Desert grasslands reveal a more nuanced view of illegal immigration
by Bruce Lindwall
A journal entry from a February day during an Expedition Education Institute semester in the Desert Southwest
I went out this morning and found some pictures down in the wash. This is how it happened and why it was so very important.
We were five altogether. Bill is the director of the grasslands research center here in southern Arizona; it’s his job to look after all 8,000 of the acres in his care. Four of us who had come to study up a bit on the ecology of desert grasslands: Thomas from my home state of New Hampshire, Antony from Montreal, and Khiet who was born in Vietnam but grew up in Pennsylvania. This morning we were all headed off a couple miles from the headquarters to pick up trash that falls by the wayside as immigrants slip across the border covered by darkness and becomes hidden in the folds and creases of the borderlands.
Bouncing along the dirt road we asked Bill about grassland ecology, successional stages, and alien species, thinking that we were pursuing the most important learning of the day. Little did we know how close that was to the truth. It was a short ride that ended at a seemingly random spot at the edge of the road. Our little crew outfitted itself with gloves, trash bags, and bottles of water.
It felt liberating to walk freely through the grassland. We had been limited to the roads these last few days for fear of trampling the many experiments laid out amongst the tawny brown stalks of sacaton and lovegrass. But now we were free to wander, and wander we did. Held together at first by habit and conversation, we gradually spread out to explore the small washes and gullies that so thoroughly wrinkle this land. Slowly our bags began to fill with the odd bits jettisoned by those who had come this way. There were empty food tins, torn trash bags, endless water jugs and lots of toilet paper, both used and unused. Continue reading →
For over 300 years, slavery was a banality in America, blending into everyday life seamlessly and uneventfully. Despite how difficult it is for us to imagine a society in which owning, torturing, and exploiting other humans based on skin color was condoned, the truth is that for millions of decent Americans, slavery was simply not something to get worked up over. This should disturb us. It is easy to judge the past for its callousness. What’s harder is coming to term with our present travesties.
So with that in mind, what is it about contemporary America that will cause future generations to shake their heads in disgust? Outlandish military spending? Factory farming animals? These are possibilities, but there is one issue that stands out in its absurdity and cruelty: America’s prison system. Here is why. Continue reading →
By all accounts, post-earthquake Port-au-Prince was hell on earth. Already suffering from crumbling infrastructure and poor housing conditions, the Haitian capital was perhaps the least equipped city on Earth to withstand a 7.0 magnitude earthquake. Within hours, thousands of international rescue workers and doctors were pulling people from the rubble and setting up makeshift hospitals under plastic tents. Their efforts saved lives. But there was one group that almost certainly did nothing besides get in the way. At the cost of $400,000 dollars, a wealthy donor in Los Angeles airlifted 80 Scientologists trained in using “the power of touch” to “reestablish communication” within the bodies of trauma victims. As if the Haitian people were not suffering enough.
Scientology is an easy target. But there is not much difference between “assist,” the Scientologist method of healing, and most other forms of alternative medicines popular in the west. And though some, at times, may have their merits, mixing alternative medicine with global health is both useless and dangerous. Unfortunately, the Scientologists are not the only ones bringing their favorite treatments abroad.
It may sounds like satire, but the group “Homeopaths Without Borders” actually exists, and operates in six countries, Haiti included. Continue reading →
Recent events in Ferguson prompt me to write this now
Through most of elementary school, my best friend was Leslie. I loved her. We were a couple of nerds who didn’t really fit in with anyone but each other. She was very quiet and shy – that is, with everyone but me. We endlessly played jacks. We were the rulers of the game at our school – we mostly just played against each other because no one else could really challenge either one of us. Leslie was black.
Contrails are the wispy white clouds of frozen water vapor that streak across the sky in the wake of jet engines. But according to 17 percent of 18 to 29-year-olds—my generation—contrails are actually “chemtrails,” poisonous chemicals sprayed by the government for sinister reasons. As the world becomes an increasingly scary and complex place with no simple answers, the temptation to create narratives explaining all of its evil will grow. And here lies the heart of the modern conspiracy theory. Yet when fantasy overtakes reality, progress suffers.
Whenever anything bad happens in the world today, from September 11th to the 2004 Indian Ocean tsunami, there is a growing gaggle quick to cry, “wake up sheeple!” Continue reading →
Michelle Obama’s black woman’s body as publicly contested space in historical and social context
On August 13, Fox News contributor and psychiatrist Keith Ablow, bizarrely criticizing Michelle Obama’s efforts to encourage healthy eating for children, remarked that Michelle is a poor role model for her cause anyway as she could“stand to lose a few pounds.” When I relayed this story to my very favorite white man on earth and said that one of the several ways I found the comments so sickening was that they were racist, he replied that the comments were bad enough without my possibly appearing to “play the race card.” He is by far the most brilliant person I have ever known, but on this we will simply have to agree to disagree. I think that given the way black women’s bodies have been historically and are to this moment publicly contested space, a white man publicly making such a comment about a black woman’s body is inherently racist.
I remember so vividly the very first hint I ever had of her yet-to-be existence. I was in a store with my youngest sister and was suddenly so overwhelmed by fatigue that I was leaning over the shopping cart, unable to stop yawning, too weak to stand up on my own, afraid I would be unable to even drive us home. My sister, who already had two children and who knew that my husband and I had recently deliberately stopped using any birth control, began to laugh merrily and then dance circles around me, chanting “You’re pregnant, you’re pregnant, ha-ha, you’re pregnant….” It took three home pregnancy tests to finally confirm her suspicion.
The image of the first girl I fell in love with seared into my memory a minute after I met her. I was in a college-town bar, where a belly full of 7-and-7’s gave me gumption enough to ask her to dance. Under the ultraviolet lights, the contrast between her black hair and white sweater proved unforgettable.
Throughout high school and up until then, I had struck out with girls. I was shy and assumed girls didn’t like me, so I acted like a jerk. In college, I was still shy but didn’t know any girls well enough to be a jerk.
So here I was, an immature 19-year-old college sophomore, and a nice-looking girl was dancing with me. Dancing turned to dating that fall, and I fell in love. How could I not? Kathy was smart, funny, and an artist who was studying to become a schoolteacher. I was a smoker, drinker, pothead and slacker. She was none of those but went out with me anyway. Continue reading →
When speech runs roughshod over privacy, private property, and freedom of religion at the same time, it’s not free
I am a Unitarian Universalist and once again one of the churches of my religion has come under attack by the haters, specifically those so-called “Christian” ones.
Sunday, July 20, members of Operation Save America, an offshoot of the radical anti-abortion group Operation Rescue, invaded a Unitarian Universalist church sanctuary in New Orleans during services and, during what was supposed to be a moment of sacred silent reflection in memory of a long-time member who passed away last week, interrupted the service and began to loudly spew their hate, calling the church an abomination and its members sinners. From the article:
The disturbance took place as the congregation was holding a moment of silence for a member of the church who had died the week before, said the Rev. Deanna Vandiver.
Amazingly, Steppenwolf’s classic, bluesy debut still holds up.
by Patrick Vecchio
I’ve got my iTunes on shuffle, and a couple of minutes ago the song “The Pusher,” from the first Steppenwolf album, came up. It’s a Hoyt Axton song, but nonetheless, it’s a reminder that Steppenwolf’s debut album is a rock classic.
I might be partial because the album’s single, the still-rockin’ “Born to be Wild,” was the song that turned me on to rock ‘n’ roll—1968, it was, when I was 14. Before then, I spent my LP money on Bill Cosby comedy discs. My idea of good music was albums by Mason Williams—blame it on “Classical Gas.” And because I’m obsessive-compulsive, I had to have every Cosby disc and every Williams disc. I haven’t listened to Cosby since Steppenwolf grabbed my ears and launched me into the rock galaxy, but the Williams music I’ve revisited—once—is cringeworthy. The Steppenwolf album, though: That’s another story. Continue reading →
A personal perspective from the front lines of the war on women
Oh. I see. Share this if you get it.
Source: name withheld for safety
In the quote that follows, “I Blame the Patriarchy” blogger Twisty addresses a question I, like all feminists, have SO often been asked: “Don’t you think you could win more men to your cause if you were nicer?” And now, now, in my late forties, my answer is a firm “NO! NO I FUCKING DON’T.”
In my thirties, while I was also busy volunteering at and raising funds for battered women’s shelters (did you know the most requested item at a women’s shelter is hair dye, to make the women harder for their abusers to spot? If you ever run across a great sale price on hair dye, buy some extra and donate it to a women’s shelter, please – they always need it) and I was volunteering at the Women and Children’s Free Restaurant, and producing “The Feminist Papers” and “The Vagina Monologues” on my campus and marching in “Take Back the Night,” and taking the stage at “Speak out against rape” and being active in my campus Women’s Studies club and writing and editing the biweekly social justice newsletter for my church, and going to college with a near-perfect 3.9 grade point average, and raising a female child under the patriarchy, often as a single parent having to bring my daughter to classes with me as my military husband was frequently deployed during this period, I was also willing to take precious time to talk to men, both online and off, who demanded that I explain feminism to them, convince them – and it was required to be sweetly, nicely, patiently, with a smiling, pleasing feminine demeanor, and I complied, used up lots of time complying. Continue reading →
Less than a week after TV lost its greatest asshole (spoiler alert) the TV gods have provided us with a new reigning champion: Fargo’s Lorne Malvo.
by James Brown
Billy Bob Thornton’s Malvo is the protagonist of FX’s dark comedy Fargo miniseries. Based on the Coen Brothers film of the same name, Fargo takes different tack than most TV shows based on films (like the ill-fated CBS chase drama The Fugitive or ABC’s Karen or even the excellent NBC drama Hannibal), breaking with its motion picture heritage. Joel and Ethan Coen, the writer/director duo behind the Academy Award winning film, and Noah Hawley (Bones) designed a new tale that indulges the spirit of the original with new characters and another town: Bemidji, Minnesota. Continue reading →
What is Generation X? Maybe our last, best hope for change.
by Sara Robinson
You can’t blame Gen X for having had eee-freaking-nuff of the whole generational identification thing.
Americans born between 1960 and 1980 (give or take a couple years on either end) have spent their lives squeezed in between two over-hyped cohorts who have consistently hogged the spotlight, the jobs, the money, the social concern, and all the other cultural goodies that matter. To the temporal north, there are the Boomers — idealistic, moralizing, hyper-creative visionaries who still can’t entirely let go of their youthful golden years when they were so determined to Save The World. To the south, X looks down on the Millennials, the over-coddled, over-hyped, over-connected Indigo Children whose future is vanishing before their eyes — and who are now being held up at the next generation that just might Save The World. Continue reading →
Many critics and fans felt cheated by twist in How I Met Your Mother finale. They should feel grateful.
by James Brown
There are three types of TV viewers: the surfers, the passive, and the devotees.
Surfers flip channels and watch anything that catches their attention. Passive viewers want comfort food: dramas that thrill them and sitcoms full of belly laughs. Devotees ask all that surfers and passive viewers want and more. Devotees also ask that those same shows are logical, well shot, acted, written and directed, all the while being original. Those same viewers, increasingly and unrealistically, ask fictional television to reflect and comment on reality. Few hours of television have done all that as well as the much scrutinized and often pannedHow I Met Your Mother finale. Continue reading →
Broad City explores typical New York tropes through a fresh lens with hilarious results.
by James Brown
It’s easy to compare Broad City, the latest sitcom from Comedy Central to Lena Dunham’s HBO series Girls; their bones are the same. Both series star young, broke, white, twenty-something female characters in modern day New York City, but that’s where the similarities end. Girls is a direct descendant of Ally McBeal. It’s a melodrama that finds laughs (and at times brilliance) in the margins of its characters’ strained relationships. Even its flights of fancy are grounded in a character driven reality. Broad City isn’t interested in any of that. Much like FX’s Its Always Sunny in Philadelphia, Broad City trades realism for lots of silliness at supersonic speed. Broad City is a live action cartoon worthy of the Road Runner.
Corporate owners treat news as “product.” As a result, the industry is on life support.
by Patrick Vecchio
I can’t remember how young I was when I fell in love with my local newspaper. It started with a comic strip: Mandrake the Magician. I would wait on our front porch for the newspaper boy, spread the paper on the floor and read Mandrake on my hands and knees. As I grew older, my interest expanded to different sections of the paper. By the time I reached high school, I was reading it from front to back. I loved it.
I never left my hometown, and after studying journalism in college, I began working as a reporter at a tiny daily newspaper about 20 miles away. Continue reading →
Post-production takes all the fun out of the process, and most bands can’t afford to hire Phil Spector like The Beatles did.
As I write this, I’m sitting at my computer and thinking about working more on finishing my band’s new album. Unfortunately, for the last couple of months “thinking about it” is all I seem to be capable of doing.
If I were to break down the workload in terms of percentage, we’re probably about 80% done. It’s been a long road to get here. In the last two years, the band and its immediate family has endured a writer’s block, a couple of job changes, added a new member, celebrated a fantastic wedding, and dealt with a successful breast cancer treatment. Business has been far from usual.
In 2007 I subscribed to a magazine called the Oxford American. It calls itself “The Southern Magazine of Good Writing,” and you might wonder why I subscribed to it, bein’ a Yankee and all, but that’s a tale for another time.
Anyway: The back cover of one issue was a full-page ad with a photograph of what looked like a rock band. The ad contained a two-word phrase—The National—and the word Boxer. Every now and then, I’ll buy an album on a whim, even though I’ve never heard of the band and never heard a single note of their music. So I figured out the band was called The National, the album was called Boxer, and I bought the record. Continue reading →