on Texas Death Row for 11 years. That’s 11 years of not seeing his little boy grow up or feeling a physical touch, the warm embrace from family and friends who love and support him. It’s 11 years of what he describes in painful detail in his personal letters to all of us and in his updates as an “Orwellian Hell.” That’s 11 years that he has been tortured at the hands of vengeful guards who, for whatever reasons, have themselves not learned compassion. It’s 11 years of the freedom we often take for granted. Eleven years of his life he will not get back.

Yet, he inspired and continues to inspire other men on Texas Death Row. He teaches them Yoga and meditation. He drives some toward the light of self-education. He is a self-taught artist of the highest caliber who engages and teaches non-violent resistance in the manner of the world’s greatest leaders like Mohandas Karamchand Gandhi. And, he continues to inspire me, and volunteers like me, who are in awe of his strength, integrity, talent and compassion.

And now, given the holiday spirit, we are asking for people to accept this plea for Robert G. Will and return with a generous donation. He needs financial backing, a lot of financial backing. Volunteers both here and abroad are working tirelessly for his freedom, to overturn a gross injustice. So many of us are struggling in our own way with economic downturns, as the 1% casually refer to the tsunami caused by the banks and corporations that threatens to drown us. All of us have personal responsibilities to family, friends, and the kind of lives that generous people live.

He needs so much more than court-appointed attorneys. Sadly, as Rob himself has written, it is all too typical that Texas court-appointed attorneys do nothing more than to aid the state. Prosecuting attorneys are armed with audio and visual exhibits. They prepare extensively. Everyone who has been released from Death Row has benefitted greatly from extensive fundraising. Supporters will have to raise over $100,000 to get the DNA testing done that secures a release. As Rob has written: “From knowing men who have been exonerated from Texas Death Row I’ve witnessed first hand how absolutely vital funds are for any and all legal purposes. Every exoneree has had pro bono and/or paid attorneys. I need to have that kind of help on my legal team. I need your help; we need your help.”

You can help in ways big and small, literally. Visit our webpage for Rob and read his story. Learn about this remarkable young man who has been wrongfully sentenced to Texas Death Row for a crime he did not commit.

To help in our efforts to raise funds for his cause check out our web shop! There are solidarity items like the PERSEVERANCE unisex t-shirts with a bold graphic design. These are high quality 100% cotton shirts designed by Dennis Schröder from Supportershirt and printed by DirAction from Hamburg. And they come is all sizes! Or choose among the other original items offered here.

Our main goal is to bring attention to Rob’s case by raising awareness and raising the much needed funding for his legal defense.

Lethal Injustice Rob Will e.V. is also a part of the Rob Will Defense Committee. They are a non-profit organization approved and registered in a local court in Leipzig, Germany. They have a tax number and are authorized to issue receipts for all donations. All contribution from donations and merchandise will be used exclusively for Rob’s defense and for his campaign.

Please consider making a generous donation in one of two ways:

Sending money via is very easy. Just click on the "send money" tab at the top of the paypal page. Insert our email address——for the recipient and follow instructions.

You can also make donations directly to our bank account:

Lethal Injustice Rob Will e.V.
Bank für Sozialwirtschaft
IBAN DE17860205000003507800

Give the gift that keeps on giving. Be that person who spreads the word about Rob Will. Support Rob’s bid for freedom. Thank you all, in advance, for that perfect gift that will bring us all a generous return.

* * *

This poem by
Assata Shakur was included by Rob in the very first update I typed for him:


I believe in living. I believe in the spectrum

of Beta days and Gamma people.

I believe in sunshine

in windmills and waterfalls,

tricycles and rocking chairs.

And I believe that seeds grow into sprouts,

And sprouts grow into trees.

I believe in the magic of the hands.

And in the wisdom of the eyes.

I believe in rain and tears.

And in the blood of infinity.

I believe in life.

And I have seen the death parade

march through the torso of the earth,

sculpting mud bodies in its path.

I have seen the destruction of the daylight,

and seen the bloodthirsty maggots

prayed to and saluted.

I have seen the kind become the blind

and the blind become the bind

in one easy lesson.

I have walked on cut glass.

I have eaten crow and blunder bread

and breathed the stench of indifference.

I have been locked by the lawless.

Handcuffed by the haters.

Gagged by the greedy.

And, if I know anything at all,

It’s that a wall is just a wall

and nothing more at all.

It can be broken down.

I believe in living.

I believe in birth.

I believe in the sweat of love

and in the fire of truth.

And I believe that a lost ship,

steered by tired, seasick sailors,

can still be guided home

to port.

-Assata Shakur