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Passover

Today is Tax Day in the U.S. and I’m burning the stress candle at both ends between getting my taxes done on time, following up on some potential job leads, and doing some general spring cleaning of my home. The one fringe benefit of Tax Day is that it gives me an incentive to go through papers trying to find any documents I could use for filling out those damned tax return forms while I take that opportunity to throw old papers either in the trash or the recycling bin (depending on if the paper in question is recyclable or not).

In the course of sorting through old papers I came across a letter from last year notifying me of the death of my onetime divorce lawyer while saying that if there are any outstanding papers from him that I need I should go to the lawyer handling my late lawyer’s estate and get them immediately. (Luckily my divorce lawyer had given me all the documents I needed around the time of my divorce so I didn’t need to do that.)

Well, anyway, here’s a video break that’s appropriate for today. It was originally a Beatles song but the late George Harrison did a live performance of that tune during a 1992 concert in Japan that also included Eric Clapton on guitar.

Last night, which was April Fool’s Day, I headed up to Baltimore where I checked out this year’s Light City event. I was there because I wanted to see my own animation, The March of Liberty, being shown on the big screen. It took a while for me to find the screen that was showing it but I finally found it at Pier 5 in the Inner Harbor, which is located on the outermost edge of Light City.

The area was a big screen that had a few plastic adirondack chairs around so I picked a chair and I sat down in it at 7:30 p.m. I waited and waited as I saw other people’s videos and as the sun set and the temperature dipped to 50 degrees. Even though I had a jacket on, I was still chilly because I wasn’t moving. I waited and waited. At one point the end credits were showing and I saw my name on it and it was also how I found out I had started watching the middle of the videos. The videos automatically rewinded back to the first videos so I kept on waiting and hoping that my video was showing soon.

One hour passed. Then another 30 minutes passed. I began to get concerned because I had taken the light rail into the city and I didn’t have the luxury to wait until Light City’s official Saturday night midnight closing time. (The last Light Rail was scheduled to leave Baltimore at 11:30 p.m.) I also continued to freeze as I waited.

Finally at around 9:35 p.m. my video was shown. I waited a little over two hours in the cold outdoors for my video to finally be shown. I took out my smartphone and shot this short reaction video to actually seeing my animation being shown on the large screen.

It was incredible thrilling thing for me to see my work being shown like that. After I saw my animation, I left the On Demand area and gradually made my way through the crowds (yes, Light City was just as crowded as last year) while seeing the other light exhibits on my way back to the Convention Center light rail stop so I could take one of the last light rails to North Linthicum, where my car was parked.

I woke up the next morning feeling very stiff and sore. I ended up skipping church this morning. But it was worth it because I had the rare privilege of having my work shown to a potential wide audience. I took a bunch of pictures during my time at Light City but they will have to wait for another post because I’m a bit on the tired side right about now.

If you’re curious about my animation, you can see The March of Liberty in its entirety below.

By the way, Light City will continue into next week in Baltimore. I highly recommend it not only for the chance to see my video being shown on a giant screen along with the others but also for seeing so many creative works of art all done in lights. Click here for more information about this event.

I felt compelled to make this podcast after I heard about this new podcast series that has suddenly gone viral called Missing Richard Simmons. Having listened to only the first episode, I found it highly exploitative. Since I’m reviewing a podcast, I’d thought it would be appropriate to do my review in podcast form, where I go into details on why I find the entire series to be exploitative and why we should all just leave Richard Simmons alone.

I felt so strongly against that podcast series that I even made a YouTube video version of it as well. The only difference between the two is that the video version has visuals that I downloaded from various websites. So if you prefer visuals with your podcasts, then check out the video below.

I shot a short video featuring the Chalice Dancers at Paint Branch Unitarian Universalist Church right at the beginning of Sunday service. They did a Hawaiian dance to Hawaiian music.

Four years ago I wrote this rant titled A Warning For Those Who Intend to Enter This Year’s Peeps Diorama Contest after I saw a Washington Post Peeps diorama wall calendar that had gone on sale at a local store. As someone who entered the contest two years in a row (in 2008 and 2009), I realized the full implications of that release I was required to sign before I could even enter my dioramas in that contest where The Washington Post could launch spin-off products without having to pay a dime to the original artists and the artists had no legal recourse because they signed that release just like I did.

In the years since I wrote that rant, I noticed that it would become the most-read post during the time of the year when The Washington Post announced its annual Peeps diorama contest only to have it slip out of WordPress.com’s list of my top ten most-read posts once the winners were announced. In fact, seeing that post rise to the top of the most-read list is how I usually knew that The Washington Post has announced a new call for entries to that contest.

According to this article on DCist.com, The Washington Post will no longer hold the Peeps diorama contest. The Washington Post said that it has been getting fewer submissions, which correlates to the decline in readership in recent years. So, after 10 years, the annual Washington Post Peeps diorama contest is now history.

However, the alternative weekly Washington City Paper is hinting that it may pick up the Peeps diorama contest and the show could still go on this year. In the meantime there is a DC-area Peeps diorama contest that’s being held at National Harbor (which makes sense since the Peeps store is located there) but the theme of that contest is limited to depicting the new National Harbor social media campaign #ThisIsHowYouHarbor.

In commemoration to the now-defunct Washington Post Peeps diorama contest, I’ll end with post with a few videos—all of which I shot. The first two feature Peeps dioramas that were submitted to that contest by the late prolific Peeps diorama artist Carl Cordell and he later displayed all of his dioramas at the 2008 Artomatic.

The last two are my own entries to the contest that I submitted in 2008 and 2009. I didn’t even get Honorable Mention. I decided to quit after 2009 when I read that The Washington Post received over 1,000 submissions that year and I decided that it wasn’t worth working on something that would most likely get lost in the shuffle. So, without further ado, here are Peep Floyd and Pop Star Peepney Pursued by the Peeperazzi.

UPDATE (April 16, 2017): The Washington City Paper went through with its hint that it would pick up the Peeps diorama contest for this year. They pulled it off despite the short notice. Following The Washington Post‘s previous tradition of announcing the contest winners on Easter Sunday, the City Paper has posted the winners on its website today. If you’re in the Baltimore-Washington, DC area, you can view these winning dioramas in person at the Peeps store located at National Harbor. Given the response to this contest, it’s very likely that The Washington City Paper will probably hold this contest again in 2018 and in the years to come.

I found out on Facebook about a dance protest that was being organized by the LGBTQ activist group Werk for Peace. They were protesting the Trump Administration giving plum jobs to homophobes along with its policy towards Muslim immigrants. The protest started at the Trump International Hotel and it ended at the White House. It was a pretty joyous protest despite the fact that it was bitter cold outside. (The temperature was in the low 30’s.) The high point was when they played Lady Gaga’s “Born This Way” and people were cheering and dancing outside the White House. Here’s a short video of the protest when the people initially gathered and danced outside the Trump International Hotel.

Here are my still photos, starting with the Trump International Hotel.

Werk for Peace Dance Protest, Washington, DC, February 3, 2017

Werk for Peace Dance Protest, Washington, DC, February 3, 2017

Werk for Peace Dance Protest, Washington, DC, February 3, 2017

Werk for Peace Dance Protest, Washington, DC, February 3, 2017

Werk for Peace Dance Protest, Washington, DC, February 3, 2017

Werk for Peace Dance Protest, Washington, DC, February 3, 2017

Werk for Peace Dance Protest, Washington, DC, February 3, 2017

Werk for Peace Dance Protest, Washington, DC, February 3, 2017

Werk for Peace Dance Protest, Washington, DC, February 3, 2017

The next photo shows the pickup truck that led the protest as it blasted dance music.

Werk for Peace Dance Protest, Washington, DC, February 3, 2017

The protest went down Pennsylvania Avenue as people were literally dancing in the streets.

Werk for Peace Dance Protest, Washington, DC, February 3, 2017

Werk for Peace Dance Protest, Washington, DC, February 3, 2017

The employees at the White House Gifts store came to the front door and cheered the protesters on. One of the protesters (draped in a rainbow flag) ran over to the store and embraced the employees.

Werk for Peace Dance Protest, Washington, DC, February 3, 2017

The protest ended at the White House as people were dancing in the streets while holding anti-Trump signs.

Werk for Peace Dance Protest, Washington, DC, February 3, 2017

Werk for Peace Dance Protest, Washington, DC, February 3, 2017

Werk for Peace Dance Protest, Washington, DC, February 3, 2017

Werk for Peace Dance Protest, Washington, DC, February 3, 2017

Werk for Peace Dance Protest, Washington, DC, February 3, 2017

This next photo made a humorous reference to the non-existent Bowling Green Massacre.

Werk for Peace Dance Protest, Washington, DC, February 3, 2017

Werk for Peace Dance Protest, Washington, DC, February 3, 2017

I’ll admit that this protest was small compared to the Women’s March on Washington but I don’t mind because I wasn’t crammed in as much and there also seemed to be more of a sense of joy as people were cheering and dancing. It also didn’t receive as much media coverage, aside from this WTOP story.

I’m writing this blog post instead of watching the Super Bowl this year. None of my friends and acquaintances were throwing any Super Bowl parties and I’ve ditched cable a few years ago because I grew tired of Comcast increasing my bill from $79 per month to a whopping $200 per month. (I wasn’t watching any pay-per-view shows at all. Comcast likes to lure you with a low “introductory price” bill for the first year or two then start to jack up the rates really high.) I haven’t gotten around to buying rabbit ears so I can watch network television. These days I use my TV set to watch videos and play console games. So I’m spending Super Bowl Sunday doing something else.

Yesterday I had a whole bunch of stories crop up in my Facebook newsfeed about this 13-year-old girl named Danielle Peskowitz Bregoli who became an Internet sensation after she appeared on The Dr. Phil Show and uttered this phrase: “Cash me outside, how bow dah!”

Danielle had appeared on an episode titled “I Want To Give Up My Car-Stealing, Knife-Wielding, Twerking 13-Year-Old Daughter Who Tried To Frame Me For A Crime.” Having seen video excerpts from that episode posted on that last link, it’s obvious that this girl needs help. I’ve long cringed at Dr. Phil putting minors on his show when these troubled teens would be better off seeing a therapist where they could work out their issues in a private office. That’s because I’m not sure putting these kids on television really help them in the long run and there’s always the chance that their classmates will see that troubled teen on TV and they’ll use that show to taunt and bully the kid at school.

Danielle can be hard to understand because she has chosen to speak what she calls “street talk” where this white middle class girl from the suburbs tries to talk like she’s from the inner city hood but she fails miserably because I doubt she has actually had any kind of exposure to real inner city residents. Shoot, I’ve heard real inner city residents in both Baltimore and DC talk more clearly and eloquently than her! Danielle acts tough but I would be willing to bet that she wouldn’t last even fifteen minutes in a really tough hood like this one before she either gets shot, beaten up, or she has a total meltdown because the real hood didn’t conform to her fantasy idea of what a hood is like.

Danielle isn’t the first troubled teen who has ever appeared on The Dr. Phil Show but, for some reason, her phrase “Cash me outside, how bow dah” resonated with someone enough that this person made a meme with her face and her quote. That led to other people making other memes featuring the girl and her quote and, before you know it, she has become the latest Internet sensation. She is known as The Bhad Bhabie on Twitter, Facebook, and Instagram and she has opened her own store on Shopify where she’s trying to cash in on her unexpected Internet notoriety. What’s more, she’s scheduled to make a return appearance on The Dr. Phil Show this week.

Frankly I just don’t get the Internet exalting Danielle like this. She’s not some prodigy where she’s a whiz at music or dancing or art or chess or some other field. She’s just a 13-year-old girl with an average intellect who has serious issues and someone needs to put her in some kind of a therapy situation before she ends up either becoming a teen mom, a jailbird, or dead. Based on what I’ve read, it seems like she’s thrilled with being an Internet celebrity but I hope some responsible adult is telling her not to expect this kind of fame to last forever because she will ultimately be replaced by the Next Big Thing on the Internet. So far she has been seen threatening paparazzi in Hollywood as if she is some kind of a major celebrity.

There is even a video game called Cash Me Outside that’s available for iOS and Droid.

The whole thing is just crazy. In fact, I did my own parody meme that I’ve just unleashed on various social media sites where I used an image of Grumpy Cat.

grumpycatcashmeoutsideparodymeme

I recently completed my latest animation called The March of Liberty. I’m going to post it here first while posting all the details about the making of this animation underneath the video.

Now here’s the story behind this video. Last summer the local STEM center Makerspace 125 decided to offer a series of free weekly workshops on animation, which would be centered around this new animation program that was released as free open source software known as OpenToonz. It created a lot of buzz, especially in the tech press, because this application is based on the high-end software that was used by the Japanese animation company Studio Ghibli when it made its hit anime films like Spirited Away and Ponyo.

So I went to a few meetups where I played around a bit with OpenToonz on my MacBook until I got annoyed that it kept on frequently crashing. I was stuck for ideas on what my first new animation (since doing the web ad for a new non-profit low-powered radio station) would be about until I was working on a page of my Doll Dreams art book in early July. Since the French holiday Bastille Day was coming on July 14, I decided to do a French-themed character. I did some research on the Wikipedia where I learned about Marianne, who is basically the French equivalent of Uncle Sam. So I did some Marianne art in my Doll Dreams book (which I have since misplaced, which is why I haven’t made any further posts about that book since last July).

As I was researching Marianne I learned that not only was she an inspiration for the Statue of Liberty (which isn’t a major stretch since the statue’s creator, Frédéric Auguste Bartholdi, was French) but Marianne herself was inspired by the ancient Roman goddess Libertas. When I looked up Libertas on the Wikipedia, I learned that she was based on the Greek goddess, Artemis Eleutheria, which was a variant of the Greek goddess Artemis but her worshippers in the Greek city of Myra named her Artemis Eleutheria (with “eleutheria” being the Greek word for “liberty”).

So once I finished my Marianne page for my Doll Dreams book, I decided it would be cool idea to do a short animation tracing the lineage from the Greek Artemis Eleutheria to the Roman Libertas to the French Marianne to, finally, the Statue of Liberty. I drew a storyboard where I had a woman emerge from a privacy screen adorned with the Greek flag with the name “Artemis Eleutheria,” walk past some of the major Athens attractions, then duck behind another privacy screen with the Italian flag and the name “Libertas,” walk past some more attractions, etc. until the Statue of Liberty appears at the end. I even thought about using the national anthems of the countries involved (Greece, Italy, France, and the United States) as the soundtrack.

But then I hit a major snag and it was regarding OpenToonz. First it was the program’s penchant for frequently crashing. New upgrades were being frequently released and I finally found a version that didn’t crash so often. Now for the bad news. Not only was it extremely difficult to quit out of the application once you loaded it (I had to use “Force Quit” if I wanted to exit from the program) but I also found out that the Mac version of OpenToonz did not export the animation as a standalone video file at all. That’s right, an animation program that didn’t export a standalone video file. My only choice was a series of still images and I would need to find a different video program where I would have to manually put those separated files together and export them as a standalone video file.

That was incredibly frustrating, especially since the Windows version of OpenToonz gave users the option of exporting it as an .avi file. Mac users didn’t even have that luxury. I decided to put The March of Liberty on the back burner rather than waste time dealing with the software turkey known as OpenToonz. Instead I made this video called OpenToonz Sucks where I highlighted all the deficiencies of that program.

I also wrote a blog post detailing further my frustration dealing with that program. I basically wanted to warn other people, especially Mac users, to avoid OpenToonz like the plague. Despite the fact that I gave up on OpenToonz I still continued to go to the animation meetup at Makerspace 125 mainly because they also showed classic cartoons during that meetup so I basically watched the cartoons while doing other things with my MacBook besides making cartoons with OpenToonz. Not long after I made my OpenToonz Sucks video, someone in that meetup group encouraged me to download an updated version. I gave it another shot and found that not only did OpenToonz for the Mac was still not capable of exporting any animations as a standalone video file but this upgrade included being able to export the animation as a series of still pictures in this obscure file format that’s only readable by high-end laser machines. (WTF?!?) That prompted me to write this sequel titled OpenToonz Still Sucks Despite Its Recent Upgrade.

So my March of Liberty animation remained on the back burner for a few months. I looked into alternatives to OpenToonz but I was too cash-poor to even consider any paid applications.

But then I came into some money. It wasn’t a lot of money. Basically I had done some work for a startup back in May but I walked off the job after two weeks because I didn’t get paid. (I was paid for the first few days but then the payments stopped.) It was the same startup where the founder convinced me to write a post about it in this blog instead of getting a separate blogging account just for that startup because he couldn’t be bothered with getting one (despite the fact that many major blogging platforms offer free accounts). That startup was such a disaster that I had to make a new policy for this blog where I would no longer write about any work I do for other people in this blog until after the job was done (or there was some other kind of closure).

The startup owner finally paid me for the work I did in November. Even though I’m glad he finally paid up, I still wouldn’t work for him again for a number of reasons. (Basically the way he ran his business—including not even bothering with registering for a vendor booth at the events where he wanted to sell the startup’s products but, instead, just show up at the event without first notifying the event organizers and mingle among the crowd while selling everything out of backpacks in a manner similar to hot dog and beer vendors working the crowd in a sports stadium—screamed “AMATEUR” and “UNPROFESSIONAL”.)

I was able to use the money to buy a low-end animation program. After much research, I decided on Smith Micro’s Anime Studio Debut. It costs only $30 in the App Store. In addition, I also have the option of upgrading to the more robust $99 Anime Studio Pro at a later date. So far I like the debut version but I’ll definitely keep the pro version in mind if I ever feel like I’ve reached my creative limits with the debut and I really want to branch out further.

Compared to OpenToonz, Anime Studio Debut worked like a dream. There are a few glitches in that software but they were nothing compared to the total fuckery of OpenToonz. I did most of the work in Anime Studio Debut, with a few of the images (which were mainly the background images) being initially done in Photoshop (mainly by applying the various filters on some pictures I downloaded from the Internet) before being imported into Anime Studio Debut. Unlike OpenToonz, I was able to export my animations as standalone .mp4 videos in Anime Studio Debut. I assembled the various animated .mp4 videos in iMovie, paired it with some music, exported the animation, and uploaded it online.

As I was working on this animation, my idea as to how to end it evolved. I originally was going to end it with a closeup of the Statue of Liberty until I read in the news about how the U.S. Mint had issued its latest Lady Liberty coin. Unlike the previous Liberty coins, this new coin features an African American woman (or a Lady Liberty with African American features). Of course that coin received racist backlash.

That incident prompted me to create a new ending. After the closeup of the Statue of Liberty, I feature images of three different Liberty coins. The first one is an older coin depicting the Statue of Liberty. (Actually that one is the dollar coin, which usually has the Statue of Liberty on one side and an image of a deceased President of the United States on the other.) The second one is a 2015 Liberty coin featuring a more human looking Lady Liberty with short hair. The third one is the 2017 coin that has all the racists feeling totally butt-hurt over the fact that Lady Liberty now has African American features. Provocative? You bet it is!

Seriously people need to get a grip! Lady Liberty is no different from other mythical figures like Santa Claus, fairies, and elves. While she may have originated in Europe, there’s really no rule that says that she MUST remain white at all times. Look at elves. They originated in Norwegian mythology but they have literally spread all over the world way beyond the Scandinavian peninsula. Don’t believe me? Check out this ball-jointed elf doll that is currently being made by a Chinese company known as Bobobie and you can even order her right here.

As for the music, I used the national anthems of the various nations represented in the animation. Here’s the information about each song.

“Ymnos seis tīn Eleutherían” (Greek national anthem) came from the Public Domain Archive’s YouTube channel. Licensed under Creative Commons Attribution (reuse allowed).

“Il Canto deli Italiani” (Italian national anthem) was declared to be in the public domain by the Italian Ministry of Defense. This version came from Wikimedia Commons.

“La Marseillaise” (French national anthem) was recorded by the U.S. Marine Band in 1897. This recording came from the Internet Archive.

“The Star-Spangled Banner” (American national anthem) was recorded by the U.S. Marine Band in 1910. This recording is courtesy of the Free Music Archive.

In a way it was a blessing that I had to wait a few months later to finish my animation given the current political climate. The Trump Administration has only been in power for two weeks and there is already a lot of daily drama along with a lot of alienated people. (Yesterday President Trump managed to be totally rude to the Prime Minister of Australia. Australia!!! The same Australia that’s among the U.S.’s closest allies!!!) I uploaded that animation soon after the recent Women’s March on Washington so I think it’s very perfect timing to upload a female-centric animation like The March of Liberty online.

Last December I was helping out with creating this video. Basically my help consisted of scanning pages from a certain book so excerpts from the book can be shown on screen.

The video is now online. Phil Shapiro reviews Charlie Reisinger’s book The Open Schoolhouse and it includes the pages that I scanned.

I know I’m pretty slow in posting my own experiences with the Women’s March on Washington. With so many other people spending the past week writing their own experiences with the march on various blogs, websites, and social media, I felt like I could take the luxury of delaying my own report. (Besides, this blog is NOT a news site.)

This post has only my own personal experience with this march. It will include my opinions based on what I saw. It’s possible that you may disagree with my perceptions based on what I saw and did at that march. That’s fine. I’m only writing this to add to what has already been posted about this march. I’m hoping that one day in some distant future some historian will read what other people have posted online, including this post, to gain insight as to what happened and write some kind of a definitive account of this march.

Here is my account of what I saw and did at the Women’s March on Washington on January 21, 2017. It was a very dreary cloudy day, which is reflected in all of the pictures I took of the march that day. The ground was wet because it has been raining off and on for the past few days (including President Trump’s Inauguration the day before). Despite the gloomy clouds, it didn’t rain once. I was still glad I brought my folding chair because it was too wet and muddy to sit on the ground.

Participants were encouraged to wear knitted pink pussycat hats. I didn’t have one and I really didn’t want to knit a hat on such short notice because knitting can be such a time-consuming effort. (That whole march was announced just a month or two before.) I ended up wearing my Grumpy Cat hat that I originally purchased at Party City for $10 for a Halloween Party that took place at my church back in 2015.

Women's March on Washington

Women's March on Washington, January 21, 2017

I had a number of people praise my hat, including a Metro security guard, which was pretty cool. One little girl at the march who admired my hat told me that she has recently gotten Grumpy Cat: A Grumpy Book that she loves very much.

I drove to the nearest Metro station on my own because I live pretty close to that station. I originally met up with some people from my Unitarian Universalist church congregation outside the Greenbelt Metro station at 7:40 a.m. (which was the agreed meeting time in advance).

Women's March on Washington, January 21, 2017

Even that early in the morning it was pretty crowded. I later learned from other people via Facebook that by the afternoon one had to wait up to two hours in order to enter the Greenbelt Metro station.

Women's March on Washington, January 21, 2017

Women's March on Washington, January 21, 2017

We all boarded the Metro. The train we were on was pretty full. I saw two of the women sitting underneath this ad that was pretty appropriate given where we were headed.

Women's March on Washington, January 21, 2017

Once we arrived at the L’Enfant Plaza Metro station I got separated from my church friends because of the crowd of people, as you can see in the next few photographs.

Women's March on Washington, January 21, 2017

Women's March on Washington, January 21, 2017

Women's March on Washington, January 21, 2017

I eventually went over to the Department of Health & Human Services building because people from my church decided to march with the larger Unitarian Universalists for Social Justice (UUSJ) they were all meeting there.

Women's March on Washington, January 21, 2017

Women's March on Washington, January 21, 2017

Women's March on Washington, January 21, 2017

Women's March on Washington, January 21, 2017

So I caught up with my friends again. But that reunion was short-lived once the UUSJ started marching because I was separated from them again because of the throng of people and I didn’t see them again for the rest of the time that I was at the march.

Women's March on Washington, January 21, 2017

I managed to make it to the Mall. At first it was pretty roomy and I was able to set up my folding chair so I could rest in it and eat my lunch (which I brought with me because I know from previous experience that the food vendors tend to draw long lines at large events like this). I set up on the perimeter of the Mall just across the street from the Native American Museum. I folded up my chair after lunch because I needed to use the Don’s Johns port-a-pottle that was set up on the Mall for both yesterday’s Inauguration and today’s Women’s March. I went in this long line just so I can relieve myself.

Women's March on Washington, January 21, 2017

Women's March on Washington, January 21, 2017

After the bathroom break I walked around some more and snapped some pictures. I noticed that the Mall was filling up with more and more people while I was walking in the center of the Mall. For the record, I didn’t see or hear any of the people making speeches because I was so far back on the Mall. (The stage was set up closer to the Washington Monument and I was mostly at the end that is closer to the U.S. Capitol Building.) There were so many people that there was no way I could even think about making my way closer to the stage. I saw a jumbotron at one point but that was crowded with people as well and it was partly obscured with trees so I wasn’t able to see or hear anything.

Women's March on Washington, January 21, 2017

Women's March on Washington, January 21, 2017

Women's March on Washington, January 21, 2017

Women's March on Washington, January 21, 2017

Women's March on Washington, January 21, 2017

Women's March on Washington, January 21, 2017

Women's March on Washington, January 21, 2017

Women's March on Washington, January 21, 2017

Women's March on Washington, January 21, 2017

Women's March on Washington, January 21, 2017

Women's March on Washington, January 21, 2017

I became so tired of walking that I decided to go back to the perimeter near the Native American Museum in an effort to open my portable folding chair again and sit down. Except I found myself trapped among the crowds that I literally could not go in any direction. I was stuck like this for at least an hour or more. I later saw this video that the British TV station Channel 4 had posted on its Twitter feed giving an overhead shot showing how packed the Mall became that day.

I learned through the rumor mill that people were busy speaking on stage and all the speeches ran overtime so the march to the White House didn’t even begin at its originally scheduled 1 p.m. time. People were pushing and crowding in all directions and I was afraid that there would be a disaster similar to what happened in the U.K. nearly 30 years ago when people at a soccer match were literally crushed to death. People near me kept on chanting “LET US MARCH!” and “LESS TALK, MORE WALK!” to no avail. It was almost like the people on stage were the 1% and the people being crammed like sardines on the grounds of the Mall were the 99% and the 1% could’ve cared less about the safety of us 99% plebes.

At one point a person near me literally fell to the ground and other people managed to lift him up back on his feet. If it weren’t for these helpful people, there’s a chance that this guy would’ve been trampled and crushed to death. It was literally so harrowing at times that I kept on thinking that if I had fallen down to the ground, I might as well say good-bye to this life because I would’ve been crushed and trampled to death.

The only other time I’ve ever seen the Mall get this crowded was at the 2010 Rally to Restore Sanity and March to Restore Fear that was put on jointly by Jon Stewart and Stephen Colbert. Except that rally had areas around the perimeter of the Mall where people who got tired of being crushed by the crowds on the Mall could walk towards the edges and take a breather. The Women’s March didn’t even have that convenience because I saw the perimeter across Independence Avenue being just as crowded as on the Mall itself.

Eventually it filtered down that the organizers on stage had decided to start marching to the White House. Hordes of people began to quickly empty out of the Mall. Once again there were empty spaces on the Mall so I decided to pull out my portable folding chair and rest again. I was exhausted as hell. I decided against following the crowd to the White House, look for the nearest Metro station, and just go home.

By that point both my smartphone and the back-up battery recharger had both run out of power so my smartphone was dead. I tried to retrace where I had walked until I found a sign pointing the way to the Federal Center Southwest Metro station. On my way to that Metro station I walked along a section of sidewalk near the Department of Health & Human Services Building that had the giant cobblestones instead of the usual smooth sidewalk. I literally tripped an landed on my knees. Some helpful bystanders helped me get back on my feet and asked me if I was okay. The good news was that I was still able to walk. The bad news was that I ended up with a bruised and stiff right knee. (My left knee somehow escaped being unscathed.) I spent Saturday night at home applying a heating pad to my knee until bedtime when I put on one of my compressing kneepads. This is what my right knee looked like the following morning.

Women's March on Washington, January 21, 2017

Once I made it back to Maryland, I drove away from the Greenbelt Metro station parking lot and I noticed a lot of people walking outside of the parking lot. I saw the cars parked at a nearby business park and an apartment complex, which was reminiscent of the 2010 Jon Stewart/Stephen Colbert rally when I also saw cars parked at a distance from the Metro parking lot. I decided to drive to Three Brothers Pizza in Beltway Plaza where I order two slices of cheese pizza and a medium Diet Pepsi to go. I really wasn’t in the mood to cook anything for myself after spending a full day that that march. At least I was still able to walk despite my injured knee (which became stiff and sore) and the food line was relatively short so it was no big deal.

As I look back on this, I have to admit that I’m of two minds about my participation in the Women’s March on Washington. On the one hand, I thought it was great that I took part in something that literally broke all previous records for other marches and rallies. For years I had to deal with elders both in my church and in my neighborhood talking about how they took part in the 1963 March on Washington (where Rev. Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. gave his famous “I Have a Dream” speech) and I envied them because my parents didn’t go and, if they had, I would’ve been way too young to remember. So the next time I hear an elder talk about hearing MLK give his “I Have a Dream” speech in person, I can reply, “Well, that’s nothing compared to going to the 2017 Women’s March on Washington and being among the throngs of people who broke all attendance records for a large political rally of its type.” (And that’s not to mention that the Women’s March took place just five days after the MLK holiday.)

I was thrilled to see the comparison pictures between the Women’s March and the Inauguration that was held on the Mall the day before and seeing that the protesters definitely outnumbered the Inauguration attendees. I heard that President Donald Trump’s thin-skinned ego received a serious blow over that fact. He deserves it for the way he ran his campaign where he catered only to white heterosexual Christian men with no disabilities at the expense of everyone else. In a way, it was worth it for me to take the time to do something that probably has seriously hurt The Donald’s feelings and if I had to endure being packed in like sardines on the Mall and suffering a bruised right knee as a result, well so be it. I’d rather suffer with a stiff knee than have The Donald’s thin skin and fragile ego that results in him frequently making an ass of himself on Twitter.

It was super cool finding out hours later after I was back home that this particular march was one of many marches that were literally held all over the world and many of those marches (particularly ones held in places like Boston, Chicago, London, and Paris) were just a huge as the one in DC.

On the other hand, it was harrowing as hell given the throngs of people who literally crammed into the Mall like sardines. It was a miracle that no one got crushed to death. I wished the organizers had been more flexible and practical in cutting the stage presentations short so people can march sooner and clear out the Mall. I know that famous people spoke on stage and doing something like this would’ve bruised a few celebrity egos. But I’d rather see bruised celebrity egos than risk innocent people getting crushed and trampled to death on the Mall.

I’ve read some of the progressive criticisms of the march online saying that it was organized mainly to highlight the concerns of upper class white heterosexual women who supported Hillary Clinton for president. I saw plenty of people wearing Clinton campaign buttons and t-shirts. I even saw a couple of people schlepping life-sized cardboard standees of Hillary Clinton. I found it interesting to note that Bernie Sanders not only attended the march in his home state of Vermont but he also spoke that that march as well while his one-time Democratic primary rival, Hillary Clinton, was nowhere to be found at any of the women’s marches anywhere in the world.

But the majority of protesters I saw did not indicate their support of Clinton at all. I saw people wearing Bernie Sanders buttons and t-shirts. I saw people holding “Black Lives Matter” and “Trans Lives Matter” signs. I saw Muslim women and Latinos holding signs indicating their fear of increasing anti-Islamic and anti-Latino sentiment coming from the Trump Administration. I even saw the occasional “We are the 99%” slogan that originated from the Occupy Wall Street movement.

While the march in DC was overwhelmingly white, I saw plenty of people of color who also marched as well as people who didn’t support Clinton or Trump at all. I know the march wasn’t perfect. I personally would’ve preferred more speeches made by non-celebrity activists representing ordinary everyday Americans and less speeches made by Hollywood celebrities because this march was supposed to represent the interests of everyday ordinary Americans who lack the wealth and privilege that the Hollywood celebrities enjoy. But you’re never going to get 100% perfection out of anything in this life and I have to admit that this march seemed very promising in that it hinted of the potential rise of a genuine alternative opposition movement against the Trump Administration. Whether that potential gets realized won’t be known until later this year.

The next day I actually watched videos of the speeches that I found on YouTube. Every speech I watched were inspiring and powerful. I’m only sorry that I wasn’t able to hear any of it on the Mall when I was actually there. I am glad that YouTube exists so I can hear these speeches in their entirety without having them be edited by some broadcast network news organization.

At this point only time will tell whether this march will have a long-term impact on average people in the U.S. I hope something good comes of this. Otherwise I will feel frustrated that I spent a huge amount of time being nearly crushed to death on the Mall while suffering with a bruised knee for nothing.

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