Category Archives: Activism

Charlie Chaplin’s Inspirational Masterpiece

Advisory Warning: 

Timely, chillingly appropriate, absolutely inspirational. If you are shell-shocked by current political events and need some inspiration right now you need this.

The Great Dictator was Charlie Chaplin’s first talking picture and it’s a scathing condemnation of Adolf Hitler and Nazi Germany. The speech in this video clip hits every single note perfectly and the music pairing—not original to the film but also spot on perfect—is exquisite. 

Chaplin worked for several weeks on the climactic speech, which was filmed from April to June of 1940 and he delivered it from the heart to the world, as Charlie Chaplin, not the character he was portraying.

Chaplin is expressing his real emotions in the scene and he allowed himself to be swept away emotionally by the speech. And he did it in one take with cameras zeroed in on him, surrounded by hundreds of extras. 

This version is a level-up from the original (in my opinion) with a sweeping instrumental by Hans Zimmer—borrowed from the film Inception, directed by Christopher Nolan.

Chaplin spent two years working on the movie, assiduously studying newsreels of Hitler—who had banned Chaplin’s films in Germany because he didn’t want to be ridiculed as a comedic doppelgänger of the Little Tramp. 

The comedian copied every gesture and mannerism of the man he once said gave “a bad impersonation of me.” His portrayal of a Jewish barber living in the ghetto who impersonates a very familiar fascist dictator by the name of Adenoid Hynkel is gold

Ironically, Chaplin and Hitler were more alike than either man would dare to admit, had they known of the similarities. They were born four days apart, both revered their mothers, and both men had ugly drunks as fathers. They also sported the same type of mustache. And they were both phenomenal actors.

This scene makes me want to become a phenomenal activist—to fight against the machine men with their machine hearts and machine minds.

Charlie is watching.


I’m sorry, but I don’t want to be an emperor. That’s not my business. I don’t want to rule or conquer anyone. I should like to help everyone, if possible—Jew, Gentile, black man, white. We all want to help one another. Human beings are like that. We want to live by each other’s happiness  not by each other’s misery. We don’t want to hate and despise one another. In this world there is room for everyone. And the good earth is rich and can provide for everyone. The way of life can be free and beautiful but we have lost the way.

Greed has poisoned men’s souls, has barricaded the world with hate, has goose-stepped us into misery and bloodshed. We have developed speed, but we have shut ourselves in. Machinery that gives abundance has left us in want. Our knowledge has made us cynical. Our cleverness, hard and unkind. We think too much and feel too little. More than machinery we need humanity. More than cleverness we need kindness and gentleness. Without these qualities, life will be violent and all will be lost . . . 

The aeroplane and the radio have brought us closer together. The very nature of these inventions cries out for the goodness in men—cries out for universal brotherhood; for the unity of us all. Even now my voice is reaching millions throughout the world—millions of despairing men, women, and little children—victims of a system that makes men torture and imprison innocent people.

To those who can hear me, I say—do not despair. The misery that is now upon us is but the passing of greed; the bitterness of men who fear the way of human progress. The hate of men will pass and dictators die and the power they took from the people will return to the people. And so long as men die, liberty will never perish.

Soldiers! Don’t give yourselves to brutes – men who despise you – enslave you – who regiment your lives – tell you what to do – what to think and what to feel! Who drill you – diet you – treat you like cattle, use you as cannon fodder. Don’t give yourselves to these unnatural men – machine men with machine minds and machine hearts! You are not machines! You are not cattle! You are men! You have the love of humanity in your hearts! You don’t hate! Only the unloved hate – the unloved and the unnatural! Soldiers! Don’t fight for slavery! Fight for liberty!

In the 17th Chapter of St Luke it is written: “the Kingdom of God is within man” – not one man nor a group of men, but in all men! In you! You, the people have the power – the power to create machines. The power to create happiness! You, the people, have the power to make this life free and beautiful, to make this life a wonderful adventure.

Then – in the name of democracy – let us use that power – let us all unite. Let us fight for a new world – a decent world that will give men a chance to work – that will give youth a future and old age a security. By the promise of these things, brutes have risen to power. But they lie! They do not fulfil that promise. They never will!

Dictators free themselves but they enslave the people! Now let us fight to fulfil that promise! Let us fight to free the world – to do away with national barriers – to do away with greed, with hate and intolerance. Let us fight for a world of reason, a world where science and progress will lead to all men’s happiness. Soldiers! in the name of democracy, let us all unite!

~ Charles Chaplin (1940)

ACLU Mysteriously Announces the Deactivation of its Sonoma County Chapter.

To the bafflement and consternation of many North Bay American Civil Liberties Union members and supporters, an announcement was released yesterday at 6:33 pm by Carole Guffanti Notley in the Facebook page for ACLU of Sonoma County that the local affiliate will be deactivating its Sonoma County Chapter and shutting down its Facebook site this weekend.

Here is the message in its entirety: 

“It is with tremendous sorrow that I must announce the decision of the ACLU-NC to deactivate the Sonoma County Chapter. It seems unfathomable that, at this incredibly important time and with such an outpouring of support that we received at last Sunday’s Community Engagement Fair, such a thing would transpire, but it has.”

“Many people have given tremendous amounts of their time to volunteer for the Sonoma County Chapter over the years, and it would be remiss not to thank them for their unyielding support in the area of protection of civil liberties. In particular, I must thank Martin McReynolds for his tireless efforts attending community events, stepping in as past Chair, treasurer, and in producing our marvelous newsletter among many other noteworthy contributions.”

“I have been a board member for the past three years and am proud of the work our Chapter has accomplished in that time.” 

“For those of you who wish to continue the work of the ACLU, I am directed to refer you to the ACLU-NC site in San Francisco. I will be shutting down this Facebook site this weekend. In the meantime, should you wish to stay active locally, please feel free to PM me on my personal FB site: Carole Guffanti Notley.”

“It has been an honor to serve you in the pursuit of justice and civil rights as Administrator of this page, and I hope you will all continue to be engaged in standing up to civil rights violations and to fight the good fight, now more than ever.”

This announcement comes a month after the Sonoma County chapter had announced that their website was being revamped because of an increased interest in the organization since the election of Donald Trump as President of the United States. 

The website had stated:

“We look forward to seeing you at the next meeting on January 17th at 7 pm at the PJC, when we hold elections for our board.”

The February 3rd, 2017 announcement of deactivating the chapter is all the more puzzling in light of the closing lines of the last post by the ACLU-NC website:

“Get involved. Channel that anger in a productive way. Join us!”

All that is known, according to reports by the Sonoma County Chapter, is that the decision was made internally and the San Francisco  Chapter had no knowledge of the decision. 

The Sonoma County Chapter reports that:

“We have been directed to close the bank account for the chapter and send all money to the SF Affiliate.”

The San Francisco Affiliate oversees all the chapters in Northern California.

The Sonoma County Chapter has promised that a full explanation is forthcoming and I will update this post when the information becomes available.


Update (5 February 2017 at 10:33 am):

I’ve been contacted by a few people that are involved with the ACLU and my impression is that there are many people working diligently to maintain a solid support system for protecting civil liberties and they will update the public further on the events of the deactivation and also reassure members that there will continue to be an active organization. I’ve also spoken to a friend that was formerly involved and they have nothing but praise for the people that are involved with the ACLU-NC. ~RLR

Update via Facebook (5 January 2917 at 11:22):

Please be advised that effective immediately, the Sonoma County Chapter of the ACLU has been deactivated. 

 For further information, contact:

American Civil Liberties Union of Northern California
39 Drumm Street • San Francisco, California 94111Phone: (415) 621-2493

Fax: (415) 255-1478

TTY: (415) 863-7832

Those seeking legal advice from ACLU of Northern CA may call (415) 621-2488 (Monday to Friday, 10am-12 noon & 1pm-3pm) or fill out a confidential online form.

While it is our understanding that ACLU-NC is amenable to reconstruction of a chapter in Sonoma County, and they are following up with individuals who have submitted applications to join the chapter board and will work to engage them in the ACLU in a timely manner, none of the current board will be considered.

The basis for this deactivation may be up for debate, but the decision by ACLU-NC is final.
We will reach out to our current membership and those who have expressed an interest in activism to offer them possible matches depending on their area of focus. There are many organizations in the Country that would benefit from volunteers and embrace values similar to those of the (now former) Sonoma County Chapter of the ACLU.

~Carole Guffanti Notley, Secretary
Sonoma County Chapter

ACLU of Northern California

Phone: 707-978-9503


Art of the Resistance [C.K. Itamura]

28 November 2016

I’m with my daughter, Sophia, at Gallery 300 and we are looking at an art series of American flags created by C.K. Itamura. We’ve come over directly after having a conversation about the American presidential election that happened nineteen days earlier. 

I’ve already been given the rundown on the exhibit so this is a special excursion for my offspring.

C.K. explains the meaning of the four American flags arranged like a storyboard and screwed directly into the wall instead of hung. It’s a deliberate choice, signifying a country getting screwed. 

The flags are made from sheets of white cotton fabric painted black and ripped into two-inch strips and I comment that they look like bandages. C.K. says they are, in fact, meant to be reminiscent of bandages used on the wounded during the American Civil War.

C.K. tells us that there were 19 states that voted for Clinton and 31 states that went to Donald Trump so, in the first flag, she glued all 50 stars on the flag and after it was partially dry she ripped off 31 stars and threw them on the floor.

In the second flag she did the same but ripped off 19 stars and threw them on the floor. And this flag is hung upside down.

In the third flag, fake stars are spray painted to symbolize a pretense that everything will be okay, but the flag is still upside down to show that everything is actually still messed up even though some Americans will be trying to fake it.

In the fourth flag the stars are missing and replaced by US currency of $1s, $5s, $10s, and $20s because CK feels that money is winning and the wealthy and all the corporations are now in charge of America. 

The stars that should be on the flag are now across the room in a dustpan. 

But, at least they’re still in the room—a message of hope that the stars will be restored to the flag.


Readers can see more of C.K. Itamura’s work by going to Peach Farm Studio online or visiting her gallery at 300 S A Street in Santa Rosa, California.


See more Art of the Resistance in my profile of artist Peter Crompton.

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The Art of Resistance

Twelve days into the presidency of Donald Trump and artists all over America and throughout the world are resisting in the clearest and most articulate way we know how—through the expression of our art.

Artists that have never created a piece of political art are suddenly discovering that they are compelled to communicate their displeasure with the direction that America is heading.

Artists like Peter Crompton—a set designer and stagecraft teacher at Santa Rosa Junior College in California—are now inspired to create art as resistance.

After the November election, Peter sketched this American flag flying with stars downward in the officially recognized signal of distress—a perfect analogy for a world turned upside down.

Distress Flag (2016) by Peter Crompton

His next sketch shows the dismantling of the Statue of Liberty and represents the fear that many of us have that our civil liberties will be taken away.

Aftermath: Time to Rebuild (2016) by Peter Crompton

That sketch grows darker and becomes a little more Piranesi and less Planet of the Apes.

Aftermath: Second State (2016) by Peter Crompton

At last, the initial inspiration leads to the message that education is a better alternative to mass deportation of immigrants. 

As an educator, Peter believes this is the best path forward as Donald Trump was supported by the most conservative and the least educated among us. And that is partially true, but it doesn’t include people that are simply ignorant of the big political picture and are so disaffected that they will vote for a populist like Trump. And those of us that are highly educated and come from a more liberal and open-minded cultural world view can’t simply dismiss Trump supporters as stupid because it feeds into the narrative that liberals are elitists that look down on regular Americans with smug superiority.

Art can be the switch that turns on the light inside our minds to illuminate those dark places where territorial dogma crouches in chains, growling and straining against its short leash.

Art as resistance to educate everyone is what is most needed now to cultivate a sustainable society for all people.


Readers can see more of Peter Crompton’s art by following him on Instagram. 


See more Art of the Resistance in my profile of C.K. Itamura.

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Dispatch from the DAPL Protest in San Francisco [via Ramona Lappier]

The assembly is ringed by numerous blue uniforms packing heat as news vans with tall antennas are parked strategically on the streets around the Federal Building. 

Reporters make their way with microphones through an eclectic mix of black, brown, white, old, and young people—referred to as relatives by the speakers—most of whom are women.

A calm but determined crowd of perhaps a thousand people has gathered peacefully in San Francisco To Stand with Standing Rock to protest further construction on the Dakota Access Pipeline and Keystone XL.

The ‘vibe’ is one of community but I feel strangely conflicted. I identify as caucasian but family lore suggests there is Ojibwe in our blood—a story wrapped in shadows as if a shameful secret. 

It is my whiteness I felt as shame tonight, though I cannot define it in the moment. I also feel something ancestral, something rising like lava long trapped far below, a heated need for recognition, for respect, for justice long denied. 

The spirit of my ancestors call out for healing to repair the wounds of a people wronged.

To this day I am uncertain what is true about my ancestry, but I wrote this poem when I believed it to be true that I have Ojibwe blood:

Grandma’s Grandma assimilated. 

Her birth name was obliterated. 

Her sacred ground was excavated 

by arrogant others who invaded 

and made sure the ‘natives’ stayed on stated 

reservations, or agreed to be mated 

to ‘good, clean’ Christians with whom they procreated. 

So my eyes are blue and my hair near red, 

but the cheekbones high on my white-woman head 

(and something, I hear it – some thing of spirit) 

remember who my Grandma was, 

even if nothing in history does.

The drums reverberate off tall buildings and voices in chant seem as much from the spirit world as from the earthly bodies gathered here in the middle of Mission Street. 

The scent of sage wafts on the chill night air as a final prayer is spoken.

~ Ramona Lappier (San Francisco, California) 26 January 2017


DAPL Protestors gathered at the San Francisco Federal Building (26 January 2017) Photo by Dave Dyson.

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Sonoma County Stands Together for Women

Santa Rosa, California—21 January 2017

So, this happened today and it was lovely and uplifting and it made me feel optimistic about the future and fired up more than ever to remain engaged in activism. 

An estimated 10,000 people gathered together in the vicinity of City Hall in downtown Santa Rosa with signs of empowerment for women.

Braving the rain which has been relentlessly hammering down in Sonoma County for days we came with smiles and the promise of solidarity with our sisters and brothers and others.

Naturally, there were many signs of our displeasure with America’s latest choice for President.

Extreme displeasure…and utter bafflement.

And yet many of the messages were positive and hopeful that the change in leadership will lead to a stronger, more politically active, and more resilient people. Let’s face it, many of us were becoming complacent. 

The innocent involvement and activism of young children reminded me of my own childhood in the early seventies when I was  protesting the war in Vietnam with my own parents.

The crowd was comprised of many genders, races, and demographics. It was truly a democratic assembly.

As a man I felt very much appreciated for my participation—wecomed and honored as a man, a father, an ally, and a friend. 

As a human I felt totally connected. 

As a person presenting as white I felt—as I always do—that my race was irrelevant (though I acknowledge my white privilege). 

It is always a given with me to support equality for women but the intensity of loving validation and appreciation from my sisters was amazing.

And yet … the rally and march was specifically very much about the most important issues facing women these days while also being inclusive and fully focused on equality in general. 

 And I mean everyone.

We must call out sexism and shut it down. 

We can learn a thing or two from our elders when it comes to sexual boundaries.

Messages of solidarity were everywhere.

It was an almost perfect day for me—only made wistful by the absence of my daughter. I wish she could have experienced it with me.

Props galore to the organizers and speakers of the Sonoma County Women’s March. I had a great time taking these pictures and interacting with people. 

“Equality is not a concept. It’s not something we should be striving for. It’s a necessity. Equality is like gravity. We need it to stand on this earth as men and women, and the misogyny that is in every culture is not a true part of the human condition. It is life out of balance, and that imbalance is sucking something out of the soul of every man and woman who’s confronted with it. We need equality. Kinda now.”   ~Joss Whedon

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24 January 2017

Three days after writing this piece, I dedicate it to the members of the Sioux Nation of North America, whose fight to protect the water and heritage of its lands is just beginning again in earnest

The Dissident [Redux]

I was chatting yesterday with my childhood friend, Jacob Pander, who has re-released a full-color graphic novel that he and his brother, Arnold, had written and illustrated twenty years ago, and originally released in print form in glorious money saving black-and-white.

The Dissident—which is being released online in daily increments throughout 2017—can be viewed at The Dissident Daily.

A dissident is a person who opposes official policy, especially a policy made by an authoritarian state, and the remastering of this graphic novel by the Pander brothers couldn’t come at a better time—as most of liberal America is preparing for a regime change that appears to have many of the qualities of a fascist state. 

The Dissident Opt Out – Synopsis

On New Year’s Eve 2032, HANS NOBEL, a journalist with a photographic memory, finds himself at the center of a political uprising when an activist movement called ECHO rebels against an oppressive system that uses personal online information to oppress its citizens. 

When the national election is cancelled, the public is fed up and join the ECHO’ activists who have “opted out” of social technology. Echo plans an uprising timed to coincide with a hack of the system’s data hub called “The Nucleus” where all personal information is stored, in order to ensure the “Opt Outers” identities will remain anonymous and safe from reprisal. 

Hans is tasked to hack and destroy the Nucleus’. But as forces close in Hans must become a human back-up-drive, running into the heart of the uprising in Times Square to deliver the code to Fathom and save the Opt Outers from mass persecution.

I have most of the original black-and-white run of Triple X, which I bought at Forbidden Planet in New York as individual issues in the nineties, and I’m wondering: Have you created new content or is The Dissident purely a colorized re-release with a name change? 

We’ve actually done a remastering to the original artwork as well. Mainly cleaning up and streamlining the figure inks. Arnold has also added more narration to the original book based on concepts and character development established in issue zero. We are also talking about adding some additional pages throughout the original story that keep the NYC story established in chapter zero linked to the Amsterdam story. These we still need to draw. The comic was a large endeavor originally and it still is!

I’m confused about the release year. I was in NYC from 1992-1995 but you say the story was released in 1997.

The graphic novel was released on January 1st, 1997. The original series in ’94. 

Whew! Memory intact. 

I know the feeling.

Are all the pages released online this year new or will some be the remastered pages from the ’97 release? Also, are you releasing a full-page every day for 336 days or just those one-panel and split-panel pages you sent to me a few days ago? 

We will be releasing the online as panel and split panels. The format looks better online. The first pages released will be the all new pages from chapter zero Opt Out, and then will be followed up with the original Amsterdam story. We will probably release the original in the panel/split panel format as well.

Serialized, like Stan Lee did with his Spider-Man run in the newspapers. Will the entire story be released in print and digital form before the end of the 336 day online run?

So the 336 hook is really connected to the original GN printing. Eventually we want to collect it into print version. We will be approaching publishers once we’ve had the online version out for awhile. Our hope is to build a new following behind the book via the daily release. In away it is a social media publishing experiment.

I see. So, does that mean the publishing rights have reverted back to you and Arnold?

Yes. We were able to get all the original art scans from Dark Horse and have been remastering those original files. We had originally planned on calling it The Dissident so it’s great to have it back in our hands to present it the way we’d originally envisioned it.

So, I imagine the Kickstarter crowd funding gave you the financial freedom to work on this project without losing out on income you could be making by doing something else.

Yes, it gave us the ability to dive into the work and helped subsidize releasing it for free online. However with the addition of chapter zero we loaded on more labor than originally planned so have had to generate other income streams throughout the year to keep the production on track. It’s been worth it though, as Opt Out really sets the emotional stage for our protagonist and also addresses the current social technology landscape we are all living in now.

***   ***   ******

To be continued…   

The Pander Brothers – BIO

Jacob and Arnold Pander are graphic novelists and filmmakers who write and direct feature films, commercial spots, and music videos. Their award-winning films have played in festivals around the globe and their music videos have been featured on MTV.

The Pander Brothers’ original graphic novels have been published by Image, Vertigo, Dark Horse Comics, and Oni Press, and they’ve worked on franchise projects for Marvel and DC Comics, including Batman and X-Men. The Pander’s visual storytelling has been nominated for the Eisner and Manning awards for groundbreaking artwork in the comics medium. Their published works include the titles Batman: City of Light and Batman: Apocalypse Girl—as well as 63 other comics and four graphic novels. In 2015, they published their critically- acclaimed graphic novel, GirlFIEND, called a “visual feast” by CBR (Comic Book Resources). 

Dubbed “a power duo of creativity” by SOMA Magazine, the multi-faceted Pander brothers also produce and direct films, shorts, and commercials through their production company, Collaborator Studios. The brother’s award-winning debut feature film, “Selfless,” starring Mo Gallini (“2 Fast 2 Furious,” “End of Days”) premiered at the 2009 Comic Con International in San Diego. Among other honors, their collaborative and individual film and video works have been featured on MTV, screened at the prestigious London Institute for Contemporary Art, taken top prizes at the New York and Chicago Underground Film Festivals, and toured Europe and Japan. Their fashion-centric artwork was featured on “America’s Next Top Model,” and they were featured digital illustrators for the Wacom Intuos Stylus 2 campaign. The brothers recently played guest hosts for “The Comics Trip” on the ComicCon HQ web channel.


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