Thursday, December 30, 2010

Huxley and Orwell

Recently there's been this interesting article comparing the distopias of Huxley and Orwell and if our current world is like either of them. I get asked all the time what the point of reading literature is, and I think this is a good example of the argument that literature allows us to explore ideas that have very real-world applications.
The only problem I have with this article is the assumption that "new world order" is all that new. When I look back into history, I think about the control that states had on their subjects, especially marginalized subjects (women, slaves, etc.). Although I agree that recent leaps in technology have allowed for more effective control, I cannot think of a clear moment in history where individuals were truly as free as this article implies.

Wednesday, December 29, 2010

King George VI Speech

This is a clip of King George VI giving a speech in the late 30's.  The speech was given at the beginning of the second World War, but what I find interesting is the way George VI speaks.  He had a "stuttering" problem, but mostly he just sounds like there's a lot of silence between his words. 
Thanks to Steamy Darcy for the link. 

Tuesday, December 28, 2010

This is Planet Earth

Favianna Rodriguez is one of my favorite artists, and Just Seeds recently posted on of her newer posters: This is Planet Earth.  I love both the colors she used and the way the heads blended in together.  The heads being positioned like that is unusual in her work, but it looks really awesome.

Monday, December 27, 2010

Race Monopoly

Talking about race is tough, and showing people sometimes how race operates in a large system and how multiple "small" inequalities add up, but this short piece applying race to Monopoly does a good job of showing readers how race works. I would really love to see someone take this further and actually see some players try these rules out and even apply more rules (maybe even on other factors, like class as the writer suggests, but even something like gender or sexuality) to show how a larger economic system oppresses people.

Sunday, December 26, 2010

O Holy Night

Even though I promised myself I wouldn't share any more Christmas songs with you now that Christmas is technically over, I found a bonus one.  I asked people to submit their favorite Christmas songs, and an old friend actually suggested this cover of "O Holy Night," which is comically in a horrible way.  I still can't decide if this is a joke or not. 

Girls and Violence

Here's a recent story about a young woman who was attacked by a group of young girls. All of her attackers had been previously arrested, and as sad as I am about watching this video, I was so afraid this was going to become another case of bullying, and that this "gang" targeted the victim because of something that happened at school.
There's been a lot of recent evidence in increased violence among girls. This bothers me, just because I don't want anyone, regardless of gender, to be violent. I would like some eventual follow up to what made these particular young women strike out, randomly, at someone else.
Thanks to Detainees for the link.

Saturday, December 25, 2010

Christmas Wrapping

First, can we talk about the title, which has a great pun (“wrapping” instead of what they’re doing, which is rapping.)
And there’s the storyline, which is about a busy young woman, living in some big city, running into the same guy all year. She’s independent enough that she doesn’t need to do Christmas with other people, but she runs into her guy right at the last minute, and yes, has a romantic Christmas. It’s hard for me to not wish I was this girl, modern and fun.
Hope you’re all “doing Christmas right this time” too.

Friday, December 24, 2010

Wonderful Christmastime

Firstly, I love how 80s this song is. It sounds like something that could easily be on an old school episode of Doctor Who. Rhythmically and vocally this song is doing some pretty bizarre things, but it still works well.
Plus, Paul McCartney’s being pretty adorable in this video. I like how the video really looks like some of the grainy footage from an actual family Christmas video.

Thursday, December 23, 2010

I Want a Hippopotamus for Christmas

Is there anything cuter than a kid who wants an unrealistic present? A hippo is a surprise, because, you know, it’s usually a horse. But asking for a hippo is pretty precocious and quirky. I love that this little girl researched the subject of her hippo, even knowing that they are vegetarians. (Though they are actually pretty dangerous.)
“And hippopotamus like me too!” Hard to argue with that.

Wednesday, December 22, 2010

Celebrity Honor Killing

One of the few good things about the War in Iraq is that it has forced some Americans to learn about the so-called Middle East. One of the many things I’ve heard up for debate is honor killings: women killed because they have transgressed sexual mores in some way, many times not through their own choice. In this story, a woman named Afshan Azad, most famous for her small role in the Harry Potter films, who was attacked by her brother and father for dating a Hindu man. (She herself is Muslim.)
What I personally find most frightening about this story is her age: twenty-two. I am twenty-two, and I cannot imagine being attacked by my family for my dating choices. If what they say is true, and this woman was attacked, my heart goes out to her. I would be traumatized by knowing my family saw my life and happiness as unimportant in comparison with societal norms.  There has been some talk that this story is a misunderstanding, and for her sake, I hope that's true. 

I Was Thinking I Could Clean Up For Christmas

For some reason, the most melancholy singer songwriters make the best Christmas songs. This one, by the amazing Aimee Mann, is from the point of view of an addict, which, seriously, doesn’t get talk about that much, and usually not in an entire concept album with a Christmas song near the end.
Mann is a true singer songwriter, employing some wonderful phrases. “The business of the prodigal son” particularly stands out.
Mann has some great other Christmas songs. Her album One More Drifter in the Snow, particularly her cover of the song from The Grinch, is inspired.

Tuesday, December 21, 2010

Neo-Nazis in Germany

When people tell me things like "that doesn't happen anymore," in answer to a discussion of racism, I like to point to news stories like these. In this particular one, several foreigners were attacked in Germany by Neo-Nazis. And before you say "Well, they're fringe groups." Sure, but they apparently have committed 11,000 criminal acts in the first nine months of this year.

Carol of the Bells

“Carol of the Bells” is the most popular Christmas song. It’s not hard to see why. It captures the drama and mystery of Christmas perfectly. Requiem masses wish they could do this on the same level that this song manages to.
This is also another tough song to sing, just because it can get pretty high. Since this is a men’s version, it never manages to get quite that high, but you can see, if there was women singing this, it could turn operatic-sounding pretty fast.

Monday, December 20, 2010

Blue Christmas

Since it’s the season, and I’ve been blogging pretty heavy topics of late, I decided to mix it up by bringing you some of my favorite Christmas songs this week. (Feel free to post your favorite songs too, especially if it’s a lesser known Christmas song. Always looking for something good.)

When people talk about Elvis, they talk about the hips, the women, that mansion of his, his daughter marrying Michael Jackson. But there seems to be so little acknowledgment of what a great voice he had, how smooth it was and a good example of singing it is. It takes a fair amount of breath control to get that right.
The song itself is nice, because while being about a blue during Christmas it also is a blues song.
If you look at this particular performance, you can see him screw up his face, and there’s something very gritty about that, more rock than pop, more Johnny Cash than we would expect.
Also, doesn’t he have long eyelashes?

Some Thoughts on The Holiday Ham

Here's a video about Smithfield and how they have failed, so far, to phase out gestation crates. The video depicts gestation crates, which confines pigs to the smallest space they can possible be squeezed into. They have no way of moving around, and often have sores and injuries as a result of their confinement. This is sad, especially when other corporations have been willing to change their practices.
I don't like ham or pork, but for those of you who like to have ham for your family Christmas meal, consider thinking about who you are buying from. Some companies have better, more humane practices than others.
Thanks to Linh Dinh for the link.

Sunday, December 19, 2010

Spoken Word Poetry on the Page

The first idea in "What is this Thing Called Rap?" is that it is common for an undergraduate to have their "face blown off" by postcolonial theory. I hate to admit it, but this totally happened to me, when I was taking, you guessed it, Postcolonial Literature and Theory while studying at the University of London. And then they review a new anthology of rap, which, while admirable, appears to have a ton of mistakes in it. I've been following the discussion on how this book was created, and mostly what I keep going back to is one of the oldest adages of poetry: it's meant to be spoken outloud. Rap, like poetry, is never as good when read, it's good when you read it outloud to yourself, or even better, hear the writer read it themselves.

Saturday, December 18, 2010

Another Fibromyalgic Queer Coloredgirl Morning

Since posting a link and thoughts on gender and fibromyalgia, I discovered that Lakshmi Piepzna Samarashina , a writer I am quickly falling in love with, actually has it, and even wrote about it, in conjuction with being a queer coloredgirl. Among other things, Lakshmi Piepzna Samarashina writes to Gloria Anzuldua (a magnificent writers as well, who I've discussed before) about living with chronic illness. She uses the term nepantla, which is the inbetween space of borders that Anzuldua and other Latina writers have used. Lakshmi Piepzna Samarashina discusses the struggle to make a life for yourself when you are disabled (and also, the interconnected struggles with being queer and a person of color, which compounds her circumstances.) She also discusses Anzuldua’s struggle to hide how sick she really was. I’ve done work on Anzuldua, and I was unaware that she had been so ill (I was aware of her relatively early death, which is tragic. We lost a wonderful writer and activist there.)
Lakshmi Piepzna Samarashina is a wonderful writer who is just starting to emerge as as someone to follow. (She's been respected in activist circles for years, but she is only just now getting a little mainstream fame, having been nominated for a Pushcart recently.)

Friday, December 17, 2010

Favianna Rodriguez Poster

Since I posted the Walpole poster from my friend Alexander a week ago, I wanted to share with you this lovely poster on immigration and human rights from Favianna Rodriguez, who is also a member of the Just Seeds collective. Rodrigues work is amazing. I frequently wish I had the money to buy some of her great art. I love even the tiner details of her work, like how she draws noses. Plus, her work frequently concentrates on people of color and women, educating people on struggles for justice.

Thursday, December 16, 2010

Fibromyalagia and Gender

Today I was reading an article on fibromyalagia, which women disproportionately suffer from. Basically, it states that gender politics plays a big role, and I can think of a lot of other modern examples of women's health being ignored.
Less research is done on women's illnesses than men's. Viagra, a men's product, is insured, but some medicines for women (or even sometimes predominately used by women)are uninsured. Fibromylagia is just another, more modern example of "hysteria" which was a woman's disease caused by not being obedient enough. Women's crazy moods? Caused by the way her womb was sitting in her body. Sadly, people still basically think this when they discount a woman because it's "that time of the month."
It's enough to make you sick.

Tuesday, December 14, 2010

Video Games, Women and Minorities

This is an article by the Guardian about video games and the representation of women and minorities. Unsurprisingly, a new study found that women and people of color are underrepresented in games and that they are generally not characters you can control. So depressing, but also something that anyone even vaguely aware of video games already knows. This is the number one reason I do not play video games much, despite admiring other things about them.

Monday, December 13, 2010

Bad News: Racism Happens Everywhere

I like to keep up with international news, which is harder than you think when major news sources in America tend to focus on domestic issues, not international.  (Boo!)  But today I read about how there are racist riots going on is Moscow.  Basically, some rioters are calling for the death of immigrants, breaking out the Nazi salute and yelling about "Russia for Russians."  I am so sorry to hear this, because, wow, that's really awful.  Some immigrants were even attacked, and it's hard not to imagine how it must be scarier than usual to be an immigrant in Russia right now. 

Sunday, December 12, 2010

Civil War Photos

The Library of Congress has recently posted an entire collection of Civil War photos on the Flikr page.  It's a pretty intense collection of images.  They are hoping that people will see an ancestor and contact the library so that they might finally get some names with those faces.  No one in my family participated in the Civil War, but the images are a great reminder of that people who served.  They often look stiff in these photos, but at the same time, it is easy to see how they were fathers, brothers, husbands and friends and not just dead bodies. 
Thanks to the ladies over at Two Nerdy History Girls for the link. 

Saturday, December 11, 2010

Walpole Poster

One of my friends, Alexander, is an amazing artist.  I was so excited to come across his art being featured on Just Seeds.  It's a poster celebrating the Walpole Prisoners.  Basically, Walpole was a prison in Massachusetts (it's closed now.)  At one point, guards got angry about the way it was run, so they basically quit.  The prisoners decided to run the prison themselves, and found that not only could they do it, but they could do it better than the guards.  Riots stopped and prisoners even worked through race issues.  Unfortunately, Walpole was closed and the ideas these prisoners had to improve the system have been generally ignored.  Just Seeds makes these posters as a way to spread the word about forgotten social movements that did extraordinary things. 

Friday, December 10, 2010

Mollie Steimer

There's something great about discovering a new fascinating historical person.  History is about people and their stories; that's why the word for history derives from Latin and Greeks words which also mean -you guessed it!- story.  Today's historical discovery is Mollie Steimer, a Jewish American anarchist. She and fellow anarchists had an apartment in Harlem, at 5 East 104th Street, which I totally want to visit now. Her story is so intense and interesting; it could easily be made into a really great miniseries, so make sure you check out the link.

Thursday, December 9, 2010

Parke Burgess's Our Tragic Flaw

Found a book called Our Tragic Flaw, which is about violence is always the go-to answer for so many of our problems.  Parke Burgess actually has been trained as a musician, but he has also done activist work, which probably formed the basis for the philosophy he espouses in this book.  His blog looks really interesting and he has even posted his book for free.

Saturday, December 4, 2010

Brooklyn Comics and Graphics Festival

I went to the Brooklyn Comics and Graphics Festival today. I was surprised by how crowded it was (I had gotten there early in the day, thinking the rush would be later, but wow.) We were packed in like little sardines there. I had a really good time getting a look at some amazing indie comics out there.
I Married a Manchild

I actually collect comics, so I was excited to buy a few cool things. This is my favorite thing, which was the first thing I got: I Married a Manchild. It's by one of my favorite artists, Kate Beaton. I love her stuff because so much of it pokes fun at literary or historical characters. I recognized most of the comics in the book, but I also got it signed by Beaton. She even drew a picture of me, which made me look way cooler than I actually am. She was really nice and was totally star-struck.
No Shave November

I got stocked up on other cool comic swag: buttons, postcards, fliers for local comic and graphic arts events, even free mini comics and newspaper-printed comics. Above and below are sections of the newspaper-style comics I got. They was some intense and beautiful work there.

One of the other great things was that even a celebrity showed up. Matt Groening was there, not to sign stuff or to talk art, but just to go. He was milling around with a friend, looking at people's work and buying things. I'm not really a big Simpsons fan, but seeing him there made me think about how many of the people there (mostly people around my age but also some ten or fifteen years older) grew up watching that show or at least knowing about it since it's been on so long and is so beloved. Him showing up was probably special in a strange way, since he probably inspired and influenced a lot of the artists there.
Something tells me next year this thing is going to be much bigger.

Wednesday, December 1, 2010

The Hard Lessons: Button Edition

Everyone who regularly reads the blog already knows that I'm a huge fan of the Hard Lessons, the indie band that everyone should be talking about but doesn't. But what I've never mentioned before is that I like to collect things, and one of my favorite things to collect is buttons, or, as the British call them, badges.
So imagine my delighted smile when someone pointed me over to the Hard Lessons tumblr, which yes, includes this little post featuring buttons the band's giving out in connection with their upcoming Christmas album. I'm really loving the one in the middle and the two on the left. The one in the middle has a great shade of blue. I guess I'm going to have to get out to one of their upcoming concerts if I want one of these.