Saturday, May 29, 2010

Pussy: The Racecar No Man Would Drive

I've met some cool people during my short stint as a census worker. Among these people is fellow enumerator, Heidi MacDonald. Heidi's car is what she calls an "art car" - it's painted with roses, the rear bumper reads "peace is da bomb," and her dashboard is covered in various objects. However, it wasn't always as, relatively speaking, unassuming. Heidi's car's last life was as the Pussy Car and it was the subject of a short film by Pan Left Productions called "Pussy: The Racecar No Man Would Drive." Watch it here via Real Player.  The car wasn't a vulgar prank, or an attention grabbing stunt, but a sort of social experiment. When I asked Heidi if it was weird to give up the anonymity we usually enjoy while riding around, she simply said she's driven art cars for a while and it seems natural to her. If you have a car, why not make it art? 

Friday, May 28, 2010

Arizona Fashion PSA

I found this odd little video on Internet Archive. It's interesting that at one point Arizona had unique fashions based, as far as I can tell, on the traditional dress of Native American and Mexican women. Read more about the Squaw dress here. The video mentions the Arizona Fashion Council, which, according to this 1955 Ocala Star Banner article, consisted of "manufacturers and designers turning out colorful Southwestern fashions." The council consisted of 40 designers located across the state - Tucson, Phoenix, Wickenburg, Scottsdale, and even Douglas. The article discusses squaw dresses created by a Phoenix designer named Lloyd Kiva, a Cherokee from Oklahoma. it's a neat read, so check it out.

Sunday, May 23, 2010

Toyota RV 2

The Toyota RV-2 was a concept car Toyota tested out in 1972. It was never made available to consumers, but I think it's pretty interesting. Based on a Corona Mark II chassis, the RV folded open to create a living area to camp in. It doesn't look to off-road ready, though, which I'm sure didn't enhance its marketability to outdoor enthusiasts. When Pontiac tried something similar with the Aztek 30 years later, Time Magazine called it one of the worst cars of all time and it was only produced from 2001-2005. Maybe Pontiac should have taken a lesson from the Toyota RV-2.

Saturday, May 22, 2010

Great Ideas for a Perfect Life #1

Homemade, originally uploaded by Dia-trib3.
I have several recurrent post themes here on MOCS1986, such as Homesick Yankee Ramblings and 10 Works, and I thought it was time to add another. Introducing Great Ideas for a Perfect Life. The title is pretty much self explanatory - sometimes I get great ideas that, though unlikely to happen, would probably result in a fantastic life.

Sometimes they're minor ideas. For example, the other day I proposed to Erin that we have breakfast food for dinner once a week. That's something we can do. Other ideas aren't so easily achieved.

I recently got paid for a short story I wrote. It's my first paying publication. $25 Canadian dollars. So I proposed to Erin that I save any money I make from publishing fiction or creative writing and put it into a fund. That money will be set aside to buy an RV. It's great because it encourages me to write more and try harder to publish AND it could, in theory, eventually allow us to buy and RV and travel the country. I don't write much, it's hard to publish, and most journals pay little if anything, so the RV won't be parked in our yard anytime soon. Still, writing for a living, spending my time visiting interesting places, meeting cool people, and doing rad things, is a great idea for a perfect life.

Of course, we'd also need a German Shepherd with a bandanna and a large format camera....

Thursday, May 20, 2010

The Aldrich Family

A few years ago when I was teaching high school, my friend Amy found a record in her classroom of the Original Radio Broadcasts of "The Aldrich Family." I've had the record for some time, but I only recently researched it and I was quite surprised to find that the radio show was only one part of "The Aldrich Family" program. In addition to the radio show, there was also a comic book and several movies.

The show ran from 1939 to 1953 and featured Ezra Stone as Henry Aldrich, the goofy, adolescent protagonist. Each show began with Henry's mother calling "Henry! Henry Aldrich!" and Henry's response "Coming Mother!" The show was quite popular at the time and, after listening to a few episodes, I understand why. It's really funny!

I have a great grandparent named Henry Aldrich and it's funny just how accurately Henry Aldrich the character capture the essence of Aldrich. First off, he kind of looks like me. There are several episodes in which Henry attempts to raise carrier pigeons that are quite funny and at the outset of those episode, his original idea is to raise rabbits and make money. Back in 1994 my friends and I had the same idea. We bought several white rabbits with plans to breed and sell them. Much like Henry's plan, it made neither sense nor money. It must be an Aldrich thing.

Many episodes are available here. I guess I always thought radio situation comedies were too antiquated for me to really appreciate them; after all, they were merely the result of technological limitations obviated by television, right? Well, not really.  There's a particular style of narrative and performance that is lost and it's really too bad. Furthermore, I also think it's time for Aldriches to reclaim the our place that Henry established in American popular culture. Be on the lookout for my plan of action...

Tuesday, May 18, 2010

Stanley Fish Doesn't Understand Arizona

In his recent New York Times editorial, Arizona: The Gift That Keeps on Giving, Stanley Fish criticizes both the Tucson Unified School District and the Arizona legislature. Recently,  the AZ legislature passed HB2281, a bill that bans ethnic studies from public schools because it claims that ethnic studies promote "ethnic chauvinism." The bill:
"Prohibits a school district or charter school from including in its program of instruction any courses or classes that:
Ø        Promote the overthrow of the United States government.
Ø        Promote resentment toward a race or class of people.
Ø        Are designed primarily for pupils of a particular ethnic group.
Ø Advocate ethnic solidarity instead of the treatment of pupils as individuals."

Fish cites TUSD's Mexican-American Studies program's statement that they follow Paulo Freire's Social Justice Education Model and criticizes the program's theoretical grounding in Freire because he claims it politicizes the classroom. Fish writes:
"If the department is serious about this (and we must assume that it is), then there is something for the citizens of Arizona to be concerned about. The concern is not ethnic studies per se — a perfectly respectable topic of discussion and research involving the disciplines of history, philosophy, sociology, medicine, economics, literature, public policy and art, among others. The concern is ethnic studies as a stalking horse or Trojan horse of a political agenda, even if the agenda bears the high-sounding name of social justice."

Fish states that classrooms should not be political. The idea is that teachers present information and students have the option to question social hegemony based on that information, but teachers should not encourage students to actively work against the hegemonic structure. He then goes on to criticize the legislature for attacking all of ethnic studies rather than just demanding that TUSD and other such programs are depoliticized.

The problem with Fish's argument is really twofold, but certainly interconnected. Not once does he mention that what TUSD's Ethnic Studies Program is reacting to is actual, not nebulous or theoretical, oppression. In Arizona, people from all over the Latin American world, but most specifically Mexico, face the constant presence of discrimination or racial prejudice. Some people try to make a distinction between "legal" and "illegal" people of Mexican or Latin American descent, but that distinction cannot have a significant impact on how Mexican and Latino students conceptualize their place in Arizona or America. They see constant hostility directed toward people who look like them, speak their language, share their customs, share their history, live in their communities, and are often related to them. The hated "illegal" could be their uncle, their mother, their friend, or them. As Fish criticizes the school for teaching students to think politically about their position in society and about hegemony, he seems to be describing a school teaching such things in an environment that isn't defined by racism, hostility, and discrimination. It might seem wrong for a teacher in a predominantly white, central Massachusetts school to try to politicize the classroom. In most instances, that interferes with the students' abilities to create their own identities. However, in Arizona where Mexican and other Latino students are treated like second class citizens that are guilty of fostering a hated and un-American culture, the reality is that these students need to be taught to understand the ideology and social structure here that supports those racist views. Otherwise, they'll believe they are what the hegemony says they are. Freire's model of hegemony is real and it's here in Arizona. His model of using education to counteract the power of hegemony is real and here too. We're not talking pedagogy - we're talking reality.

As for Fish's idea that the legislature should have only stopped the political aspect of TUSD's program, that ignores who the legislature is and what they do to such an degree that it's ridiculous. The legislature is part of the problem. Most of them were elected primarily because they are racist against Mexicans. Tom Horne, the school superintendent, knows absolutely nothing about education, but he said he'd stop bilingual education, so he was elected. The people controlling the AZ legislature are racist and are one of the reasons why TUSD needs to educate Mexican students and other students about how to live in a racist environment; they're the reason why the ethnic studies program is political, so why should they stop it from being political?

I think it's safe to say that Stanley Fish knows nothing about Arizona. It's like he's read and talked about theoretical oppression and hegemony for so long that he's unable to recognize the real thing and understand what real people need to do under those circumstances.

Monday, May 17, 2010

The Flume Gorge, Franconia Notch NH

From the Reverse: "This chasm, 700' feet in length, 11' to 24' in width has 60' to 70' perpendicular walls rising on both sides. The gorge was carved by nature in ancient geological times, but was not discovered until 1808."

I remember visiting the Flume Gorge in New Hampshire with my family on vacation. I was probably nine or ten years old. My brother and I each got a Davy Crockett-style coonskin cap and I got a moosehorn made out of an old cow horn. When you blew into it, it produced a low, bellowing sound. I thought it was funny to blow it when my father stopped the car at traffic lights or stop signs, and, in retrospect, it shows how cool my parents were for letting me get away with that. People would look around, confused. It was really fun.

Saturday, May 15, 2010

Live From AZ Central!!!

If you want to get an idea of how many Arizonans think, look no further than the comments on articles posted on the Arizona Republic's website, AZ Central. I thought it would be revealing if I posted the title of some articles and some of the corresponding comments they generated. I will not discuss or editorialize on the comments or articles, but consider that my compiling in this manner is its own editorializing.

1. Comment on a May 15 article on Macho B, the jaguar that was captured and euthanized several months ago in Southern AZ.
User John5319 writes: Yes let's talk about "the economic problems you are worried about"...... in Arizona. Our new Immigration Law, and those who are against it, reminds me of the world's past history which we are repeating. We are repeating the history of the Warsaw Jews in pre-war Germany. The German government, under Hitler, created the boycotts that would DEMAND that anyone caught making a purchase from a Jewish merchant would face a prison cell. Isn't that very close to the same thing we hear today from Los Angeles, Austin Texas, Chicago high schools, and even Attorney General Holder who has not even read the bill? The only thing that is missing is the jail cell or the bullet from a Mauser rifle. Those State governments who want to boycott Arizona, make is just like the Jewish merchants. We as a state are being singled out simply because the power hungry have chosen to look at Arizonians as the Jews from Warsaw Poland. Where is the outcry about that? They want to punish, not understand. Yet they say a boycott in the name of "fairness" and "equality", but you can't have a boycott without hurt. This is about our state economy as well as existing Federal Law, the one that nobody wants to enforce. Those against our state law will say anything so that it doesn't threaten its existence or offend the moral FEELINGS of any illegals. Today our state is the Jew from Warsaw. It's time we realize it, and learn from History."

2. On an article entitled "Australian Teen Completes Round-the-World sail:" 
User GoHomeIllegalAliens (who's icon photo is a crossed out Mexican flag) writes: "When she turn 18? Id give her a round the world trip she cant refuse once shes legal!!"

3. From "Small Earthquake Shakes Southern California:"
User AZDivine writes: "This is all prophecised in Tehran, Iran from a cleric who predicted the West would pay for it's immodesty and (hence "Boobquakes"). Look out California and Vegas "PORN CITIES"... You're going down! Stop shakin it over there! You're tippin it in the ocean!"

4. Article - Alleged Robber Uses Mask to Appear Black:
User - Windrunner: "I wonder how they discovered he was a true human."

5. Miley Cyrus to Appear on 'Dancing with the Stars:"
User - cleave: "She's really not a very attractive girl, After her years of being on top I think she will crash burn in the flames of stardom. Use it while you got it Miley, because it never last.. you'll be pimping your child to fulfill your dream someday."

Thursday, May 13, 2010

Arizona Fights Back

A couple of days ago, I wrote a post arguing why out-of-staters shouldn't boycott Arizona. In that post I stated that contributing to the economic depression of the state and taking a punitive stance against all people in the state, including those who oppose and hate the racist laws Jan Brewer and company are creating, is counterproductive and basically unfair. Well, the AZ Democratic Party has created a website to help rid us of the fools who have hijacked our little southwestern square of American property and are attempting to drag us back to before the Civil Rights era. As I stated before, many of us are digging in our claws to keep AZ in the American present. The website, www.arizonafightsback.com, gives you the opportunity to petition, volunteer, or donate. If Los Angeles and San Francisco, Boston and Worcester, and other cities boycotting, donated money instead of merely withholding it, we'd see a change in Arizona pretty quickly.

I just want to clarify, that I don't want to give the impression that I think all Republicans or conservatives are like the people we have in Arizona and my endorsement of the Arizona Democratic Party and Arizona Fights Back stem from the extreme conditions the horrid state government here has created. I think all Americans, liberal or conservative, Republican or Democrat, should oppose racism and civil rights violations if extreme elements of any party or political alignment propose to construct laws that violate American values. Again, I apologize for all the political stuff on the blog, but if you lived here, you'd understand. And if you live here, I'm sure you do.

Tuesday, May 11, 2010

Home Vs. Home

Arizona Desert Landscape

Not long ago, the Boston City Council voted to boycott Arizona. It is a strange move for a city to boycott a state. The idea is that the Boston City Council oppose the implications of SB1070 and the other ridiculous, racist laws AZ continues to pass, as they rightfully see such laws as discriminatory and promoting racial profiling. These are certainly not Bostonian ideals and, even in a year when Scott Brown could get Ted Kennedy's seat, the Massachusetts ethos remains largely progressive, well-educated, and, to put it bluntly, modern. You would never see the kind of legislative foolishness you see in Arizona in Massachusetts. 

Then, yesterday, I heard on the radio that the city of Worcester is also considering boycotting Arizona. My heart couldn't help breaking a little. I feel caught between Worcester and Tucson, two places I love and identify with. While I hate SB1070 and the other stupid laws as much as every thinking person possibly could (and should), I can't help but feel that boycotting Arizona is not the answer. I understand that it is morally unjustifiable to give money to a place that commits civil rights abuses, and I'm not saying that a boycott of Arizona will never be justified, but it's too soon.  A glance at the news in the Arizona Republic or AZ Daily Star immediately reveals that many, many, many Arizonans despise the laws that our ridiculous, bigoted legislature is passing as much as the rest of the country. 

I think most people remember a time in elementary school when the whole class was punished for the actions of one or few classmates. All the good students keenly felt the injustice and understood that it was the bad kids' fault, not their own, but what was the point?  The good kids couldn't control the bad kids. The result wasn't an overall class improvement, just a unnecessarily sour memory for some good students. If all we progressives in Arizona had to worry about was sour memories, I might support the boycott, but we have much more to contend with. Our schools are already failing. The state superintendent, Tom Horne, is a world-class idiot. He is also the single least qualified person for any position I have ever seen. I think just seeing a school from a distance would give you more insight into education than that man possesses. He is criminally unqualified for the job, but all anyone needs to do to get elected in Arizona is dislike Mexicans. 

If you don't live in Arizona, and you hate the racist laws passed here, come and march with us in Phoenix. Donate badly needed money to an Arizona school or educational program. Support organizations and legal efforts that aim to undo the terrible mistakes of our fascist legislature, but don't punish me and my wife and all those progressive men and women who live here.  Don't take money out of our already dying economy as that hinders our already beleaguered education system and God knows Arizona needs nothing more desperately than a decent education system.    

If, in the Fall, Arizonans elect more fascist pigs to state government positions and courts uphold these terrible, racist laws, boycott away.  Put please, at least say you're firing before you shoot.

Sunday, May 9, 2010

Dhani Tackles the Globe

In a recent post on Zane Lamprey and his show, Three Sheets, I also mentioned that I'm a fan of another Travel Channel show, Dhani Tackles the Globe. Well, the folks over at the Travel Channel happened to notice and they were kind enough to let me see an episode of the show before it airs. In the episode, Dhani travels to Jamaica and attempts the daunting task of playing cricket.

Here's the episode description:

Monday's all-new episode of Dhani Tackles the Globe finds Dhani in the Island nation of Jamaica trying his best to learn cricket. Jamaica is largely known as one of the world's most popular warm weather vacation spots, but cricket is a sport that is widely not understood by Americans.

The english colonials brought cricket to Jamaica in the early 19th century, when it was a "gentleman's game" meaning whites only. But soon after emancipation in 1838, cricket open to everyone. Soon a uniquely Jamaican version of the game evolved. It was much more aggressive, flamboyant, and athletic... it was dubbed "resistance cricket."

The only way to really learn cricket and Jamaica is to experience the it first hand. Dhani gets a heavy dose of the culture by doing his best to learn everything like a true Jamaican: with a smile on his face.

If you don't watch Dhani Tackles the Globe, let me let you in on why I like it. I'm not a big TV watcher, so a show needs a certain something before I'll like it, let alone recommend it. The premise of the show is simple enough: Dhani Jones is a linebacker for the Cincinnati Bengals who goes around the world playing various sports and learning about different cultures in the process.

There are two primary things that I think make the show worth watching. First, Dhani often wins. It's one thing for an athlete to learn a sport, but Dhani learns, competes in serious competitions, and beats the locals at their own game. This could be obnoxious, but it's not - which brings me to the second reason I like the show. This show is probably the most positive hour of TV around. Dhani meets each challenge with a really positive attitude and, in the great effort he puts into learning the sport and the culture, he creates an intercultural experience defined by dignity and acceptance. He often encounters exotic things, but in these encounters he doesn't exoticise the individuals. You never feel like he's an American immersing himself in something primitive, a first-world adventurer journeying into the third world to satisfy the viewer's voyeuristic desire to see poverty, gross food, and primitive customs. It's great to watch the sports, and to learn about the cultures highlighted on this show, but if there is one thing worth learning from Dhani Jones, it's how we Americans should respect and engage with cultures different from our own.
Here's some interesting photos and content associated with the episode:

Thursday, May 6, 2010

75th Anniversary of the WPA

On this day, May 6th, in 1933 Franklin D. Roosevelt signed an executive order creating the Works Progress Administration. The WPA was the biggest facet of the New Deal. In 1935, the WPA employed three million of the ten million jobless workers in the country. They built and fixed roads and bridges, hospitals and theaters, trails and lodges. Much of their work is still around and still being used. Instead of handing out welfare, FDR saw an opportunity to put people to work in ways that would benefit all of us and support the jobless at the same time. He gave them dignity with their money and in return they gave us infrastructure and great works of art. It showed that America could value work and culture at the same time and that with the correct leadership we could do great things together.

I know that the men and women who worked for the WPA lived in one of the most dire times in our history and they worked incredibly hard, but sometimes there's a part of me that believes I would set my time machine for 1935 if I could. I'd plant some trees and build some trails.

Tuesday, May 4, 2010

Civil Service! Census 2010

Great public effort impresses me. I romanticize it. For years I've watched documentaries and read about the New Deal and the Work Progress Administration, FDR's mobilization of scores of citizens to rebuild the country and end the Great Depression. It was an American epic - men building trails and lodges in the parks, planting trees, building bridges. Many of my literary heroes, like Lorine Niedecker, Ralph Ellison, Loren Eiseley, and Zora Neale Hurston all wrote for the Federal Writer's Project. And as I sit here in 2010 and watch the G.O.P. filibuster even debate on finance reform, I can't help but wish we could all take up our shovels and pens and go fix something.

So, I joined the U.S. Census. I'm an enumerator. That means I'm one of the people who go door to door in neighborhoods and check up on households who didn't return the census form. I had my first day of training today and I can't help but wonder if Ralph Ellison was this bored on his first day of FWP training. It's profoundly not romantic, not glamorous. I realized today that there's nothing glamorous in the individual experiences that are the molecules of great collective effort. The U.S. Census, taken decennially since 1790, is the largest peacetime civilian workforce in America. There are over half a million census workers in the U.S. In the abstract, it's still impressive and I suppose I'm still happy to be part of it. We'll see if I'm still saying that eight weeks from now.

The fellow pictured above is taking the census in 1910, taking down the information of some Native Americans in Wisconsin. I'm going to be like him, only without the cool beard, or cool hat, or cool pipe... I'll be like an uncool version of this guy. Maybe in 2110, some poor grad student will sign up to be an enumerator and find a picture of me online and think I look cool. Who knows.

Sunday, May 2, 2010

Zane Lamprey

I'm pretty stoked. Erin and I are going to see Zane Lamprey tonight for her birthday. If you're not familiar with Zane Lamprey, let me fill you in. He's a comedian, T.V. show host, and professional drinker. That's right - professional drinker. His first show, Three Sheets (available here on Hulu), featured Lamprey visiting cities all over the world and drinking with the locals. Three Sheets, which was on FLN but has moved to The Travel Channel, might be the best travel show ever. With Three Sheets, Dhani Tackles the Globe, and No Reservations, the Travel Channel is actually worth watching! Lamprey's not shy about getting into the booze. In fact, he's usually tanked about 15 minutes into each episode and does the latter half of the show hammered. He holds it together pretty well, though; he is a professional.

Three Sheets also rewards avid followers (like me and Erin) with lots of great inside jokes and even drinking games. For example, every time you see a monkey on the show, you drink....and Lamprey's sidekick is a plush toy monkey named Pleepleus. Other returning characters, like his buddy Steve McKenna and Jim the Cop, add a bit of continuity and humor to the show.

Lamprey has a new show coming out called Drinking Made Easy, which is basically like Three Sheets, but in the U.S. instead of worldwide. I think Steve McKenna will show up more often, too, which is a plus. If you're not familiar with Lamprey, DVR Three Sheets and I bet you'll be hooked too. There's not much good stuff on TV these days, so it's important to support the few good shows that show up.

Can't wait to have a couple of beers tonight at the Rialto. I'll try to get "Steve McKenna'd"(euphemism for wasted) or "Jim the Cop it" (euphemism for spilling beer down the front of yourself during a chugging contest).

Saturday, May 1, 2010

Favorite Smoothie Recipe

Here's my recipe for my favorite post-run, pre-writing smoothie. I've been perfecting it for quite some times. I'm drinking one right now and it's so damn good I thought I'd share it.

Combine all ingredients in a blender:
1 banana
3/4 cup almond milk
1 cup ice
1/2 tablespoon hemp oil
1/2 tablespoon flaxseed oil
1 tablespoon hemp protein
1-2 tablespoon(s) agave nectar
1-2 tablespoon(s) toasted carob powder

Blend until smooth. You can add a bit of water if it's too thick, or, if you like thick smoothies, add some silken tofu. Enjoy!

The picture is from the Agua Caliente Park in Tucson, which is a real nice place to take a walk or a run.