Please Vote!

For those of you who are US citizens, today is election day.  It is a midterm election which in the past have shown to have embarrassing small turnouts.  So I decided to write a post today asking if you are registered to vote, please go out and vote.

I’m not going to tell you who to vote for – that is your own choice and responsibility.

The average turn-out for a midterm election is 40% according to Fairvote.com.  That is less than half the population that is eligible to vote.  It’s even less for elections that are purely local or primaries.  Being involved in your government is the first tool to making a change in the government.

Imagine that you are having a pizza party and there are ten people.  Four people get together and decide that the pizza is going to have sardines and pineapple. They asked everyone but 6 people decided to not participate in the choosing of toppings.   That is what is happening during midterm elections.  Only 4 of those ten people able to have a say are actually putting any input in.  Most Presidential elections are only having 60% which is still embarrassing low.

Do not let your government be that way.  Please vote today, and have a say in your local offices as well as federal.  Local is even more important then federal as it is most likely to affect you personally as well as many of the future federal politicians will seek local positions first on their way to Washington.  Choose good people to lay the foundation of the future.

Right now anyone over the age of 18 can register to vote.  It was not always that way.  Women and minorities have had to fight a long battle to gain the vote.  We should all appreciate that fight and use our right to vote.

There are many online resources to help you find out where you can vote and how long the polls will be open.  In particular there is Vote.org which has information about your rights as a voter and also can help you find your local polling place.

Advertisements

Women of History: Jeanette MacDonald

Author’s Note:  This was originally meant for two weeks ago but I had trouble writing it.  I’m still not very happy with the outcome, but it is complete.  I may revisit Jeanette in the future and rewrite this better.

In the United States, we celebrate our Independence Day on July 4th.  This month’s theme is going to be American women of history.    While Canada also celebrates Canada Day in the month of July, I’ll be doing Canadian women of history another month.

Our first WHO is Jeanette MacDonald.  Jeanette MacDonald is an American Actress from the 1930s.  About a decade ago, my grandmother and I, who liked to watch old classic films together, started watching operettas, in particular the ones done by Jeanette and her frequent Co-star Nelson Eddy.  We collected movies, stills and other things relating to Jeanette and Nelson.

Jeannette Anna MacDonald was born on June 18th in Philadelphia, Pennsylvania.  The year of her birth is somewhat of a mystery as different records say different things.  According to a baptismal record, the year of her birth was in 1903.  However, later in life Jeanette would change her name (dropping an n), and her year of birth (Saying it was 1907).  Even her gravestone lists the 1907 date, and her widower, Gene Raymond, would continue to insist it was 1907.  However, several sources now list the 1903 date as accurate. Continue reading

Women of History: Elizabeth “Betsy” Ross

Perhaps one of the most fabled females of early American (ie United States) history is Betsy Ross.  Legend has her designing the American flag, consisting of a ring of stars representing the states as well as thirteen stripes representing the colonies that started the fight.  Debate over the actual designer remains, as its largely thought that Ms. Ross did not in fact design that flag.  Still, I thought it would be interesting to look into the life of the woman legend has claimed. Continue reading

Happy Independence Day! (US)

Happy Independence Day to my readers from the US.  Today is a post day, but as its a National Holiday and busy day for many of us celebrating, I decided to do another simple post, this time random facts about July 4th.

To my non-US readers, I swear this whole month won’t be a FREEEDOOOM month.  While the theme of the Women of History posts will be American, it will otherwise not be US centric like this.  Happy Republic Day to those in the Philippines, and a happy belated Canada Day to those in Canada.

So here we go, some interesting facts about Independance Day

  • – July 4th became a federal holiday in 1870, nearly a hundred years after the country was founded.  It became a paid federal holiday in 1938.
  • The vote on the Declaration of Independence took place on July 2, the publication took place on July 4th (with two signatures including John Hancock’s) and wasn’t completely signed till August of that year.  We also wouldn’t have ‘won our independence’  till 1783.  John Adams reportedly observed Independence Day on July 2nd and considered the 4th to be wrong.
  • Two of the men who worked on the Declaration – John Adams and Thomas Jefferson – would become President.  They also would die on July 4, 1826, 50 years later, just hours apart.  James Monroe, another president, died on July 4, 1831.  Calvin Coolidge was born on Independence day in 1872, only a few short years before the centennial celebration.
  • The Philippines celebrates July 4th as their Republic Day because they were recognized as an independent Nation and no longer a US territory on July 4, 1946.
  • We did not have a written plan for our government till November 1777.  It would not be fully ratified until March 1, 1781.  The Articles of Confederation would be scrapped in favor of the US Constitution in 1787. So the government we are all familar with didn’t exist for 11 years after the Declaration of Independence.  The Constitution was effective just a few months before the US’ 12th birthday in 1789.
  • The first time the 50 state flag was displayed was July 4, 1960. Hawaii and Alaska had become states 10 months earlier, but they waited till the 4th to present the new flag.  It has been 58 years since there was a change made to the Flag.
  • The Freedom of Information Act was signed on July 4, 1966 by President Johnson.

July 4th Movie Post

Since it’s the week of the Fourth of July, I figured I’d start the month with a post about my favorite US government focused films and TV shows.   I’ve come up with a list of movies and TV shows that I feel are good and also happen to have that theme.  Hopefully you’ll agree with me.   I’m sure there are many films and shows that should be on the list that I don’t include.   Some of this is because I simply haven’t watched them.  So feel free to suggest other films and tv shows in the comments area.  I know I’m missing quite a few of the classics.

West Wing (1999-2006)
West Wing was a liberal slanted TV show that showcased the inner workings of an Administration and written by Aaron Sorkin whose known for fast witty dialogue.  It starred Martin Sheen as President Jed Bartlet, and included many famous faces over the years including Alan Alada, Jimmy Smits, Ed Begley Jr., Rob Lowe,  and many others.  This is one of the best written shows in my opinion and remains one of my favorites.  While it is liberal slanted (The administration is democrat) I feel they try their best to portray the Republican characters with dignity.  I do feel I should warn you – the finales tend to hit you hard with feels.

Designated Survivor (2016-?)

Designated Survivor is a show that explores the contingency of the Designated Survivor.  When an attack on the capital leaves the President and most of the government dead, Tom Kirkman is sworn in as President as he was the designated survivor for the State of the Union speech.  He must deal with conspiracy and rebuilding his nation after such a severe attack.  IT has an excellent cast led by Kiefer Sutherland  and excellent writing for the most part.  While it has been cancelled by ABC, I still hope it gets renewed by another distribution company.

Independence Day

You can’t have an Independence day theme without mentioning the movie with the day in the title.  This sci-fi thriller has aliens attacking us, and the world meeting the challenge.  It has an amazing Cast (Bill Pullman, Will Smith, Jeff Goldblum, Geena Davis, Brent Spiner and Judd Hirsch) and a good script.   The sequel is also pretty good, although I prefer the first movie.

The American President

This is more of a romance film then one focused on the US government.  It is also has Aaron Sorkin (who wrote the majority of West Wing) on the writing staff, so maybe that’s why I liked it.  In this film the President (played by Michael Douglas) falls in love with a lobbyist played by Annette Bening.  It’s a cute romance, which brings us to our last selection.  Also features Martin Sheen as the Chief of Staff before he would go become the President himself in Sorkin’s West Wing.

Dave

Dave is a romantic comedy featuring Kevin Kline as Dave, a temp office employee who has a side job as being President X’s double.  This comes in handy when the actual president has a stroke while having an affair.  The Chief of Staff brings in Dave to act as the president for a while so they could hide the president’s condition.  And he manages to convince everyone, including the President’s wife (Sigourney Weaver) for awhile.  But the COS is up to no good, and Dave has to decide whether to go along with the plan or  change things.  Also this movie has Ben Kingsley as the Vice President and Frank A. Langella Jr as Bob Alexander the corrupt Chief of Staff.

Women of History: Alicia Dickerson Montemayor

We will start June with a belated Women of Mexican-American History.  Alicia Dickerson Montemayor was an American woman from Texas who was a civil rights activist, for both the rights of Latino Americans and women, an educator, and a social worker. Continue reading

Women of History: Frida Kahlo (Part Two)

(See Previous)

[WARNING: Paintings linked within in this post may have triggering content]

1937 also happened to be when Frida became more productive as an artist, with several self-portraits and other paintings.  She began to exhibit her paintings despite her own doubts about her talents.  However, others did not have the same doubts and she became more recognized as an artist in her own right, rather than just the wife of Diego Rivera.

Her first solo exhibition happened in New York City in 1938.  She managed to sell half of her paintings despite it being the great Depression, and her exhibit was also attended by several famous artists and public figures.  It brought more attention to her art and earned her two commissions.  One was for A. Conger Goodyear, who was the President and founder of the Museum of Modern Art (MOMA) which remains a major art museum.  Another was for Clare Boothe Luce, a socialite and political activist who commissioned a portrait of her friend, Dorothy Hale.   The painting depicted Hale’s suicide, with writing on the bottom with the details of the event. The painting was controversial due to what it depicted.

This would not however be the last time that a painting of Frida’s would be considered scandalous or controversial.  In fact, the following year she traveled to Paris for another exhibit of her artwork only to find the gallery refused to showcase most of her work.  They found it too controversial for their audiences.  However, on the brighter side the Louvre bought one of her paintings.  The Frame (1938) was the first artwork by a Mexican artist that the famous art collection had bought.

Frida moved back to her childhood home, La Casa Azul, in 1939 following her divorce from Diego. She would remain there until her death, living at times with her husband and/or her sister and her children.  The 1940s were a productive time for Frida, although her health started to decline even further.  She tried new mediums and substrates for her art and starting making art that was considered more sellable to support herself.

She continued to exhibit her art in Mexico and the United States, attending three separate exhibits in 1940 alone.  Some of her more famous paintings were painted while she was back at La Casa Azul.

1940 was troubling year personally however.  While her artistic work seemed to be going higher, her personal life and health suffered.  She was arrested and held for two days in Mexico City as she was investigated when her former lover, Leon Trotsky, was killed.  It was suspected that she, and her sister Cristina, knew who the murderer was.  She was released, however.  She then found herself in San Francisco soon afterwards dealing with various health problems, including a fungal infection and back pain.

While she was in San Francisco she was reunited with Diego, and the two reconciled.  They remarried in a civil ceremony on December 8, 1940 and returned to Mexico together.  Their marriage remained as it was before, with both having affairs.  Diego kept their old home in San Angel as a second apartment and his studio despite living at La Caza Azul.

Her health problems continued, as she had chronic pain due to her spine, her hand infection became a continuing problem, and at one point she was treated for Syphilis.  She went through twenty-eight different casts in 14 years due to the pain she lived through. She also suffered from depression after her father, who she had been close to, died in 1941.

One highlight of the 1940s was that Frida’s artwork had gained more notice in her native Mexico, and she was a member of the Seminario De Cultura Mexicana, a commission of the Mexican government to spread awareness of Mexican culture.  With the Seminario, she held various exhibitions, attended conferences and other promotions.  It led to her accepting a teaching position in a local national Art school called La Esmeralda.  Eventually her illnesses prevented her from having classes on campus, and instead she held them within her home and studio. Her students, known as Los Fridos for their devotion to her, continued her ideal of painting from Mexican culture and life.  Her own works continued to be somewhat controversial, but she always kept to what she wanted to express.

In 1945, she faced another health setback.  Her pain had worsened to the point that she could no longer sit or stand for long periods of time.  She traveled to New York for a surgery, but in the end the surgery did not help.  Like she always had, she painted her emotions into her art, such as The Wounded Deer (1946).

In 1950, she once again tried to get a bone graft, but it was not a smooth recovery, and several follow-up surgeries were required.  At this point, Frida was forced to use either a wheel chair or crutches to move around.  This did not stop her from being politically active or continuing her paintings.  She got an adjustable easel so she could paint from her wheelchair, and campaigned for a ban on nuclear weapons. When Doctors told her she needed to be on Bed rest and therefore could not attend her solo exhibit in 1953, she had her bed delivered to the gallery and had herself carried by ambulance and stretcher to it so she could attend the event.

As the mid fifties arrived, Frida’s health declined rapidly. In August 1953, only months after her exhibit, she had a leg amputation due to gangrene.  Her depression increased, and she became addicted to painkillers according to some sources.  At times she was suicidal and was hospitalized in 1954.

She was active till the very end, both as a political activist and as an artist.  In 1954, she released at least four paintings and she also attended a demonstration against the CIA invasion of Guatemala with her husband in July.  However, her activity did nothing to help the illness, and on July 13, 1954 Frida passed away at the age of 47.  Arguments about what actually caused her death appear to differ between various sources.

She was laid in state at the Palacio de Bellas Artes, a cultural center, and a communist flag covered her casket. She was later cremated and her remains displayed in an urn at her home, La Caza Azul.  In her memory, Diego allowed her childhood home to become a museum to his wife’s artistic career, and for the promotion of Mexican history, culture and art.  He died in 1957, and the museum opened a year later.

Frida left behind a legacy in her art, and in her courage to do what she wanted despite people telling her she couldn’t.  She never let people change her into something she rather not be.  She preserved through physical pain and made artwork to express her life in a surrealist way.  Many people relate to her artwork.  Many people also relate to her, whether it is her feminism, her politics, her disabilities, or her bisexuality.

Her artwork has only increased in value, setting records for sale prices for Mexican artists. Two Nudes  in a Forest (1939) for example was auctioned in 2016 for 8 million dollars.  Interest in her art and her life have increased over the last few decades due to new biographies (such as Hayden Herrera’s Frida: A Biography of Frida Kahlo -1983) and the fact that in 1984 her works were considered national treasures and Mexico prohibited any more from leaving the country.

In more recent years, the biopic Frida (based on Herrera’s biography) was released in 2002 and stared fellow Mexican Selma Hayek.  It won several Academy awards.  She also gained a mention in 2017’s Coco.  In the US, she got her own postage stamp in 2001 and was inducted into the Legacy Walk in 2012.  In the past year, Mattel released a Frida doll as part of her new Women Role Models collection.

Further Reading:

Wikipedia: Frida Kahlo

Wikipedia: Diego Rivera

Wikipedia: Mexican Revolution

Biography.com: Frida Kahlo

Lisa’s History Room:  Frida Kahlo An Accidental Artist

Frida Kahlo.Org

The Frida Kahlo Foundation

Mattel Unveiled ‘Role Model’ Barbies for International Woman’s Day and I’ve never felt less Inspired – Biba Kang (Independent)

Mattel.com:  Barbie celebrates Role Models

Diary of a Mad Artist – Amy Fine Collins (Vanity Fair Magazine -1995)