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By Angelo Lopez on February 29, 2012

Eric Wilks has been one of my best friends since we met in 7th grade. One of the most politically astute individuals that I know, Eric worked for several years in GLAAD, an organization that works to advance LGBT rights in the local community and acts as a watchdog against homophobia in the news, entertainment and social media. I always enjoy our many discussion of politics over the years, and even when we disagree, he's pointed out weaknesses in my own arguments and has offered different perspectives on the political issues. A longtime political activist, Eric has participated in several protests and has used his facebook page as a forum for political discussion.

You've always been interested in politics, at least since I first met you. How would you describe your politics when you were younger? And how has it evolved over the years?

My political views were initially shaped by those of my father. I don’t recall politics being part of dinner conversation, but my father encouraged my sister and I to read the newspaper when we were young. I generally didn’t do much more than read the headlines and the first few paragraphs of news stories that interested me, but that was enough to spur my curiosity in current events and politics. My father didn’t align with either the Democratic or Republican party. He held moderate-to-liberal views on many social issues but also was a strong believer of a citizen’s right to bear arms. He was uncomfortable with government intruding in our lives, including registering his weapons. That said, he owned only a couple of firearms intended for protection. He mostly owned shotguns and rifles for duck and deer hunting. So, he identified his politics as those closest to Libertarian. He appreciated the fiscal conservatism of the Republican Party of the mid- to late-70s, but less so its stand on social issues.

As a child and young adult, my political views were more black-and-white. Though I could understand how neither the Republicans nor Democrats satisfied every voter, I felt a vote for a third party was essentially a “throw away” vote, given the way our political system functions.

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By Angelo Lopez on February 28, 2012

Starting this March, the Christian LGBT rights group Soulforce will be launching its fifth annual Equality Rides. The Equality Rides is based on the Freedom Rides of the early 1960s and they will consist of Christians who are either gay or are supporters of gay rights who will travel by bus around the country to visit hundreds of Christian schools in the United States that openly discriminate against Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual, Transgender, and Queer individuals and their Allies (LGBTQA) through their policies and practices. They write on the Soulforce webpage their goals for the Equality Rides:

Since its inception, the Equality Ride has catalyzed conversations and dialogue at these otherwise silent institutions. We have witnessed real change in practices and policies. Riders have worked to establish and strengthen Queer/Straight alliances all across the country. People have been provided with safe spaces in which to address the suffering they often feel at the hands of their schools and/or faith communities. We strive to begin conversations at the institutions we visit. We go into these communities at the request and in collaboration with the very folks who are suffering in silence. We approach these communities with a relentless form of non-violent resistance.

Each year we bring in new riders who are given the best training in the non-violence method as well as training on how to organize to end the political and spiritual oppression felt by those in the LGBTQA community. In addition to this training – riders are taught to approach oppression from an intersectional lens – learning to fight racism, ableism, misogyny, classism, homophobia, transphobia, patriarchy, and other oppressive systems.

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By Angelo Lopez on February 27, 2012

I've known Greg Beda and his cartoons since we took college classes together many years ago at San Jose State. For years now I've been a fan of Greg's series Zeke and Goulash and his comic book Postmodern AnXst. His comics often explore with insight the ups and downs of relationships. His latest work has incorporated a spiritual dimension, influenced by many spiritual teachers, most prominently Ken Wilber, an American author who has written about mysticism, philosophy, ecology, and developmental psychology. I admire Greg’s cartoons because he maintains a strong personal point of view that is unique in the comics world.

Over the years, Greg has built a steady readership from the many comic book conventions he has attended to exhibit his comics. Last year marked the 25th anniversary of Zeke and Goulash; to see examples please visit the Zeke and Goulash Facebook page

Thanks Greg for this interview. So tell us a little on how you started cartooning.

I loved cartoons as a child and made a decision to become a cartoonist at age five. My first influences were “The Flintstones,” “Underdog,” and the various animated cartoons on television. I started out drawing my favorite TV characters, as many children do. I created magnets and gave them to my Mom. I also created homemade trading cards of my favorite Hanna-Barbera characters and had them laminated at my bank.

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By Angelo Lopez on February 25, 2012

I learned a lot about the poet activist from reading the blogs of Melissa Tuckey, a blogger at Everyday Citizen. Melissa is a poet who strongly believes in the power of poetry to act as agents of change, to engage readers in many of the important issues of society. This philosophy led Tuckey to serve as the events coordinator for DC Poets Against the War and to serve as a founding co-director of the Split This Rock Poetry Festival, while she was living in Washington, DC. She has written a chapbook, "Rope As Witness" for Pudding House Press. Her poems have appeared in the Southeast Review, Poet Lore, Beltway Poetry Quarterly, Beloit Poetry Journal, and Terrain: A Journal of Built and Natural Environments, and others. Melissa currently lives in Ithaca, New York.

How did you become interested in poetry? Was it something that you first loved when you were in school?

I first encountered poetry at about age 14. I had a teacher who was a poet and he introduced us to Whitman and Dickinson. I fell in love with Emily Dickinson. Her sense of isolation matched mine, and the mystery of her writing was intimate. I slept with her book. My teacher Robert West, was very supportive, he read every poem I wrote and would meet with me during office hours to discuss books.

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By Angelo Lopez on February 25, 2012

I've always been inspired by heroes. From family members, to close friends, to major figures in books that I've read, these heroes have helped shaped my values, my politics, and the way I want to live my life. As I've grown older, my parents have become real heroes to me. As a young man, I admired several sports stars, especially Larry Bird and Magic Johnson, for their work ethic and their ability to make their teammates play to their highest level. With this in mind, I thought I'd write a list of my heroes who are either politicians or political activists, people who inspire me and who have shaped my political views.

I've met many people who do not believe in heroes. They see flaws in any hero and believe that it's dangerous to have so much faith in a flawed human being to fight for good causes. It's never bothered me to know that my heroes have flaws. What makes a hero special to me is that they have the courage to transcend their human weaknesses to do great things that benefit humanity.

So here is my list of my favorite political and activist heroes. Some are radicals. Some are reformers. They have all inspired me. Perhaps a few of them will inspire you. Please feel free to mention your own list of political and activist heroes.

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By Angelo Lopez on February 10, 2012

I first discovered the cartoons of Andy Singer after reading Ted Rall's book "Attitude: The New Subversive Political Cartoonists". Since that time I've become a real fan of Singer's unique cartoons, with its artwork that is like no other cartoonist that I know. A freelance artist whose work can be seen in publications like Z Magazine, The Funny Times, The Bay Monthly, and the Eugene Weekly, Andy Singer's comic "No Exit" is a surreal cartoon that offers an incisive critique of the values that underlie our present consumer society. He has two cartoon collections: Attitude Featuring: Andy Singer 'No Exit' published in 2004 by Nantier, Beal and Minoustchine; and CARToons, cowritten with Randy Ghent, published in 2001. Andy Singer holds a Bachelor of Fine Arts in painting and a Bachelor of Arts in art history from Cornell University.

Andy, you have one of the most unique cartoons styles of any cartoonist that I know. What were your big influences? Did your art school days in Cornell influence your cartoons in any way?

Not really. I was a painting major and made these kind of doodle-like abstract paintings. I drew a few cartoons for the school paper and a few illustrations for the city weekly ("The Ithaca Times"). My interest in so-called "fine" art and painting probably influences my tendency towards single panel cartoons and trying to tell stories with a single image. I also started working in copy shops at the end of and immediately after college. Kodak had just come out with the first copiers that were capable of doing nice, solid blacks and generally high-quality printing. Before the mid 1980s copies looked washed out, grey and cheap. Kodak (and later the Xerox 5090s) changed that. So I started drawing in pen and ink because you could photocopy drawings and share them with other people or send them to newspapers.

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By Angelo Lopez on February 8, 2012

Robert Balmanno is one of the most interesting people I know. The author of the science fiction novels September Snow and Runes of Iona, Balmanno uses his books to comment on the issues of class and environmental degradation. His use of science fiction as a vehicle for social commentary is in the tradition of H.G. Wells and Kurt Vonnegut.

Bob Balmanno and I have been coworkers for over 17 years. During the late 1990s, I was the secretary of the local SEIU part-timers union and witnessed the hard work that Bob did in defending the part-time workers' rights. Balmanno earned a bachelor's degree in Political Science from UC Santa Barbara and did his post graduate work at the University of Edinburgh, in Scotland, and the University of London. He was also a Peace Corps volunteer in West Africa.

Bob, you have deep connections in Santa Clara Valley. You watched as this valley transformed from a center of agriculture to the hub of high technology. How has this affected your perspective on things?

I was born in San Jose, California, in 1951, and I grew up in Sunnyvale, California. During some of my teenage years, during the summer, I picked fruit- cherries and apricots, and worked in one of the largest fruit canneries in the area. My life has been lived sort of counter-intuitively to the thrust of the evolution of "Silicon Valley". The high technology is- so to speak- in the air we breathe and in the water drink. But I have kept myself largely separate from it. Many of my friends call me a "semi-Luddite" because I often do not embrace the newest changes in technology, and that's putting it mildly. I write on a computer but I use it only for word processing. I have never owned a cell phone and I avoid e-mail. I walk 6 to 9 miles daily, avoiding driving whenever I can walk. Much of technology has made our lives easier, some of it has enhanced the freedom of the individual, but some of it has resulted in the curtailment of freedom. Some technology in the hands of corporations has limited our sense of privacy and has shrunk the space of the public domain.

Read more of this post here ...

By Angelo Lopez on February 1, 2012

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More blog posts by this author:

Want to read more pieces written by Angelo Lopez? We have more here! This page you are on right now is an archive of entries written by Angelo Lopez in February 2012. This author's preceding monthly archive is Angelo Lopez: January 2012.

The next monthly archive, after this one, is Angelo Lopez: March 2012.

To see all entries ever written by Angelo Lopez, see the complete blog archives for Angelo Lopez.

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This is an archive of blog entries written by Angelo Lopez in February 2012.

The preceding monthly archive is Angelo Lopez: January 2012.

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