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By Angelo Lopez on February 29, 2008

As I was working in the library a few months ago, I ran across the book, Schulz and Me by David Michaelis, a biography of Charles Schulz. Its cover is yellow with a black zig zag, like Charlie Brown’s famous shirt. I haven’t had the chance to read it yet, but I skimmed a few pages and think it looks good. I don’t know much about the man, but his comic strip Peanuts had a profound effect upon my childhood. I spent countless hours drawing Charlie Brown and Snoopy, and this comic strip, more than anything else, inspired me to become an artist.

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By Angelo Lopez on February 27, 2008

Recently I read a biography on Dorothy Day, and in reading about her newspaper, the Catholic Worker, I discovered the name of an artist, Fritz Eichenberg. He contributed woodcut art to her paper and as I looked up his name in the internet I found an interview that he did for the Archives of the Smithsonian American Art here. He said:

"It's always a kind of dialogue between two people as you have when you read the novel, too. When you read Dostoyevsky you have a dialogue between the two individuals- you and the author. No matter what. If you read the Bible you have the same kind of thing."

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By Angelo Lopez on February 26, 2008

When I was in college I checked out from the library a book by Hedley Donovan, a renowned political reporter, entitled Roosevelt to Reagan. It was written in the 1980s, and it described his experiences with 9 Presidents. Based on that experience, Donovan made a list of 32 qualities that he looked for in a person that was running for the Oval Office. I photocopied that part of the book and kept it all these years, looking at it in every Presidential election since 1988, a useful guide to judging the candidates during the primaries. As a liberal Democrat, I’ve always gone for the Democratic candidate during the general elections, but I’ve learned about political leadership qualities that I admire even from Republican Presidents whom I strongly disagreed with. Like Donovan, I would like to reflect upon the qualities that make my favorite Presidents.

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By Angelo Lopez on February 22, 2008

When I first started attending St. Thomas Episcopal Church, one of the first persons to befriend me was an 84 year old lady. We found we had a great love of books and one day she handed me a book to read. It was titled Granny D: Walking Across America in My 90th Year, by Doris Haddock and Dennis Burke. Granny D chronicles Doris Haddock, who walked across the U.S. in 2000 at the age of 90 to highlight the need of campaign finance reform. I was instantly enchanted by Haddock, and admired her life of activism and her love of our country. My friend loved Haddock’s motto in life: you’re never too old to raise a little hell.

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By Angelo Lopez on February 20, 2008

“What do you think an artist is? An imbecile who has only eyes if he is a painter, or ears if he is a musician, or a lyre in every chamber of his heart if he is a poet, or even, if he is a boxer, just his muscle? Far, far from it: at the same time, he is also a political being, constantly aware of the heartbreaking, passionate, or delightful things that happen in the world, shaping himself completely in their image. How could it be possible to feel no interest in other people, and with a cool indifference to detach yourself from the very life which they bring to you so abundantly? No, painting is not done to decorate apartments. It is an instrument of war.”

Pablo Picasso

Picasso’s painting of Guernica came at a time when paintings still held some importance to the culture around it. His painting was a protest of the bombing of the Basque town of Guernica by German Lutwaffe planes. Picasso was the greatest artist of the age, and his painting caused a lot of controversy when it was exhibited. It didn’t stop the Nazis or the coming of World War II, but it did show the horror of war to anyone who viewed the painting then and to anyone who views it now.

In Berkeley last year, Botero exhibited 50 paintings and drawings protesting the treatment of prisoners in the Abu Ghraib prison. It caused quite a bit of controversy and several museums have refused to show it. I’ve read that paintings no longer have the same ability to influence society that it did in Picasso’s day, that other art forms, like rap, or movies or books, have usurped the role that paintings once had to influence society and inflame controversy. That may be true. When I see Guernica or Botero’s Abu Ghraib paintings, though, I still feel a sense of outrage and sadness.

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By Angelo Lopez on February 17, 2008

Right now I’m reading Howard Zinn’s book A People’s History of the United States and it’s a wonderful book of the contributions and struggles that women, African Americans, Native Americans, workers’ groups and various other marginalized people have made to build up America. It’s a history that needs to be told, as these stories talk of the struggles of marginalized people to be included in America’s democratic experiment, and Zinn sees a struggle based on an oppressive economic system. One of the few things where I disagree with Zinn is in his take on the Founding Fathers and their relationship with slavery. Slavery was a subject that the Founding Fathers struggled with mightily, and their inability to resolve the issue was something that they themselves realized was one of their greatest failures.

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By Angelo Lopez on February 14, 2008

Once upon a time, a long time ago, a beloved children’s book creator named Dr. Seuss created political cartoons for a radical leftist newspaper. Yes, the same Dr. Seuss who wrote beloved stories like The Grinch Who Stole Christmas and The Cat In The Hat did cartoons excoriating Hitler, Jim Crow and isolationists during World War II. Theodor Seuss Geisel, better known as Dr. Seuss, has always had a strong liberal streak in his children’s books, and they find their most clear distillation in the editorial cartoons that he did for the New York newspaper, PM, during the 1940s. A wonderful book, Dr. Seuss Goes to War: The World War II Editorial Cartoons of Theodor Seuss Geissel by Richard H. Minear, showcases the 400 cartoons that Dr. Seuss did for PM.

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By Angelo Lopez on February 13, 2008

I discovered Ralph Fasanella in the pages of Smithsonian magazine sometime in the 1990s. The article talked about a man who worked in a gas station by day, and painted wonderful works of art by night. His paintings were colorful and well composed and they showed working class people in New York neighborhoods, at play in baseball games, protesting for the right to organize in unions. These paintings were accessible and full of the joy and sadness of ordinary workers’ lives. A few years later a coworker gave me a calender of Fasanella pictures. Caught up in the art once again, I bought Paul D’Ambrosio’s book Ralph Fasanella’s America from

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By Angelo Lopez on February 11, 2008

Fifty years after he first started doing work for the magazine, Norman Rockwell was tired of doing the same sweet views of America for the Saturday Evening Post in the early 1960s. The great illustrator was increasingly influenced by his close friends and loved ones to look at some of the problems that was afflicting American society. Rockwell had formed close friendships with Erik Erickson and Robert Coles, psychiatrists specializing in the treatment of children and both were advocates of the civil rights movement.

His most profound influence was his third wife, Mary L. “Molly” Punderson, who was an ardent liberal and who urged him in new directions. On December 14, 1963, Rockwell did his last cover for the Saturday Evening Post and he began working for Look magazine. Look magazine finally gave Norman Rockwell the opportunity to express his social concerns.

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By Angelo Lopez on February 10, 2008

This may be shallow but I was first influenced in a liberal direction by Gary Trudeau’s comic strip “Doonesbury“. I was around 12 at the time, and it forced me to read the paper to get some of its humor. I also loved Bloom County,a comic strip by Berkely Breathed, but it was always better as an incisive commentary on pop culture while it’s political commentary always seemed soft to me. When I went to college, I bought an issue of the Comics Journal with an interview of Jules Feiffer, and that interview was my first real exposure to radical leftist thought. After reading his interview, I checked out from the library “Jules Feiffer’s America“, a collection of Feiffer’s cartoons from the Eisenhower era to the Reagan era, and it really influenced the way I saw politics.

The Comics Journal interview, conducted by magazine founder Gary Groth, touched on the range of Jules Feiffer’s life: his early work under famed comic book artist Will Eisner; his books, plays and screenplays; and especially his editorial cartoons for the Village Voice. His cartoons at first seemed like they are quick scrawls on paper, but they show real drawing skill: his characters are finely delineated and show individuality and personality. The Feiffer cartoons are done in a fine thin line during the 1960s and 1970s, but as the 1980s roll in, it looks like the cartoons are done in marker. His cartoon characters are lonely, neurotic people, feeling a bit overwhelmed by the problems of society. The villains of the cartoon are the demagogues, politicians, and national leaders. Feiffer’s cartoons aren’t laugh out loud funny. They are more introspective, like the musings of a sensitive philosopher, pondering the state of the world and the apparent contradictions of racism, poverty, and the monopoly of power within a few hands.

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This is an archive of blog entries written by Angelo Lopez in February 2008.

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