Wednesday, January 31, 2007

RIP--Bam Bam Bigelow

Although I'm a huge fan of pro wrestling, I don't speak a lot about it on the blog. Last week, though, one of the great super-heavyweights, Scott Bigelow (aka Bam Bam Bigelow), passed away from as yet undisclosed causes. He was 45 years old. While he was never the biggest star in the industry at any point, and had been essentially out of wrestling for the past five years or so, he was phenomenally athletic for his size and was able to lead much worse performers (including Lawrence Taylor in the main event of a Wrestlemania) to very acceptable matches. He was safe in the ring and menacing on the mic, mostly for his real claim to fame: a bald skull riddled with tattoos, and deserved a lot more than he got.

Unfortunately, over the past decade, the mortality rate of pro wrestlers has gone down and down. As a result of the travel, the drugs, and the general beating the body takes in this industry, these athletes' bodies are shot much before their time. I don't know what killed Bam Bam but, given the history of these issues, it was either drugs or heart failure (which is often the result of years of drug and steroid abuse). Because pro wrestling, as much as I love the art, is a love 'em and leave 'em kind of industry, those who are no longer capable of working have no means to support themselves, no health insurance, no pension, nothing. There has always been talk in the business of supporting a union, but too many are afraid of blackballing to stand behind it. So it goes on and on, wrestlers die in the gutter because they broke their bodies giving their fan's a great time and making loads of money for their scumbag promoters. A real pity, but not just for Bam Bam and his family. This will go on, wrestlers will die, there'll be a "ten bell salute" to honor them, then they'll go on with the show and forget.


An interesting article from Asia Times points out that Burma (Myanmar) may be returning to constitutional rule. International pressure on the military regime that has ruled the country with an iron fist since 1988 has forced them to make some changes, though the failing health of the leading general, Than Shwe, has made this even more complicated as none of the other leading generals trusts the others and Than Shwe refuses to step aside. Than Shwe wants to remain president under the new constitutional government. This is unlikely because he likely doesn't have long to live. However, any move away from direct military rule is welcome news.

Historical Image of the Day

Site of Mountain Meadows Massacre. Utah, 1857. Photo from approximately 1900

Signs of the Times

What is wrong with the world when one of the best dreams you've had in recent weeks is that Karl Rove is revealed not only to be a "moral degenerate" (even by Republican standards), but also gets arrested for illegal dealings and corruption that we all suspect already exists in the White House?

In other news, in a Newsweek poll, 58% of Americans wish the Bush presidency were already over. Join the bandwagon, folks - we here at Alterdestiny have felt this way since January 2000. If only this 58% had felt this way in October 2004......

Tuesday, January 30, 2007

The Wonder of New Tech

As everyone knows, we here at Alterdestiny love technology. Moreover, we are great at manipulating it. I got a great deal on a friend's used HD television, which I thought was a really cool idea. So, I get the thing home today and, what'd'ya know, I hook everything up like I think I know how to (because the manual's bizarre, stylized, and arcane depictions make no sense) and nothing works. Finally, after three plus frustrating hours working with it, plugging in cords where I didn't know there were holes before, I got everything working, sort of. How can they expect the average person to understand their jargon without defining their terms? It's as if their desire is to have their televisions broken. Luckily, though, I will now be able to view the Super Bowl in High-Definition, which will better allow me to pretend I'm in Miami for the game without being forced to actually go to Miami. I love technology so much I could vomit all over myself.

Late-night blogging...

In one of the more random, meaningless blogs Alterdestiny has ever seen...

D over at Lawyers, Guns & Money refers to the Iraq mess as "The 'Raq".

My simple question - why has this not happened sooner, and gained greater creedence? After all, even during the war, vets referred to "The 'Nam", and since that's the only war we've declared as the United States that is longer than the current war, why not just go with "The 'Raq"?

Tuesday Forgotten American Blogging: Floyd Dominy

Today's episode of Bastard Blogging discusses Floyd Dominy. Dominy, the most obscure person on the 2007 Death List, is quite the bastard, let me tell you.

Floyd Dominy was the head of the United States Bureau of Reclamation from 1958 until 1969. He had one major goal: to dam every river in the nation regardless of the consequences. Dominy believed that all of nature should be harnessed to serve humanity. Dominy was born in central Nebraska in 1909. The need for water in this parched land led to an interest in dams and the use of nature for human good. He got his start in the Campbell County rangelands of northeastern Wyoming where he pushed forward an irrigation program over National Forest regulations. His success put him on the national map for such issues. For years after that, he rose through the ranks of the Bureau of Reclamation by pushing ahead projects, ignoring environmental regulations, and using his significant charisma to charm anyone who stood in his way.

For Dominy, nature itself has no value; its value only comes when humans can use it. His most famous action was pushing for Glen Canyon Dam. Glen Canyon was a remote part of the Utah-Arizona deserts before the dam. Navajos, Utes, and other native peoples had long used the area, but white presence in the region remained minimal. However, Dominy changed that. The Glen Canyon Dam closed its gates in 1963. The desert aesthetic that has become so prominent in American environmentalism was still in its formative stages and the place had just been discovered by people like Edward Abbey and David Brower. Brower particularly worked to publicize the beauty of the place and the need to preserve it, but to no avail. In fact, Brower had basically sold away any options to stop the dam when he made a deal to stop the dam at Echo Park in Dinosaur National Monument. He agreed to not challenge most of the Colorado River Project, including the proposed Glen Canyon Dam in order to save this national monument. At the time, no doubt it seemed a sensible bargain, but Brower regretted it for the rest of his life, especially after he was able to visit Glen Canyon.

To make it worse, Dominy co-opted the ideal of wild nature to justify his creation, calling the lake a great place to get to know nature: "If you're tired in mind and soul, in need of restful serenity, I don't know a better place. If you want to be alone, you can be alone. You just can't crowd Lake Powell's 1,860 miles of shoreline...You have a front-row seat in an amphitheater of infinity. The bright blue sky deepens slowly to a velvet purple and the stars are brilliant--glittering in that vast immensity above. Orange sandstone cliffs fade to dusky red--then to blackest black. The fire burns low--reflected in the placid lake.

There is peace. And a oneness with the world and God.

I know. I was there."

For Dominy, it's all about access. Unless people can access the land, it is being wasted and has no value. Thus, he actually believed he did the world good by flooding Glen Canyon. Now, people can visit the Natural Bridge for instance. As for the Navajo who held the land sacred, well, they were Indians and no one cared at the time, which he admitted to a friend of mine in an interview last year. On this particular point, he's probably not any more guilty than the rest of America during a period where Congress was actively terminating Indian rights. But still, the "people" using the land meant white people.

Dominy did not get to see all of his projects completed though. He really wanted the Grand Canyon to be dammed as well. Figuring that people didn't care about the river and only wanted to see the canyon walls, he couldn't understand the outrage this caused. David Brower and other environmental activists in these early years of environmentalism created a national outrage over the proposed Grand Canyon Dam.

Dominy also had something of an ego. He once said of his time in office, "I have no apologies. I was a crusader for the development of water. I was the Messiah. I was the evangelist who went out and argued persuasively for the harness of water for the benefit of people." Well, then. He was also notorious for his womanizing for decades. For a man who would call himself the Messiah, this is perhaps not surprising. Marc Reisner describes him as, "a two-fisted drinker; he had a scabrous vocabulary and a prodigious sex drive." One description of him reads, "All the wives were disgusted with him. Some of them refused to come to parties when he was going to be there, because he'd start propositioning them all."

Dominy was just part of a larger structure of dam building in the United States in the twentieth century. By 1980, only 2 major western rivers remained undammed--the Yellowstone and the Klamath. These dams caused massive declines in the populations of salmon and other fish. He and his employees introduced non-native species into these ecosystems such as trout, further denigrating the natural state of the rivers. They facilitated reckless agriculture and urban growth in the western deserts that is increasingly proving unsustainable. It destroyed hundreds of riparian ecosystems. No one holds greater responsibility for this than Floyd Dominy.

Oddly, Dominy was fired in 1969 by an even greater bastard--James Watt. Nixon had Watt fire Dominy because of his sexual improprieties. Dominy once confessed to Marc Reisner, "The FBI knows every woman I've ever fucked."

Today, the American West is dealing with the consequences of Dominy and the American government's obsession with dam-building. Siltation, salinization of land, water shortages, degraded ecosystems, unsustainable growth--all of this rests at least in part at the feet of Floyd Dominy.

The best readings on Dominy are Marc Reisner's classic Cadillac Desert: The American West and Its Disappearing Water and John McPhee's Encounters with the Archdruid, which includes a section on McPhee, Dominy, and Sierra Club president David Brower floating down the Grand Canyon. For Dominy's own words, see The Glen Canyon Reader, edited by Matthew Barrett Gross.

Southern Democrats

R. Neal at KnoxViews points us to the cover story from this week's The Nation where Bob Moser convincingly argues that the greatest mistake the Democrats have made in the last 35 years, and the mistake they continue to make, is writing off the South.

Moser, like myself, is a rabid supporter of Howard Dean's 50 state strategy. Dean has reinvigorated the party in the South, Great Plains, and mountain states. While Paul Begala and James Carville may call funding Democratic candidates in Alabama and Nebraska a waste of money, Moser shows that populist Democrats who don't run as Republican-lite but instead show they really care about the working and middle class people of the nation can win all over the nation, including the South. Moser excoriates the national party for not following Dean's strategy and not funding candidates in very winnable races across the region. He reminds us that Jim Webb was not supported by the party establishment and he won in Virginia and that John Yarmuth won over Republican incumbent Anne Northup in Kentucky without money from the party. He tells us the sad story of North Carolina Democrat Larry Kissell who ran what seemed like a hopeless race against the incumbent Republican Robin Hayes, the 6th richest person in Congress. Kissell pleaded with the establishment for money. He got none. He lost to Hayes by 329 votes. How many races could we have won if a little less money went to sorta-Democrat Harold Ford and was spread around the South?

Democrats need to be aggressive in the South. They need to stand for what they believe in. We don't have to run Heath Shuler to win in the region. If we run candidates who are locally popular, who have strong beliefs in economic and racial liberalism, and who can get good voter turnout from both blacks and whites (and increasingly Latinos as well), we can win all over the South. More importantly, the longer the national party writes off this entire region, the longer it will be before the Democrats become the nation's dominant party again. The first step is to have a presidential candidate in 2008 who is enthusiastic about campaigning in the South. It doesn't have to be a southerner, as Howard Dean is showing. Edwards obviously would be a good choice here. Richardson too. Obama, not sure. Clinton, hard to say. Bill of course is great in the South. Would she build upon that?

Depressing Climate Change News of the Day

Can I just shoot myself rather than witness the destruction of the Earth?

Grizzly bears in Yellowstone face extinction because of the widespread death of the whitebark pine. Global warming has created great conditions for the spread of the pine beetle. Earlier this decade, I watched as these bugs decimated northern New Mexico's population of piñon pine. Certain regions of the forests are full of dead trees today. It will take 100 years or so for those trees to grow back.

To make things worse, scientists fear that the bark beetle will be able to spread as far north as central Canada. This would allow the beetle to reach the forests that cross that nation and spread east and south. The trees of the eastern US have no resistance to this bug. If it reaches those forests, the destruction will be horrifying.

Good times.

Historical Image of the Day


Inequality, Class, and Race in the U.S.

Scott points us to this article concerning economic inequality in the United States, published by Brad Plummer. Among the more sobering statistics are the fact that, by the end of the 1990s, the wealthiest 1% in America earned 14% of the national income and owned a whopping 33% of all the wealth in the country (much of this the result of Democratic senators' deeds when they controlled Congress up until 1994).

Plummer and Scott accurately and wonderfully point out the broad implications of this, but it bears stressing, too, how race factors into this. It isn't a matter of causality - debates over whether "White senators don't care about the poor because they're largely minorities" or "White senators don't care about minorities because they're poor" - such a debate would transcend any productive analysis. What is worth examining is exactly how race and class frequently conjoin in the U.S. You can see it in any major urban center, be it the illustrations we all received in 2005 when Hurricane Katrina hit the Gulf Coast, or the East Side in Cleveland, or the ghettos in L.A., or even the South Valley in Albuquerque. Hell, it isn't coincidence that a large number of the homeless you see in Denver or New York City or Orlando are minorities.

What is particularly distressing is our failure to connect these factors. It's not just a lack of interest or ability among our politicians. It reaches out to all of those who ignore such problems, and indicates how severe a problem racism remains throughout the U.S., North, South, West, wherever. You don't have to think like David Duke to be racist - relatively very few Americans display the type of racism on display in cinematic dreck like "Crash." But refusing to acknowledge how not helping the poor automatically condemns majorities of minority groups in urban (and rural) centers via lesser education opportunities, urban development, and other programs, is in some ways even more sinister, for it leads a majority of our country to believe there is severe racism without necessarily confronting their own attitudes towards race AND class. Not to get too pedantic here, but if we're to confront racism and inequality (economic, racial, and cultural - after all, what is the fear of Muslims writ large besides the reinforcement of cultural hierarchies with America at the top?), then its time we start confronting ourselves and our politicians over the inequalities perpetuated in the U.S.

Monday, January 29, 2007

The Christ Year

As Mr. Trend pointed out earlier today, it is my birthday. Today, I turn 33. It is the Christ Year. I have few pretensions to surviving the year and many pretensions to being a spiritual guru to the world. Thus, I expect crucxification, or perhaps some other painful yet redemptive death. I am taking reservations for people to play a role. You can do something good like wash my feet or wrap my lifeless body in a robe or something like that. You would be rewarded with eternal life or maybe a good CD. You could also torture me, put a crown of thorns on me, or otherwise make my life hell. You will undergo eternal damnation. On the other hand, you will remain famous for eternity and maybe in 2000 years you can have the Harvey Keitel circa 4000 play you in a film.

Mexico Notes, Part 3

The third and final installment of my thoughts on my Mexico trip.

1. One of the coolest sites in Mexico City is the home of Leon Trotsky. In the lovely neighborhood of Coyocán, Trotsky settled in the late 1930s, escaping from Stalin's Soviet Union. The story of Stalin's purges don't need to be repeated here, but Trotsky was the only major revolutionary leader to get out the country before Stalin killed him. It didn't matter in the long run, though it did buy him a few years of life. He went from place to place, Turkey, France, Norway, trying to escape Stalin but not too surprisingly, most governments were not too thrilled to have this revolutionary there. But by the late 1930s, Lazaro Cardenas took over the presidency. The most revolutionary of Mexican presidents, Cardenas made Mexico a haven for exiled radicals. Not only did he welcome Trotsky (and provided him with state-funded bodyguards), but during the late 30s, Mexico became a refuge for Republicans fleeing Franco's Spain. All of this could not keep Trotsky alive though. He originally lived at Frida Kahlo's house, but after sleeping with her, Diego Rivera broke with him and he was forced to get his own house. Soon after moving in, Mexican Stalinists, led by the artist David Siqueiros did a drive-by, firing dozens of bullets into the house. By a miracle no one died, but you can see the bullet holes still today. But the lover of Trotsky's secretary wormed his way into Trotsky's confidence and killed him with the famous ice-pick in the head. Sadly, no blood remains on the walls. But the place is still really cool. The original toilet is still there and, frankly, there's something to be said for seeing where Trotsky relieved himself. His grave is also in the yard. It's just a damn cool place.

2. Only a few blocks from Trotsky's house is Frida Kahlo's Blue House, where Trotsky stayed upon his arrival in Mexico. While Frida is not my favorite artist in the world and is somewhat overrated, it was quite cool to see her house. If you could design a house for a combination of beauty, light, and good workspaces, this would be it. It holds several of her works, some of Rivera's, and various other works. At the time, I understand monkeys used to hang out in the yard. It's real hard to imagine a monkey surviving in Mexico City today.

Art is just everywhere in Mexico. In the U.S., I feel like art is the province of the elite. Museums are often expensive. You rarely see art in the streets or in galleries for free or a nominal fee. It's not emphasized in the schools, the media, or any other public outlet. American collectors drive up the price of art, helping breed the feeling of elitism. But in Mexico it is so very different. I imagine that much of this comes from the post-revolutionary muralists and governments that produced art specifically intended for the masses. Cardenas particularly gave government support to muralists such as Diego Rivera, David Siqueiros, and Jose Clemente Orozco. Most importantly, he gave them the walls of government buildings for them to produce whatever they wanted, which were often revolutionary outlooks on Mexican history and society. Perhaps because people can view much of this art for free, at least on certain days of the week, art plays a much more prominent role in Mexican society than the U.S. Nearly every museum, even if it is not an art museum, has a room dedicated to modern art. I walked into one museum and not only did it have such rooms, but it also had an exhibit of Goya's bullfighting drawings. This was not particularly advertised, nor was it a major museum. It was just there for people to wander in and see. My favorite exhibition was by the Mexican artist Roberto Cortázar. Here's a bit on the exhibit I saw, which contained mostly heads like that shown here. I just thought it was great work. Where was this? In the anthropology museum in Puebla. Why was it there? Seemingly, just to support art.

3. The great archaeological site at Teotihuacan was pretty much all it is said to be. Very cool place. Mexican Indians made some truly amazing art. I didn't know that Teotihuacan was so old and basically abandoned before 1000. The Aztecs used it as part of their mythology but its original function was long gone. In several places that were hidden from the sun, the original paint still exists and that just makes it all the more cool. Also, these people could make some damn steps. How these very short people bounded up these steps is beyond me. They sure kicked my ass. Whew! Teotihuacan was also nice because it was quiet. I love Mexico City but it was really nice to get away from the noise. I actually saw some birds there. I think they were a flock of cedar waxwings, but I'm not so good at identifying birds. But seeing anything other than pigeons was wonderful. For my money, I like the Mayan ruins I've been to better, but this is more the aesthetic of the landscape than anything inherent in the ruins. The way Copán comes out of the rain forest is super cool while Teotihuacan is part of a dry plain. But whatever. It was amazing and anyone who goes anywhere near Mexico City needs to get out there.

4. The only bummer about Teotihuacan were the hawkers. Anywhere you walked, you saw guys trying to sell you crap. Stuff made of obsidian, jewelry, a bunch of other stuff I didn't want. Worse, people were actually buying this stuff. I don't mind people trying to make a living and there were lots of stalls just outside the entrance of the ruins that were fine. But couldn't they keep it out of the ruins itself. But Mexico allows people to sell whatever whenever. In a country that is not overflowing in jobs, taking employment away from somewhere is quite unpopular. In Mexico City, former mayor (and the man who should be the current president) Andrés Manuel López Obrador worked for years trying to clear street stalls out of the historic district to very little effect. The area south of the zocalo is almost impossible to walk through because of the masses of street stalls and people. You can't spend more than 3 minutes on the subway without someone coming through selling things, from CDs to coloring books to Chiclets.

5. One problem that I faced in Mexico is making change. This is not just a Mexico thing. Costa Rica, Thailand, Malaysia, Honduras--it's all the same. If you have anything worth more than $5, it's a real pain to change it. A lot of places will just tell you they can't take it, even though they almost certainly can. When I went to Frida's house, I was paying for my friend as well. It was about $3 a person to get in. Thus, $6 for 2. I gave them the equivalent of a $20 and they said they couldn't take it. Given the amount of people who go to the site, and considering we were hardly the first people there that day, how it is possible that they didn't have 140 pesos for change? Why this happens, I just don't understand. In the villages, OK, but in Mexico City or Bangkok? Very strange.

Anyway, that about does it for my Mexico observations. It was a most wonderful trip. If you ever get the chance to explore Mexico, especially outside the border cities, do it!

Historical Image of the Day

Lawrence Welk

Happy Birthday

A happy birthday to one of my co-bloggers who, by being born on January 29, not only avoided sharing a birthday with Dick Cheney AND Phil Collins by one day, but who also shares a birthday with such fine company as Anton Chekov, W.C. Fields, distinguished Ohioans William McKinley and John D. Rockefeller, Jr., Tom Selleck, and fellow-Oregonian and "Free Willy" actor Jason James Richter. Distinguished company indeed...

Sunday, January 28, 2007


There is an excellent post at Gusts of Popular Feeling about plastic surgery in Korea. In particular, Matt writes about a student of his who cut her own tongue, believing it would help her speak English better. Even when I was there in the 90s, plastic surgery was all too common. Among the most unsettling forms of plastic surgery was women undergoing hymen replacement surgery, so that they would be "virgins" on their wedding day, even though they slept with their boyfriends before that.

Historical Image of the Day

Female Lynching Victim. Okemah, Oklahoma, 1911

Saturday, January 27, 2007

Uncle Lyrad's Lesson of the Evening: Falling

A word of advice. If you decide that it's a good idea to fall down, please, for your own safety, tuck your chin in and, when you land, roll toward your shoulder instead of taking it fully on your back. I know what your saying: "But Uncle Lyrad, it sounds better on the mat like that!" and you're right. It does. That better sound, though, is not worth the price. Trust me, I took one today that I'm still feeling the effects from.

The best way to handle the side effects from that though is to go out drinking and see Wayne "The Train" Hancock. I'm feeling better already.

Friday, January 26, 2007

Lyrad's Random 10

Better, better, better. That's all you ever say about our respective collections, Erik. Remember your post from June 12, 2006 on Oregon in which you say:

"...One thing about Portlanders though. They always talk about how their city is so much better than Seattle. A quick message to you all: shut the fuck up. If your city was actually better than Seattle, you wouldn't talk about it so much. Do you think Seattleites talk about how much better they are than Portland? No. Why? Because they don't care about you. Plus, there is no way that Portland can make this kind of claim until they have major league baseball. Right now, they are a AAA city in many ways. So again--shut the fuck up Portlanders...."

You can take your AAA music collection and cry alone in your room my friend, because you're about to read a major-league random 10:

1. Cibo Mato--Blue Train
2. Antonio Carlos Jobim w/Astrid Gilberto--Agua de Beber
3. Tom Waits--Grapefruit Moon
4. Ivie Anderson--Troubled Waters
5. The Del McCoury Band--It's Just the Night
6. Bob Ostertag--Oxblood
7. Steve Earle--Somewhere Out There
8. John Coltrane--Cousin Mary
9. Jay Cloidt--Auto/Motive
10. The Velvet Underground--One of These Days

Absurd Texts of American History (III, a)

I have a backlog of crazy stuff. Soon this will be more intermittent. But enjoy for now!

Today I am starting a multipart series based on the etiquette guide given to the All-American Girls Baseball League, which played from 1943-1954, entitled "A Guide for All-American Girls: How To....Look Better, Feel Better, Be More Popular." Its multipart because of all the great things in it.

Today, I will give you the introduction and the discussion of beauty routines.

"When you become a player in the All-American Girls Baseball League you have reached the highest position that a girl can attain in this sport. The All-American Girls Baseball League is getting great public attention because it is pioneering a new sport for women.

You have certain responsibilities because you too, are in the limelight. Your actions and appearance both on and off the field reflect on the whole profession. It is not only your duty to do your best to hold up the standard of this profession but to do your level best to keep others in line.

The girls in our League are rapidly becoming the heroines of youngsters as well as grownups all over the world. People want to be able to respect their heroines at all times. The All-American Girls Baseball League is attempting to establish a high standard that will make you proud that you are a player in years to come.

We hand you this manual to guide you in your personal appearance. We ask you to follow the rules of behavior for your own good as well as that of the future success of girls' baseball.

In these few pages you will find many of the simple and brief suggestions which should prove useful to you during the busy baseball season. If you plan your days to establish an easy and simple routine, so that your meals are regular and well balanced, so that you have time for outside play and relaxation, so that you sleep at least eight hours each night and so that your normal functions are regular, you will be on the alert, do your job well and gain the greatest joy from living. Always remember that your mind and your body are interrelated and you cannot neglect one without causing the other to suffer. A healthy mind and a healthy body are the true attributes of the All American Girl

Should always contain the following:

Cleansing Cream
Cream Deodorant
Mild Astringent
Face Powder for Brunette
Hand Lotion
Hair Remover

You should be the best judge of your own beauty requirements. Keep your own kit replenished with the things you need for your own toilette and your beauty culture and care. Remember the skin, the hair, the teeth, and the eyes. It is most desirable in your own interests, in your teammates and fellow players, as well as from the standpoint of the public relations of the league that each girl be at all times presentable and attractive, whether on the playing field or at leisure. Study your own beauty culture possibilities and without overdoing your beauty treatment at the risk of attaining gaudiness, practise the little measure that will reflect well on your appearance and personality as a real All American girl.

Suggested Beauty Routine
"After the Game"

Remember, the All American girl is subjected to greater exposure through her activities on the diamond, through exertion in greater body warmth and perspiration, through exposure to dirt, grime and dust and through vigorous play to scratches, cuts, abrasions, and sprains. This means extra precaution to assure all the niceties of toilette and personality. Especially "after the game," the All American girl should take time to observe the necessary beauty ritual, to protect both her health and appearance. Here are a few simple rules that should prove helpful and healthful "after the game."

1. Shower well and soap the skin.
2. Dry thoroughly to avoid chapping or chafing.
3. Apply cleansing cream to face--remove with tissue.
4. Wash face with soap and water.
5. Apply skin astringent.
6. Apply rouge moderately but carefully.
7. Apply lipstick with moderate taste.
8. Apply eye make-up if considered desirable.
9. Apply powder.
10. Check all cuts, abrasions or minor injuries.

If you suffer any skin abrasion or injury, or if you discern any aches or pains that do not appear to be normal, report them at once to your coach-chaperon or the person responsible for treatment and first aid. Don't laugh off slight aliments as trivialities because they can often develop into serious infection or troublesome conditions that can handicap your play and cause personal inconvenience. See that your injuries, however slight, receive immediate attention. Guard your health and welfare."

Why they put "after the game" in quotation marks each time they use I don't know. I can think of some fun speculation about that.

Part 2 tomorrow.

Erik's Random 10

I haven't done one of these in awhile. But it's time to again show how much better my music colleciton is than my co-bloggers.

1. Maddy Prior, Honest Work
2. Here Today, Lonesome River
3. Bonnie Prince Billy, At the Break of Day
4. Johnny Cash, Wreck of the Old 97
5. Da Costa Woltz's Southern Broadcasters, Take Me Back to the Sweet Sunny South
6. Tom Waits, All Stripped Down
7. Wayne Shorter, Capricorn
8. Calexico/Iron & Wine, A History of Lovers
9. Don Byron, "Uh Oh Chango!"/White History Month
10. John Zorn, Etude #31

Historical Image of the Day

Colonial Slave Market. American South, 17th Century

Mister Trend's Random 10

1. "The Cemetary" - Architecture in Helsinki
2. "At the Bottom of Everything" - Bright Eyes
3. "The Secret Life of Arabia" - David Bowie
4. "My Love Is Real" - Buddy Guy
5. "Year of the Horse" - Sufjan Stevens
6. "Absolutely Cuckoo" - The Magnetic Fields
7. Liquid Days, Part II - "Open the Kingdom" - Philip Glass
8. "Wilderness" - Sleater-Kinney
9. "One of Us Must Know (Sooner or Later)" - Bob Dylan
10. Achnaten - Act II, Scene 2 - "Akhnaten and Nefertiti" - Philip Glass

Manohla Dargis Does Not Like Hustle and Flow

Which is OK, I guess. But let's not overdo the slamming of it. She writes about how it was picked up at Sundance:

And sometimes those bright people buy “Hustle & Flow,” a potboiler about sensitive pimps that was picked up here two years ago by the new team at Paramount Pictures amid a lot of crowing. Several lead players on that team are now history, and “Hustle & Flow” is on DVD, having earned little critical or public interest.

She goes on to say about its director:

Once upon a time, its writer and director, Craig Brewer, who also brought us “Hustle & Flow,” would have been churning out grindhouse quickies for Roger Corman. At Sundance, however, Mr. Brewer is a conquering hero, an auteur.

Except that the movie won an Academy Award for best song, a nomination for Terence Howard, and at least some attention. OK, this is not Citizen Kane. But come on. It's not that bad of a movie and going over the top to slam it is not helping her point about the hype machine at Sundance.

Joel Schumacher Sucks

OK, not such big news there.

But I saw the preview for his new movie, "23," with Jim Carrey tonight. It seems to have something to do with Carrey putting things together that add up to 23. Brillant no doubt.

Among the things in the preview that Carrey puts together is that the atomic bomb was dropped on Hiroshima on the 15th day of the 8th month.

That's not true. It was August 6. The Allies celebrated V-J Day on August 15, which marked the Japanese surrender.

Does Schumacher just think that Americans are too stupid to know that he is making shit up? Probably. Should Schumacher be banned from ever making another movie? Yes.

Thursday, January 25, 2007

Mexico Notes, Part 2

1. One of the coolest things in all Mexico must be Lucha Libre, the Mexican professional wrestling. Unlike both of my co-bloggers, I have never been a fan of professional wrestling. But having a chance to see some Lucha in a small arena in a Mexico City suburb was too tempting to pass up. There weren't a whole lot of people there--maybe 100. The arena was a little run down with some graffiti and such. And it was a perfect Mexican experience. About 1/2 the wrestlers had the masks that Lucha is known for. Some were incredibly lame, such as the Robin character which in the US would be read as gay but maybe not there. Others were awesome, such as Yakuza, a wrestler who had a whole samurai thing going, even putting his hair in a topknot. He came up to me at one point and said in English, "We have to get these motherfuckers back." And get them back they did! Unfortunately, I did not have the chance to see the midget wrestling that was happening the following Thursday. Bummer.

2. I really love subways. They are so modern and awesome. I just like spaces that facilitate thousands of people in interacting. I feel the same about airports, though the working-class is less prevalent there. Everyone talks about how dangerous the Mexican subway is. And that may be true. I had no problems, nor have I ever had problems on a subway. This could be luck as much as anything. On the other hand, if you are stupid enough to put your wallet in your back pocket, you might deserve to be robbed. Zipping around from place to place, avoiding hellish traffic--it's just a wonderful thing. The subway stops in Mexico City are cool too. The city has spruced many of them up, giving them themes. One has Mayan stellae in them, which aren't protected and thus are getting ruined but it certainly is interesting in any case. Another has pictures of Mexican animals and a conservationist theme. In another part of that same station, you walk under a darkened area that has a star map on the ceiling. Cool. Others have various displays. By far my favorite was the display discussing artificial insemination of cows. Included were a semen bucket and a long tube called, "vagina artificial." Awesome. Unfortunately, I did not have my camera on me at the time. Bummer.

3. I watched the NCAA national championship game in the garage of former Mexican President Plutarco Elias Calles. Calles, the second of the postrevolutionary presidents, built a large home in the city that today serves as his archives. Researchers can stay there, though at rates I sure as hell wouldn't pay. A friend of mine was staying there while doing a couple of weeks of research. So we hung out in the garage watching the game with the guard. It was kind of surreal. Interestingly, American football is quite popular in Mexico. They televise nearly as many NFL games as they do in the US, and more games, including some college games, are available on cable channels. Let me tell you, if there's one thing greater than watching the Cowboys lose to the Seahawks like they did, it's watching the Cowboys lose to the Seahawks like they did in Spanish.

4. The Zocalo, or plaza, is quite the interesting place. It is the center of Mexico City, built directly on top of the old Aztec capital. When the Spanish defeated the Aztecs, they placed the center of their new city over the Aztec city, which is really the ultimate way to show dominance over a conquered society. The cathedral sits on top of the great pyramid that used to dominate Aztec social life. Some of that pyramid you can now see. The Plaza Mayor, just off the side of the plaza, is pretty cool and has a real interesting history. After the Spanish conquered the Aztec, a leading conquistador built his house there. He was later convicted of plotting against the Spanish crown, along with Cortes' son. Not only was his house destroyed but the ground salted. It was later used as a trash heap and then some other buildings were placed there. When doing some excavations in the 80s, they found a huge stone disc that made the Mexican government decide to excavate the whole thing and open it to the public. It's just a shadow of what it once was, but it's pretty cool nonetheless. Anyway, the zocalo has an interesting history too, reflecting aesthetic trends over the centuries. Big displays and pictures in the Zocalo subway station show this. 100 years ago or so, it was lined with trees and had curved pathways. Not so useful for military processions I guess, but it fit into the way Porfirio Diaz wanted to make Mexico City as much like Paris as possible. At some later point, I don't know when, it was just paved over. And so it exists today, a pretty ugly modern plaza surrounded by a death-defying traffic ring. Modern Mexico in a nutshell right there. But there's always something going on at the zocalo. Big protests, concerts the government puts on, etc. I saw one of the lamest protests ever there. Some taxi drivers were protesting something or another. There are probably a million taxis in Mexico City, perhaps a few hundred thousand more. I would guess that there were about 300 taxis at this protest. Probably not so effective. There was also an interesting communist group protesting the Oaxaca situation. On the other hand, the protests supported the Lopez Obrador candidacy after the PAN "won" the election reached in the hundreds of thousands.

5. It's amazing how beloved Pope John Paul II is in Mexico. The papacy, and the whole Catholic church for that matter, is something I don't pay a whole lot of attention to. In Mexico, it's really hard to avoid though. JP II must be one of the 5 most important popes in history. I know that could be overblown given the 2000 year history of the church and the recent death of John Paul. But no other pope is represented at the big cathedral in Mexico City. JP has a statue on the side of the church. At the Basilica of the Virgin, where she supposedly appeared to an Indian soon after Spanish colonization, there is a statue as well. No other popes are seen. My friend tells me that this relates to two things--first, John Paul II was the first pope to visit Mexico and that was huge. Second, John Paul II finally recognized the Virgin of Guadalupe as legitimate. For hundreds of years, the church distanced itself from this virgin because the Mexicans don't necessarily see her as the mother of Jesus. But JP II both legitimized her and canonized the guy she appeared to. The Virgin, I understand, is as much a part of Mexican national identity as a religious symbol and thus the Pope recognizing her meant he was also affirming Mexican identity. Speaking of the Virgin, the history of her site is interesting. Originally the site was covered with a classic cathedral. But its weight combined with the soft Mexico City soil and the masses of visitors meant that it was sinking. So in the 1960s (I believe) Mexico decided to put up a new church, which is an awful structure. A round modernist building that looks like a giant Baptist church doesn't quite seem right for the virgin's image.

A final post tomorrow.

Absurd Texts of American History (II)

Today, I bring you George W. Bush's 2007 State of the Union address. Some of the more laughable parts include:

First, we must balance the federal budget. We can do so without raising taxes.

Ha ha ha ha ha. Wow, that's some fiscal responsibility right there. We're America. We can have everything without any consequences at all!

And finally, to keep this economy strong we must take on the challenge of entitlements. Social Security and Medicare and Medicaid are commitments of conscience, and so it is our duty to keep them permanently sound. Yet we’re failing in that duty. And this failure will one day leave our children with three bad options: huge tax increases, huge deficits, or huge and immediate cuts in benefits. Everyone in this chamber knows this to be true, yet somehow we have not found it in ourselves to act. So let us work together and do it now. With enough good sense and good will, you and I can fix Medicare and Medicaid and save Social Security.

Except for the fact that this is completely wrong (or would be if we would roll back some tax cuts to the wealthy or perhaps not pursue ridiculous wars) this makes perfect sense!

Spreading opportunity and hope in America also requires public schools that give children the knowledge and character they need in life. Five years ago, we rose above partisan differences to pass the No Child Left Behind Act preserving local control, raising standards and holding schools accountable for results. And because we acted, students are performing better in reading and math, and minority students are closing the achievement gap....The No Child Left Behind Act has worked for America’s children, and I ask Congress to reauthorize this good law.

No Child Left A Dime is a great idea! Just ask teachers. Oh wait, better not ask the teachers since they are part of their communistic unions and will say it doesn't work. Instead, let's ask some right-wing theorists in the Department of Education. They'll tell you it works!

Extending hope and opportunity depends on a stable supply of energy that keeps America’s economy running and America’s environment clean. For too long our nation has been dependent on foreign oil. And this dependence leaves us more vulnerable to hostile regimes, and to terrorists, who could cause huge disruptions of oil shipments and raise the price of oil and do great harm to our economy.

I would really do something about this if it was an issue I gave a shit about. Is there a way Cheney's oil stocks and go even higher?

For the terrorists, life since 9/11 has never been the same.

Quite true. In fact, life has been much better for them!

Al Qaeda and its followers are Sunni extremists.

Still trying to connect Saddam Hussein to 9/11 I see.

The Shia and Sunni extremists are different faces of the same totalitarian threat. But whatever slogans they chant, when they slaughter the innocent, they have the same wicked purposes. They want to kill Americans, kill democracy in the Middle East and gain the weapons to kill on an even more horrific scale.

There's democracy in the Middle East? Oh, you mean Israel. Great.

And in 2005, the Iraqi people held three national elections: choosing a transitional government, adopting the most progressive, democratic constitution in the Arab world and then electing a government under that constitution. Despite endless threats from the killers in their midst, nearly 12 million Iraqi citizens came out to vote in a show of hope and solidarity that we should never forget.

Clearly, things are going well in Iraq!

This is not the fight we entered in Iraq, but it is the fight we are in.

Yes, the fight we entered was the one made up in the offices of the Pentagon. Who could guess that it wouldn't go according to plan? Certainly not the rest of the damn country.

We didn’t drive Al Qaeda out of their safe haven in Afghanistan only to let them set up a new safe haven in a free Iraq.

Actually, that's kind of exactly what we did.

Our country is pursuing a new strategy in Iraq, and I ask you to give it a chance to work.

Even though none of my other ideas in Iraq have worked, I ask you to give me endless opportunities to fuck up even more!

Dikembe Mutombo grew up in Africa, amid great poverty and disease. He came to Georgetown University on a scholarship to study medicine, but Coach John Thompson got a look at Dikembe and had a different idea. Dikembe became a star in the N.B.A., and a citizen of the United States. But he never forgot the land of his birth or the duty to share his blessings with others. He built a brand new hospital in his old hometown. A friend has said of this good hearted man: “Mutombo believes that God has given him this opportunity to do great things.” And we are proud to call this son of the Congo a citizen of the United States of America.

What in the hell is he talking about here?

After her daughter was born, Julie Aigner-Clark searched for ways to share her love of music and art with her child. So she borrowed some equipment, and began filming children’s videos in her basement. The Baby Einstein Company was born, and in just five years her business grew to more than $20 million in sales. In November 2001, Julie sold Baby Einstein to Walt Disney Company, and with her help Baby Einstein has grown into a $200 million business. Julie represents the great enterprising spirit of America. And she’s using her success to help others, producing child safety videos with John Walsh of the National Center for Missing and Exploited Children. Julie says of her new project: “I believe it is the most important thing I have ever done. I believe that children have the right to live in a world that is safe.” And so tonight we are pleased to welcome this talented business entrepreneur and generous social entrepreneur: Julie Aigner-Clark.

As Project Sanguine put it, "When did the State of the Union turn into QVC?"

Good times.

Historical Image of the Day

Tenement Housing. Lower East Side, New York City. Early 20th Century

Roots Music in Brazil

There's just an absolutely wondereful article in the NY Times today on a project launched by Mario de Andrade to record every kind of traditional music (what we might call "roots music") in Brazil's Northeast in 1938, much like Alan Lomax's project in the U.S. The importance of this project and of the music itself can't be overstated, and not just for Brazil. Sure, the music of the Northeast is the basis for nearly all of the major popular song forms in Brazil now (Samba, Axé, Musica Popular Brasileira, Forro, and others), and the importance of Tropicalismo extends internationally (the NY Times mentions its influence, but neglects non-"world" musicians like Beck in that list). But the music extended beyond Brazil's borders in other ways (let us not forget Carmen Miranda, who, while a cheesy joke-figure now, did much to expose American audieneces to Brazilian styles of music, even while becoming a pariah in her own country).

If there is any small complaint, it is in the portrayal of the mind behind the project, Mario de Andrade. He was not simply a "municipal secretary of culture" in Northeastern Brazil (an area roughly equivalent to the U.S. between the Rockies and the Mississippi, north to south). He was one of the major Brazilian literary figures of the 1910s, 1920s and 1930s, and beyond and, together with his brother Oswald, was one of the first Brazilian figure to not only suggest, but celebrate, the mixing of elemnts of European, African, and indigeneous cultures in Brazil, instead of lamenting the "worsening" effects of African and indigenous "blood" within Brazilian culture and society. Certainly, he emphasized the European components more sometimes, but he and Oswald have provided beacons of pride and alternate, non-European based forms of artistic expressions to musicians, artists, poets, novelissts, and others in Brazil up to the present day.

Please read the article, and just to draw you in, the NY Times has even included a link that lets you listen to all six discs and read about it in English. No word on when the discs will be released, but keep your eyes open, as this offers one of the most important musical (re)-discoveries in the last 30 years, not just in Brazil, but worldwide.

Wednesday, January 24, 2007

In Defense of Red Beard

In discussing the new Kurosawa DVDs coming out soon, Dave Kehr dismisses Red Beard as a film losing its stature as time goes on. His insinuation is that modern audiences are not willing to accept the films he made outside of the Samurai genre. While I would agree that, of his 55 films (many of which feature no swordplay at all), some would lose their stature over the years, the specific mention of Red Beard as one of these does a disservice to both Kurosawa and the film itself. Rob’s comments on the same subject spark me to wonder if that’s really happening. I have a hard time understanding this. Since seeing it for the first time a few years ago, it has become one of the most indispensable films in my collection and my favorite of all Kurosawa’s films.

Kurosawa’s Samurai films are fantastic, there’s no doubt about that. But with all the trick shots, fast editing and muddy fights gone, with everything stripped down, Red Beard stands as a masterwork of filmmaking and storytelling. Looking, however, at a 183 minute run-time and seeing some performances, especially in the opening, that are overwrought and dated, feels daunting, but it does not take very long for the story to take over. In response to its length, the film is told episodically, and the distinct plotlines help to both keep the story running and to watch the film in chunks as a kind of serial (which I find a great way to watch a film like this). The overriding story of Dr. Yasumoto (Yuzo Kayama in, ultimately, a fantastic performance), just out of a Dutch medical school, who is tricked into coming to a medical camp for the most poverty stricken and is forced to stay for his internship by Dr. Niide (Toshiro Mifune, in his last role with Kurosawa), the strict, stoic head doctor known as Red Beard, feels forced initially. But as Niide guides Yasumoto through some of the grimmest displays in film, Red Beard becomes Kurosawa’s most human picture.

There is no contempt for the suffering of these people, some sick and some [highly] disturbed; only the deepest respect for their will to affect others. Each story moves me on a real emotional level. Whether it’s the sickening description by “The Mantis” (Kyoko Kagawa, creepily believable) of the reasons for her sexually charged murders, or the heart-wrenching story of why Sahachi (Tsutumoto Yamazaki) must give everything he has away over and over again, I always find myself completely inside this movie--following it and feeling it the whole way. The message that poverty and ignorance cause their suffering instead over disease speaks to the audience as much to those at its release as to us. The “strange cancers” that the doctors find in the stricken, most topically related to what Japanese doctors must have been finding in people twenty years after the nuclear holocausts, give the film a relevance and heart that few films can match. The story aside, the starkness of the sets and the persistence to extend the shots allow the viewer to appreciate the beauty of the lighting and the movement of the shadows who tell stories unto themselves, set pieces that often feel alien, and a series of characters that are unforgettably performed. The film soars far above what Dave Kehr calls “self-conscious art house efforts” and is on level with any film from any time. Red Beard is a truly great film from a great artist who should be remembered for more than his Samurai films. Watch this movie!!

Absurd Texts of American History (I)

I am starting another historical series on this blog. Entitled Absurd Texts of American History, it will discuss, well, just that. I hope you enjoy these. If "enjoy" is the right word for something like this. They will come intermittently, hopefully every week or so.

The first post is a 1931 letter sent to firms around the nation from the Calcyanide Company, an extermination company. Its entire text follows:


Picture a group of darkies gathered in a circle, rolling dice. Eyes are popping, faces are drawn tight, hopes are running high. Suddenly a "throw" is made. A four, then a three appears--seven a victory! The "shooter" exultant, bursts out with the four words which have become a classic in the gentle art of "rolling the bones"--"read 'em and weep!"

Consider Calcyanide. Think of bugs instead of darkies, Calcyanide instead of dice. They men in the camp house can't sleep because they are troubled by bedbugs. They aren't gathered 'round a circle, but they are brothers in distress--tossing, scratching, rolling in their bunks. Then comes morning, the day's toil and evening again. The men are tired and looking forward to another night of torture. Suddenly the foreman walks in with "hello, boys,' and startles them by saying that the camp house has been fumigated wtih Calcyanide--while they have been at work-nad that they are no longer going to be tormented and annoyed by insect pests. As he holds up a basket full of dead bugs--swept up after the fumigation--a wag blurts out: "read 'em and sleep!"

Calcyanide is miles ahead of any other product for the destruction of bedbugs, fleas, lice, cockroaches, rats, mice and similar pests in bunk houses and other camp structures. It kills every bug in the building, no matter where hidden or buried, when applied in accordance with the few simple instructions contained in our booklet.

You can end your insect and rodent problems quickly and conclusively, by using Calcyanide--the chocie of a great many lumber, mining, power, railroad and oil companies. The use of this most remarkable of all fumigants will add greatly to the comfort and well-being of your employees nad, as a consequence, improve the quality and increase the quantity of their work.

Calcyanide is put up in 2-lb., 3-lb., and 5-lb. cans, at $1.65, $1.50, and $1.35 per lb., respectively."

Very truly yours,
Calcyanide Company,
B. Towlen, Vice-President

Comments Back

With many thanks to Maggie, people can now both read and see comments. It's using the Blogger comments as opposed to Haloscan. I know Haloscan is better for large comment threads, but it's not as if we get tons of comments anyway.

Or...perhaps not as I seem to have deleted whatever changes were made. Fucking technology.

Historical Image of the Day

Weirdo Confederate reenactors. South Carolina, 1996

Tuesday, January 23, 2007

Howard Hunt, Dead

I would say that Howard Hunt should rest in peace, except that I hope he burns in the fires of hell. The world is cleansed of yet another figure from the Nixon Administration. If we could only be rid of Chuck Colson too.

UPDATE: D leads us to this great Slate interview detailing the evil Hunt perpetrated in Latin America. Among the great quotes:

About his role in the Arbenz coup in Guatemala in 1954:

Slate: Some 200,000 civilians were killed in the civil war following the coup, which lasted for the next 40 years. Were all those deaths unforeseen?

Hunt: Deaths? What deaths?

About Cuban dictator Fulgencio Batista:

Slate: What was your feeling about Batista?

Hunt: Well, I thought he ran a good government there. There was a lot of corruption, but there's always been corruption in Latin America. We can't be too purist about these things.

About the death of Che Guevara:

Hunt:What I thought was great foresight was that the Bolivian colonel had Che's hands cut off.

Slate: Why did he do that?

Hunt: So he couldn't be identified by fingerprints. That was a pretty good idea—if you don't want somebody identified. People still shiver a little when they think about hands being cut off.

About him leaving the CIA:

Slate: What led you to leave the CIA?

Hunt: I found out the CIA was just infested with Democrats. I retired in '70. I got out as soon as I could. I wrote several books immediately thereafter.


Mexico Notes, Part 1

With the blog down, I wasn't able to post from Mexico. It won't be the same now, but I want to write about some of the stuff I did.

1. Mexico is just a great place. The only country I've traveled in that compares in coolness is Thailand, and that's saying a lot given how much I love Thailand. The food is great, the people are super nice, and the weather is awesome. There really is nothing to complain about in Mexico, yet many do. I was talking to a friend of mine who was also down there and he told me about researchers he's known who study Mexico, yet all they do is bitch about Mexico City, Mexicans, and Mexico in general. Why? I suspect that a these people are comparing Mexico City to home. Mexico City isn't as cosmopolitan as Chicago or Cambridge or New York to them, so they don't like it. Of course, Mexico City is as cosmopolitan as those places, but when people see home as the gold standard, nothing will match up. The only thing about Mexico City I found unfortunate was the air quality, which is shockingly bad. And while Mexico has a lot of poverty, so do a lot of places and people who complain about having to see this need to understand their own role in perpetuating that poverty.

2. If you had asked me on New Year's Eve, 2005, what I would be doing exactly one year from then, I doubt that sitting in a living room in a Mexico City suburb listening to the Thirteenth Floor Elevators would have been my answer. One can never tell what kind of circumstances they will fall into if they are open to following whatever opportunities fall their way.

3. As I've mentioned before when writing about traveling, Coke outside of the US is awesome. Sadly, the greatness of this drink when made with sugar instead of corn syrup has reignited by caffeine addiction, but what are you going to do?

4. The food. My God, the food is great. Since I'm comparing Mexico to Thailand as my favorite countries, I guess Thai food is slightly more appealing to my tastes. But Mexican food is just awesome. I first visited Puebla, which is famous for mole poblano. This is good stuff, though the richness of the chocolate is a bit much for me to eat very often. But the tacos! Holy shit, the tacos! For about 40 cents, you can get a delicious taco from a street stand with beans or some kind of meat. On the side you usually can add some kind of green sauce and pickled carrots, peppers, and sometimes radishes. This super-basic food absolutely kicks ass. As do the enchiladas, the chilaquiles, and so much other food. Mexico City is also known for comida corrida, which is a big lunch meal, though eaten later in the afternoon than American lunches. It usually comes with a soup, some kind of pasta or rice, a choice of six or so entrees, and then a dessert. It's fine when done cheaply with a canned soup and a packaged dessert. But when it comes with a tasty homemade soup, pasta with a good sauce, and a flan, along with a well-made entree, well, that is just damned fine food. I had previously traveled in the North, where the food is pretty strong, but a bit bland. Mexico City's food though is just first-rate. The city is worth visiting for the food alone.

5. Certainly one of the most disturbing sites in the city is the site of the 1968 Tlatelolco Massacre. By the late 1960s, the revolutionary nature of the PRI was long-spent. The presidency of Gustavo Díaz Ordaz had no interest in tolerating dissent. Tlatelolco is surrounded by government housing complexes built in the 1950s and 60s for federal employees. Basically, they are US style housing projects placed in Mexico City. The government placed sharpshooters in some of these apartments and sent a large military presence into the area. On October 2, 1968, just before the city held the Olympics, the government ordered the army and sharpshooters to fire on the protestors, killing bewteen 200 and 300 protestors. There really isn't much there. It's a basic concrete plaza, though a obelisk has been erected with the names and ages of some of the dead. Today, the government has privatized the nearby housing and it was the only time in Mexico City that I got weird looks and felt uncomfortable. I am glad I wasn't there at night.

More tomorrow.

Historical Image of the Day

King Philip's War. Massachusetts, 1675?

Tuesday Forgotten American Blogging: Benjamin "Pap" Singleton

When the Civil War ended, many ex-slaves didn't really know what to do. They had no education, no land, no money, no possessions. But they wanted their freedom. They wanted land of their own. They wanted to labor for themselves and not their ex-masters. If possible, they wanted to live as far from whites as possible. But most blacks did not have these opportunities. Whites dominated the entire country. Blacks were no more welcome in the North than the South. They could not buy land. Despite the temporary respite of Reconstruction, most blacks had to resort to sharecropping by the 1880s and lived only a marginally better existence than they 25 years before, though it is impossible to overestimate the importance erasing slavery. At least black families could live together without fear of separation.

African-Americans constantly worked to gain increased freedoms. In 1879, hundreds of ex-slaves from North Carolina moved to Texas to try and claim public lands. Denied by provisions of the Texas Homestead Act, most ended up working as sharecroppers as they would have done back home. But where many thousands of blacks envisioned moving was Kansas. Much of Kansas remained to be settled by non-Indians. The federal Homestead Act did not discriminate by race and the Republican Party dominated Kansas politics. During the 1870s and early 1880s, 25,000 black emigrants moved to Kansas.

The most successful group to make this move was the Tennessee Real Estate and Home Association, founded by Benjamin "Pap" Singleton. Born a slave near Nashville in 1809, Singleton was trained as a cabinetmaker. He had escaped slavery and moved to Detroit, where he operated a boarding house that became a key stop on the Underground Railroad. After the war, he returned to Nashville to resume his life as a carpenter. Believing that the salvation of southern blacks rested in owning farms rather than working for others, Singleton began to plan moving ex-slaves to Kansas. He visited Kansas in 1873 and was impressed by its potential. He led his first party west in 1878, at the age of 69, where he established a settlement at Dunlop. Whites controlled much of the best land in this area, but colonists still bought 7500 acres to grow crops.

Ultimately, Dunlop wasn't so successful. The colony peaked at 1000 people in the early 1880s and declined to less than 500 by 1900 as many blacks moved to the city. Much of the reason for the decline of the colony rests with the good intentions of Kansas Governor John St. John, who established the Kansas Freedmen's Relief Association (KRFA) to help out the Exodusters, as these blacks settlers became known. But KRFA gave blacks very small plots of land, too small to make it on the Kansas prairie. Most of these farms failed and blacks moved to the cities in order to make a better living.

Singleton continued to work in the 1880s for his people, although he wrote in 1880, "I am now getting too old, and I think it would be better to send some one more competent that is identified with the emigration and has the interest of the race at heart, and not his own pocket; some one that has heretofore directed and established colonies and is known in the South." He became head of the United Colored Links, a black labor group in Kansas that wanted to unite all black people to improve the lot of the entire race. They tried to work with white labor organizations, though these white organizations accused blacks of undercutting wages. He continued to work to get African-Americans to move to Kansas. At the end of his life, his work for his race combined with increasingly transcendental ideas about spirituality and the upcoming end of the world before dying in 1892.

Although the story of the Exodusters is far more complicated than this, Pap Singleton is a great example how ex-slaves fought for freedom until the day they died. They are almost entirely forgotten about today and that is a shame.

Just a reminder--comments can be made by clicking on the individual post. I'll try to get this problem fixed soon.

Monday, January 22, 2007

Concert Review--Eleven Hundred Springs

Last Friday, I was back at Dan's Silverleaf, this time to see Dallas' own Eleven Hundred Springs, reputedly a fine country act, who had come highly recommended and, despite the fact that they come up here all the time, I had never even heard a song. I'll probably never miss another of their shows at Dan's, for a number of reasons. A few thoughts:

--They consist of a singer on guitar, drums, bass, fiddle, and steel. Is there a better combination for a country show than this? It's true, they were a very good, very skilled band with a fun onstage act and a lot of energy, but a lot of what worked so well had as much to do with the interaction of these instruments. The drummer and bassist knew they were the rhythm section; they both kept a tight beat and stayed as much in the background as possible. There's only so far out there you can go with a bass solo in a country song. The steel player and fiddler (who also sang a rousing version of "Orange Blossom Special," a big hit with the crowd) worked together really well on the melodies, did the majority of the soloing, and were obviously having a lot of fun. The singer, whose amusing point-and-wink act was a big hit with the ladies, had a good voice, and songs about drinking and fighting work pretty well for a bar band, but his guitar was less of a presence than I would have thought. They felt really natural up there and, given that they are fairly young, will probably continue to improve.

--Speaking of the crowd, this was the most crowded, rowdiest groups I'd seen in a long time. Apparantly, they have a pretty good following both here and Dallas, a lot of whom I met at the show. They all knew the songs and sang along while dancing with drunken abandon through the shoulder to shoulder crowd. It reminded me a lot of what Erik described from the Chris Knight show he saw, although there is absolutely no excuse for a bar to run out of beer for the crowd. The solution to this problem? Stock more beer! In any case, people were having the times of their lives, and that's a fun atmosphere to take part in.

--The one problem with a crowded show like this, though, is getting a drink. The only solution to this problem is to stand at the bar the whole time. Trouble with this, though, is that the other people who have made the same decision are the drunks (and what does that say about me?). One of these drunks, a woman of approximately 55, was apparently being harassed by some guy standing next to her and, after smiling at me, came over to politely ask me to kick his ass, which she assured me I was capable of doing. I politely told her back that, while I mostly agreed with her on that, I didn't want to kick his ass. I hadn't seen him doing anything and, even so.... Anyway, she told me that was ok, but that I should do this for her. Eventually, he wandered off somewhere, at which point she came up to me again. She tells the that, while I didn't want to kick his ass, my aura scared him off, and she just wanted to thank me. For this act of heroism, the damsel in distress gave me a big kiss. You simply cannot beat this kind of entertainment.

Historical Image of the Day

Paris and Britney. America, 2006

Viva Nuevo Mexico: Mr. Trend Edition

For four years, I lived in the Citadel Apartments in New Mexico. While I certainly had no personal problems with them, they weren't anywhere near the nicest. Indeed, my first "viva Nuevo Mexico" moment happened 2 months after I moved in, when, in one of my favorite moments ever,a guy who lived two doors down from me got his head cracked open with a bottle and a baseball bat just by my apartment, and when the cops showed up, one of the officers had dated the victim's cousin (and the guy turned out OK - in another twist to the story, he had been busted for DUI 15 times and claimed an 80 year old guy did it). As I said, not the greatest place, and I occasionally thought of moving out, but was simply too lazy.

In all my time there, I never had problems with the manager (or with crime, said for the aforementioned event, which didn't personally happen to me). However, I have to say, the manager's husband always kind of weirded me out. I never felt quite right about him, avoiding him when I saw him, and always thinking he was kind of creepy and had a bit of the air of your generic scumbag.

Turns out, my gut feeling wasn't without base. For, as I learned today while my girlfriend and I were looking at apartments in New Mexico for our eventual return, we learned that the husband of the manager of the apartment is a convicted sex offender. This, in a place that was home to many lower-income families with children, not to mention single women (generally students).

Viva, Nuevo Mexico.

Commenting at Alterdestiny

As many of you have noticed, after our return from our unwilling absence while google (the new one-world power) wiped out the blog, we have no comments threads on the main page, thanks primarily to our ongoing Luddite-like battle with computer software (anything outside of Word is sometimes daunting for at least two of us). However, you can still post comments if you are so inclined. Just click on the individual posts, and when that page comes up, ther is an option to comment (don't ask us why it can be in one place and not the other).

Sunday, January 21, 2007

Historical Image of the Day

Aftermath of Ludlow Massacre. Colorado, 1913

Race, Poverty, and Unemployment in New Orleans

In a case of perfect timing, while mourning the 6-year anniversary of Bush's inauguration yesterday, d reminded us of how incompetent and ultimately responsible the Bush administration was in the humanitarian disaster that was the so-called "handling" of New Orleans during Katrina in 2005. Today, the New York Times has an article that is actually extremely important in understanding the decline of New Orleans (and of other parts of the South) that unequally disadvantaged poor and/or African-Americans. The article does a great job of showing how the theory that New Orleans was in a disastrous economic decline, and that those who suffered most wer residents of the lower-income areas (who were predominantly black). While the writer does not directly raise the issue of race, references to the conjunction of race and class pop up throughout the article, and the spectre of racism hangs nebulously over the whole article. It's powerful stuff for those who think, and is well worth checking out.

(And hopefully, wingnuts won't use this article to claim that Bush didn't really fuck anything up in New Orleans because it was already going downhill, thereby showing the same "compassion" that Barbara Bush did in 2005.)

Saturday, January 20, 2007

Change and Coins in Daily Spending in Brazil

Every few years in the US, it seems, the debate over whether we should keep the penny or not pops up. Some argue against keeping the penny, claiming (probably rightly, though I've never done enough research on it to care) that the cost of producing the penny outweighs any benefits. Others counter, however, that to get rid of the penny would be a bad idea, for it would only lead to the increase of prices (something that even retailers are against, because, in the consumer mind, $12.99 is twelve dollars, but $13.00 is just 13).

However, Brazil has actually offered some fascinating insight into this debate for me. The change system here works so different, that it actually offers insight into life without a penny. Technically, there is a one-cent piece in Brazil, but nobody uses it. Instead, the market economy here at the microlevel operates on what can only be described as the "close enough" model. For example, if you go to the grocery store, and your groceries total 13.03, you only have to give 13.00 to the cashier - the three cents doesn't matter. Or, conversely, if your groceries total 12.97, you give the cashier 13 reais, and don't worry about the three cents you're not getting back. Everybody basically assumes that it all balances out in the end - sometimes, you pay a few cents more than you owe, but sometimes you pay a few cents less, and it comes out about 50/50. The funny thing is, from all of my observations, that's about correct. In all my experiences, it has come out about 50/50.

Thus, the economy here at the microlevel is actually neither "formal" nor "informal" in terms of change. It's not so formal that you have to pay exact change or get exact change back (indeed, this is one of the most obvious ways to spot tourists - they wait for that three cents, or feel they should pay it if they have it). Nor is it totally informal. You can't just give 20 reais when you owe 20.75. Thus, it's just "close enough" - "well, it SAYS I owe 19.34, but I only have 19.30 - is that OK?" "Yeah, close enough."

I have no idea how the registers balance out at the end of the day at stores (whether they are just a few cents off overall, or a few reais over, or under, or just all over the place), and indeed, it would be great if some economy or economic anthropology student would study this. However, for those who feel that phasing out the use of the penny in the states would be negative on the market economy at the local level, Brazil certainly offers some fascinating alternatives, not just in terms of how monetary units can operate semi-formally, but also in how Americans are perhaps a little too uptight about exact change (especially the elderly people who are always directly in front of me at the grocery store, but that's another matter altogether...)

"States Rights" Equaled "Slavery"

D over at Lawyers, Guns & Money reminds us that, around this time of the year, most southern states legally celebrate the "rich legacy" of the Confederacy's struggle in the face of "Northern aggression." In one of the least surprising displays of filth and disgusting attitudes, as he points out, the white supremacists are equally celebratory of their "legacy" and condemning of other holidays (best summarized by one cesspool of a commenter who points out that "We have MLK day shoved down our throats and yall call it your history and heritage! We have Confederate Heroes Day and we call it OUR history and heritage, so deal with it!!! ").

Also, not surprisingly, in said comments stream the defense that the south fought for states's rights, and NOT for slavery, comes up.

Which allows us this opportunity to remind ALL the states-rights people that as South Carolina's declaration of secession (the model for all others) reminds us: defense of states rights in the south WAS defense of slavery. It's all right there (see, for example, article 19, and article 21, though it's throughout). Did the South leave for "states's rights"? Yes. Did those rights include slavery? Yes. Did the South explicitly say that those rights were primarily slavery? Yep. So memo to the confederate apologists - states rights and slavery aren't mutually exclusive. In fact, they were interdependent.

Friday, January 19, 2007

Lyrad's Random 10

I'm so happy that, out of 28,000 songs, The Hampsterdance came up. What a song...revolutionary....

1. Neurosis--Pain of Mind
2. The Skillet Lickers--Taking the Census, Pt.1
3. Dixielanders--Gates Blues
4. Clutch--Tight Like That
5. Jesus Lizard--Deaf as a Bat
6. Buckethead--Nun Chuka Kata
7. Hampton the Hampster--The Hampsterdance [Radio Edit]
8. The Breeders--Hellbound
9. Caustic Lye--Skidmark
10. The Rolling Stones--Gimme Shelter

Historical Image of the Day

Anti-Freedmen's Bureau propaganda. Circa 1867

MIster Trend's Random 10

Back into the swing of things, and that means the standard one old blues song nestled in here (though I actually do have more than 10% blues on my Ipod - I swear).

1. "Headphones" - Bjork
2. "Turn Into" - Yeah Yeah Yeahs
3. "High 5 (Rock the Catskills)" - Beck
4. "Ist Das noch der Wang? Hier Ist Es Eben" - Arnold Schoenberg
5. "New Age (live)" - The Velvet Underground
6. "Holiday Song" - Pixies
7. "Black Mare Blues" - Big Bill Broonzy
8. "Pressed in a Book" - The Shins [new album out on Tuesday]
9. "Swimsuit Issue" - Sonic Youth
10. "Lord Can You Hear Me?" - Spacemen 3

Another Proud Moment in the History of Ohio Politicians

Well well well....looks like Congressmen aren't immune after all. It will be curious to see if Ney is the only one to get nailed on this (I certainly hope he doesn't end up a straw man for everybody else involved.)

RIP--Pookie Hudson

Pookie Hudson, the lead singer and songwriter for R&B group The Spaniels, died earlier this week at 72. He's best known as the tenor on "Goodnight, Sweetheart, Goodnight," a big hit at the time, but truly one of the best remembered songs of the era and a massive influence on R&B. He was homeless for a while after leaving the business in the '60s and, while the song remained in circulation and became revered after American Graffiti (and, maybe more dubiously, Three Men and a Baby), didn't start receiving any regular royalties for any of his work until thirty years later. Unfortunately, that's not an uncommon story, especially for artists from that era, but bravo, whoever owns the song, you sure made a lot of money off of it. He's survived by nine children, who I hope will receive checks off of that song for a long time to come. Goodnight, sweetheart. Well, it's time to go.

Don Young Goes Old-Timey On Us

The ever-classy Don Young (R-AK) got real classy today in the House when he wore a red shirt to protest the bill that will rollback tax breaks for the oil industry.

Why red? "It's the color of this bill we're debating -- Communist red."

Wow! I haven't seen any good old-timey red-baiting in some time. I feel like it's 1982 again! Taxes? Clearly a communist conspiracy against private property!

Thursday, January 18, 2007

Historical Image of the Day

Kimono given to member of Matthew Perry's crew. Japan, 1854

Wednesday, January 17, 2007

Historical Image of the Day

Silent film star Louise Brooks

Indigenous Peoples in the Brazilian Amazon in the Media

There's an article at CNN today that's a little encouraging and even more frustrating. The encouraging part is that the number of indigenous groups nearly totally isolated from different from European-based cultural influences is higher than previously thought. However, it is worrisome that these peoples are still facing severe threats from loggers and miners, often funded by and/or serving as fronts for large corporations. Hopefully, the recent measures Lula has taken will actually have an effect in protecting the forest.

Even more frustrating to me, however, is the language of the report. Throughout, there is a tone of patronizing towards the indigenous peoples, emphasizing the "quaint" nature of the indigenous groups with language such as "Their lives do not include televisions, microwave ovens or cars" and "Funai envoys for years tried to contact an individual in Rondonia, a state in the southwestern Amazon forest, because he is believed to be the last survivor of his tribe.
They tried to introduce him to an Indian woman to procreate. But the "Hole Indian" as he is nicknamed because he lives on branches over a hole, shot arrows at them, sending the potential bride running."

Nevermind what cultural accomplishments these peoples may have made in their hundreds and thousands of years. And nevermind the constantly imperialist efforts of states, in Brazil and elsewhere, in their treatment of indigenous peoples, not just during Brazil's military state, but throughout history. Instead, the report chooses to take on the Indians-as-living-exhibits in a museum. They come off looking mildly foolish in the tone of the report, presumably because they don't use modern technology and don't know the noble efforts of those who are "modern" and "civilized" as they try to "save" some of these peoples. One would hope for some more responsible word choice in the media. It just goes to show how far we still have to go in how we deal with indigeneous peoples culturally.