Tag Archives: America

Trans* Ban: Not a Burden

There seems to be running theme with the illustrations I am creating. It’s impossible to ignore the garbage that comes out of Donald Trump’s mouth, and it’s certainly impossible to ignore messages of hate, including transphobia.
In August, Trump’s directive issued a military policy that would prohibit transgender people from joining all branches of the armed forces and ban military healthcare plans from funding sex-reassignment surgeries. Trump has decided to discredit American heroes based on their gender identity by directing the military not to move forward with an Obama-era plan (from 2016). The plan allowed transgender individuals to be recruited into the armed forces, along with a ban of the Department of Defense from using its resources to provide medical treatment mentioned above.

Once more, many trans* heroes will be left in limbo in so many different ways – mentally, socially, financially and emotionally. Trump’s decision pours salt an already transphobic wound that a large part of the world is desperately trying to heal.
This illustration questions what exactly is the difference between a cis-soldier and a trans-soldier? Nothing.

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Evan – Sandy Hook Promise (PSA)

As the school year winds down, one student finds himself starting an unexpected relationship.

Watch until the very end. With over 2million views, this chilling PSA goes from delightful to devastating in under 2 minutes, uncovering the truth about gun violence and how we’re all responsible for preventing it.

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Sagmeister & Walsh: Pins Won’t Save the World

I simply cannot promise that this will be my last US Election post. There’s just too much good content out there that’s been accumulated since Trump took to the post to become the next President of the USA (not going to happen)

The infamous Sagmeister & Walsh have created 40 illustrated badges in protest against Donald Trump. The unique messages are encouraging people to vote for Hillary Clinton, whilst promoting tolerance (and all things surrounding kindness and love that you’d never hear coming out of Trump’s tiny mouth).

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Enamel badges and patches are currently very on trend, which are sold in huge fashion brands such Topshop, ASOS, Zara (controversial) etc. Although the target audience – millennials – are mainly liberal, only 26% of them voted in 2012, with 48 million missed votes. So, the designs are another ploy to get young people off their asses and vote! Sagmeister and Walsh’s own designs feature alongside contributions from a variety of their friends and colleagues, including Brian Rae, Jean Jullien, Timothy Goodman, Olimpia Zagnoli, Ward Sutton, Will Bryant, Coucou Suzette, Adam JK, Ro & Co Studio, Jon Contino, and HORT.

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Advertising and the rise of Trans* awareness

Whilst it’s perhaps not ideal as a Londoner to be writing about gender identity statistics in the US, it is still important note that the number of trans-identifying adults in the United States has doubled in the last decade (now 1.4 million adults). It’s a shame that publicised trans* awareness doesn’t seem to have the same impact in the UK… no major Government or administrative surveys have collected data by including a question where trans people can choose to identify themselves. Publicly collected data on trans people is virtually non-existent! Understandably though, there is a larger base of A-list celebrities in the USA, including trans* celebs like Caitlyn Jenner (below) and Laverne Cox (Orange is the New Black).

So, for now, the focus of this blog post will be about the impact of trans* awareness through advertising and marketing in the USA…

In August, Nike aired an ad for the Olympics featuring triathlete Chris Mosier (the first transgender athlete to make a U.S. men’s national team) which had millions of people from the entertainment, creative and advertising industries taking note. Since then, brands like H&M (featuring Caitlyn Jenner), YouTube and Bud Light, have either featured trans* stories/trans*-inclusive messaging in recent campaigns.

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Days after Nike’s 30-second spot, Clairol (Procter & Gamble) announced that trans* model Tracey Norman (who had worked for them previously in the 70s), would become the face of the Nice ‘n Easy ads once more. Grey (New York) were behind Clairol’s ad, and Beth Avellini (global group CD) states that “Advertising reflects society as a whole, and there’s been a slow acceptance that’s been happening in society.” I couldn’t agree more! However, there’s always a fear that marketers and creatives will use “the token trans* person” for buying power (which has also been expressed in the LGBT community as a whole), and the rise of trans*-inclusive publicity has brought into question whether these campaigns are for social benefit or brand benefit.

I have to say, the ads mentioned above do have a true sense of authenticity and passion. However, as a cis-gender woman I struggle to allow myself to actually have a strong opinion on this topic because it would never and could never affect me directly. It’s difficult to have 100% belief of genuine intentions when it comes to ads being created by hetero-normative marketers in a hetero-normative society. I have to agree with Chris Edwards (copywriter and author of the memoir, ‘Balls: It Takes Some to Get Some’) who states that “terminology is evolving… it is important for advertisers to do their research and work with advisors to make sure copy and tone resonate with the intended audience.”

 

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Buena Vista Township Clerk apologizes for using racial slur

“Gloria Platko, the Buena Vista Township clerk, is now apologizing for using the n-word to describe a colleague. Walter Smith-Randolph reports.”

I am fairly certain, ‘the n word’ is not a slip of the tongue! What are their laws in the state?! Self-righteous imbecile…..

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Westboro Baptist Church threatens to picket funerals of those slain at the Boston Marathon

“…

In the hours since the two explosions rocked the streets of Boston, messages of love and support have saturated the internet — but these inspiring and compassionate posts were not universal.

In fact, the commentary streaming across the Twitter feed of the Westboro Baptist Church was both hostile and hateful.

The Westboro Baptist Church, based in Topeka, Kansas, is a small, virulently homophobic, anti-Semitic hate group that regularly stages protests or pickets institutions and individuals they think support homosexuality or otherwise subvert what they believe is God’s law. 

WBC even protested the funerals of children who were slain in the horrific Newtown shootings this past December.

Given their history, perhaps it should come as no surprise that members of the Westboro Baptist Church have vowed to picket the funerals of those killed at the Boston Marathon today.

In one tweet, the church wrote, “God sent the Boston Marathon Bombs for the sin of Massachusetts passing same-sex marriage!””

 

One word: freaks.

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“Down, down inside the Pyongyang Metro stands a statue of the Eternal Ruler of North Korea, Generalissimo Kim Il Sung – dead these past 19 years but still calling the shots. Brainwashing cast in bronze.

The regime’s florid propaganda blares from loudspeakers: ‘The pure white snows of our sacred mountains’ artillery will wipe the filthy enemy from existence.’ Or something like that.

The newspaper racks on the platforms detail the latest from the ‘American imperialist aggressors’ and warn of thermo-nuclear war.

 
On the inside: Panorama reporter John Sweeney with a North Korean colonel overlooking the De-Militarised Zone

Inside: Panorama reporter John Sweeney with a North Korean colonel overlooking the De-Militarised Zone

 

No ordinary North Koreans talk to us. Almost 400ft below the surface, it’s hard not to feel that we’re trapped inside a doomsday cult like the Branch Davidians in Waco, Texas, or Jim Jones’s Peoples Temple in Guyana. Only this one is a cult nation, armed with nukes, and the clock is counting down to Armageddon.

I’ve reported from Ceausescu’s Romania, Saddam’s Iraq, Gaddafi’s Libya, Mugabe’s Zimbabwe and the Ayatollahs’ Iran – but after eight days undercover in North Korea, I believe this regime is the most frightening tyranny of all. 

Kim The First’s grandson, Kim Jong Un, has the power to make the biggest of bangs. The new boy-God holds his people in near-total mental enslavement.

The regime is mad, bad and silly, all at the same time. But its grip is fading – and that makes it even more dangerous.

If the truth about North Korea is slowly trickling down to its people – that it is dirt poor, led by a preposterous gangster-dynasty – then that is the best explanation of Kim Jong Un’s nuclear sabre-rattling.

He’s leading his nation to a state of pseudo-war, lest they wake up and snap out of it and tear him to shreds, as the Libyans did to Gaddafi.

 
Daily grind: Peasants working in a stream in a countryside that resembles a moonscape

Daily grind: Peasants working in a stream in a countryside that resembles a moonscape

 

The scariest scenario is set out by Professor Brian Myers, author of The Cleanest Race and the greatest living authority on North Korean propaganda: that pseudo-war turns into the real thing by accident:

‘We may see a thermo-nuclear  war but it wouldn’t be because the North Koreans wanted it. It’s not their plan to unleash that, but it might come to that as a result of a disastrous miscalculation.’

DAY 1: I fly from China. Beijing, the centre of the world’s great authoritarian power, feels like San Francisco compared with Pyongyang as I get off our plane and stumble through a large cattle shed.

It turns out to be the airport terminal. The absences bite. No Adverts. No planes coming and going. No internet. No mobile phones that can talk to the world. No 21st Century.

North Korea doesn’t allow journalists here so I’m going in with a group of holidaymakers.

The tourist coach is a great tool of totalitarian power: one microphone, one exit. Our lead guide wears a black suit, is a complete believer and has a subtle sense of humour when he greets us: ‘Hello everybody .  .  . the situation is very tense.

‘Nobody knows when the war will be provoked but we will be safe.  Our bus has the mark of the Korean International Travel Company so the Americans won’t strike our bus. Ha ha .  .  .’

Our hotel boasts five stars, North Korean-style. The lobby is dominated by a painting of Kim Il Sung and his son, Kim Jong Il. Kim The First wears a business suit, the hideous goitre on his neck airbrushed out. Kim Two sports a Mao suit, silly Elton John-esque glasses and an Elvis-era quiff.

The television offers endless repeats of the Korean War and Kims One and Two opening factories and things. It’s fascinating for ten minutes, then suddenly it’s not.

The public areas of the Pyongyang version of the Ritz are unlit and freezing, the floor of the gents a stagnant pool of stinking water. Outside my hotel room, human ants build a joint venture with a Chinese bank, night and day, day and night.

 
High and mighty: North Korean dictator Kim Jong Un inspecting troopers at a cavalry training compound in a picture released by the regime's press agency

High and mighty: North Korean dictator Kim Jong Un inspecting troopers at a cavalry training compound in a picture released by the regime’s press agency

 

Kim Jong Un was born on Elvis’s birthday, schooled in Switzerland and seems to be happy to dump the command economy that his grandfather copied from Stalin.

The question is, can Kim Three free things up economically while retaining absolute political power?

DAY 2: They take us to an almighty monument, a hammer, a sickle and a calligraphy brush: workers by hand and by brain, symbols of an old religion.

Many people think of North Korea as Communist. One year ago Marx and Lenin still had pride of place in a big square in town. But on our trip, they’re gone.

If North Korea is not Stalinist, what is it? Former British ambassador to the country John Everard was blunt: ‘There are sad parallels between North Korea and Nazi Germany and although some people describe  North Korea as a Stalinist state, it’s actually much more accurate to describe it as neo-Nazi. It is deeply racially biased.

‘Kim Jong Il [Kim The Second] was an unabashed admirer of Hitler and copied the Nuremberg marches that are staged in Pyongyang to this day.’

They take us to the mausoleum, beautifully lit, spotlessly clean and splendidly heated. Kims One and Two lie in glass boxes, waxworks both. In North Korea, only the dead rulers lie warm. We’re told to bow, and being undercover, I submit.

Mark Fitzpatrick, an American expert on North Korea, says this is the only nation in the world ruled by a dead man. Generalissimo Kim Il Sung is still the leader of the country – a kind of god.

It’s rule by Zombie and Sons.

No wonder it is the worst-run country I’ve ever been to. They take us to the West Sea barrage – a signature regime achievement. Our road is blocked by an ancient lorry tipping rocks against the barrage wall. It’s falling into the sea.

They take us to a bottling plant. On the production line, there are no bottles. They take us to a show farm, complete with anti-aircraft guns. But no crops. No fields. No beasts. Propaganda drums out from loudspeakers, all the live-long day. The sound is scratchy, the record stuck these past 68 years.

Off to a spa hotel, set aside for regime trusties and foreign tourists like us. It’s pure Bond villain kitsch. We have a barbecue, clams flambéed in petrol, washed down by N‘rocket fuel’ – North Korean vodka. This is a heavy drinking society. I toast our minder: ‘Let’s not have thermo-nuclear war any time soon.’

We were the only guests.

DAY 3: The more we see, the worse it gets: huddled figures scouring the earth by a dead factory, a woman washing clothes in an icy river. Our guides grow anxious: ‘no photos’. The town we hurry through is dirty and mean. An entire industrial complex looks as though it’s been idle for years. From a great chimney, no smoke. At the Daean Heavy Machine Complex, we’re greeted by a nice lady in national costume who points to the mural of Kims One and Two – and then the lights go out. Can we see anything being made?

Our lady guide translates: ‘Now the situation on the Korean peninsula is getting worse. On the verge of Korean war, so they are now producing the military things. So they can’t show the whole factory.’

 
Admired and adored: The rule of Kim Jong Un has been compared to Nazi Germany, with photographs like this drawing parallels to Hitler Jugend meetings

Admired and adored: The rule of Kim Jong Un has been compared to Nazi Germany, with photographs like this drawing parallels to Hitler Jugend meetings

 

DAY 4: We drive through a countryside more like a barren moonscape to see the DMZ – the DeMilitarised Zone where North Korea stops and South Korea starts.

In 1950, North Korea, supported by Stalin and Mao, invaded the South. Three years later and one million dead, the border was back to where it had been – the 38th Parallel. The two sides declared a ceasefire, but there has never been a peace treaty.

The question is: who started the war? I ask the colonel in charge of the DMZ: ‘The Americans, South Koreans and the British say that North Korea invaded South Korea, not the other way around?’

He disagrees.

We talk about the chances of war. I explain that in Britain we are less afraid because we are farther away.

Our female guide translates that as: ‘He needs to leave now because war might break out.’

The colonel puts his arm around my back, laughs, and says: ‘Don’t worry about it.’

At the DMZ it could hardly be more peaceful. But on the other side, something’s missing.

Normally, there’s South Korean and American military watching the North Korean side, watching us. Today, no one.

I ask the colonel: does he think there will be a shooting war?

‘There is no shooting, you can’t say this is a war,’ he replies.

‘Don’t know if war will break out. Whether there is a war depends on the Americans.’

We ask for a group photo, and the colonel obliges.

Up on a hill, by yet another Kim statue, the strangest thing happens: I pick up a phone signal from the South only a few kilometres away.

If I can do this, so can a North Korean. The digital revolution is eating away at the regime’s control – and that makes it harder to keep people brainwashed.

DAY 5: Military have flooded into the capital. At the People’s Study-Library, a vast, freezing ballroom of a place, dominated by Zombie Kim sitting in a marble throne, I ask for one particular book: 1984? No George Orwell, but they have got Discovering Food And Nutrition.

That’s grimly ironic – because mass starvation is one of the regime’s achievements. In the Nineties, its military-first policy brought famine to the land. But images of children with stick-limbs staring at the camera have never been shown. Maybe a million died, maybe more.

 
At war: Pyongyang declared the 1953 non-aggression treaty between North and South Korea invalid last month, cut two military hotlines, and announced that it considered itself in a state of war with the South

At war: Pyongyang declared the 1953 non-aggression treaty between North and South Korea invalid last month, cut two military hotlines, and announced that it considered itself in a state of war with the South

 

DAY 6: We’re on the road again, heading east. Our coach threads through mountain gorges, dotted with late snow. Due north of here is something our guides would never, ever show us: the North Korean gulag.

In South Korea, I met a defector who had been a prisoner. He told me that in winter the ground was so hard they could not bury the dead. They waited until April, the burying season: ‘The dead were kept in a warehouse. When we went to bury them, they were already decomposed. We moved them by shovel and buried up to 80 people in one hole in the ground.’

He said this was still happening now.

We found another defector, a  doctor. ‘I lived as a robot. I was not a human being,’ she said.

I asked: ‘If you as a doctor had said, “We need more money for medicine for the patients”, what would have happened?’ ‘They would kill me that very day,’ she said.

DAY 7: They take us to the biggest hospital in Pyongyang. I’m wearing my coat, jacket, shirt, vest and thermal long johns inside for a reason: it’s freezing. At least the power is on, I think. Then there’s a power cut. They show us a series of fancy machines, but no patients.

The doctor guiding us says he can’t show us patients without their permission, but this feels like yet another propaganda tour, and I’ve had enough: ‘Tell the doctor we’re not fools. We haven’t seen any patients. Please don’t treat us in this way.’

Our last stop is the circus. And who should I bump into in the stalls? What feels like the entire North Korean officer corps – not one of them armed. It’s as if the regime doesn’t quite trust its loyal officers.

Top billing at the circus, hanging just above the trapeze, is a model of an intercontinental ballistic rocket. As it rises up, two lissom acrobats explode from its entrails. The officers clap as if the world about to end.

On the day I leave, North Korea declares a state of war against its neighbour.

How Kim Jong Un – the most dangerous man in the world – chooses to celebrate the 101st birthday of his grandfather tomorrow is up to him. Let’s hope it’s just with lots of candles and a big cake.

 

John Sweeney’s report, Panorama: North Korea Undercover, is on BBC1″

 

You don’t even need to know much about North Korea to see the resemblance to Hitler – the photographs are so Nazi, it’s scary!

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The Honest Coca-Cola Obesity Commercial

HA! Hilarious. I watched ‘The truth about Dieting and Exercise’, a Ch4 docu, and it is just unbelievable what they put in fizzy drinks…

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Barack Obama’s re-election

I haven’t had time to write about this sooner, but here’s an Obama post!

I find myself far more interested in American politics than British politics…. Probably because Barack Obama has changed the meaning of equality for so many people in the USA. Here, ‘gay marriage’ does not actually exist, just civil partnerships. Some people (including gay people) might not see the difference, but I do. Marriage is marriage, so why does it have to be a ‘partnership’? One of the reasons I was hoping for his re-election was to influence the UK with the amazing job he has done in making gay marriage equal in so many states. It’s unbelievable! If you told someone 50 years ago that a black president was making gay marriage legal in tones of states in the USA, you’d be laughed at.

Not only that, but women’s rights … the right to their own body and their own reproductive control. The right to be treated equally to men in the workplace.

The fear of Romney I had was for those thousands of gay partners who dreamed of one day getting married and having a family, having to question their ability in the future to do so. Dedicating your life to someone, and having and loving a child with someone you adore is a basic human right. I cannot comprehend the fear and worry thousands of gay Americans felt at the possibility of this being taken away from them by Mitt Romney.

Not only that, but the right to have contraception and abortions. Every woman should have the liberation to make her own choices, and the freedom to control her own body.

Ok, Obama may not have solved America’s financial crisis, but those using that against him seem to forget who was in power before. Obama didn’t just create this debt, it was handed down to him. If I’m honest, what he has done for people, and for parity, is outstanding, and just as outstanding as the abolition of slavery. Slavery is wrong, gender prejudice is wrong.

Obama, you are amazing!!!

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