When News is Like Magic

granny

What you don’t see can hurt you

James Tankard, one of journalism’s key scholars, talks about news reporting as a “magician’s sleight of hand.”

Tankard means that we muggles pay attention to the rabbit and the high-top hat, while oblivious to the gloved hand we cannot see.

Like Tankard, I study how news framing can obscure the core issues of a topic—let’s take the Dakota Access Pipeline (DAPL) protests as an example—by replacing them with hype and rhetoric.

The hype looks like, feels like and reads like click-bait.

And by click-bait I mean the most tantalizing bits of a story that hardly skim the surface.

In the case of DAPL, attention is drawn to the brutes blasting water, rubber bullets, stun grenades and attack dogs on unarmed protestors.

Researchers who study news coverage of the pipeline say attention peaked in November 2016 when powerful fire-hoses soaked water protectors in freezing weather for six hours, injuring 300 and hospitalizing 26.

Reporters focus their lenses on the cruel treatment of folks defending their health and civil rights but fail to look beyond the immediate drama to expose the rotten core.

Despite the protests, the pipeline—which runs through four U.S. states—was completed with little fanfare after the incoming administration took the reins in 2018 and shredded President Barack Obama’s official decree that would halt the construction.

Today the pipeline flows at the rate of 570,000 barrels each day, with a market price of $59.58 per gallon: that’s just short of $40 million per day.

Imagine trying to thwart a venture that rakes in $40 million each day.

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When Censors Take On Indigenous America

gwhs-mural-1

The school board in San Francisco voted to paint over the mural

The Case of the San Francisco Mural

Should we censor art when it offends our sensibilities?

The Contemporary Arts Center in Cincinnati made headlines in 1990 when it displayed photographs by Robert Mapplethorpe: images of human nudes and acts of sadomasochism.

The images proved a flashpoint for opinions on obscenity, homosexuality, erotica, pornography and—of course—art.

The Museum was sued on obscenity charges, and won the case, despite enthusiastic pressure from a citizen protest group led by a conservative North Carolina Senator: Jesse Helms.

Today’s New York Times carries an opinion piece about an artwork that derides settler expansion of the Indigenous United States.

A mural painted with funds from the WPA—Franklin Delano Roosevelt’s Works Progress Administration—shows George Washington, along with a trio of Founding Fathers, pointing toward a lush landscape where armed settlers are headed—and who step over the body of an Indian.

Painted in 1935 by Victor Arnautoff, a Russian-American with an impressive portfolio, the mural expresses the artist’s duty as a “critic of society,” “according to the artist.

This week the San Francisco Board of Education voted to paint over the mural at a high school in the Richmond District named, appropriately, George Washington High.

From my perspective, painting over the mural turns a blind eye on the history of settlers who considered native peoples hindrances in their pursuit of uninhibited freedoms.

In his book, Guns, Germs and Steel, Jared Diamond says that 90 percent of Native Americans perished once settlers arrived.

While the mural may offend someone’s sensibilities, it reminds us that the pages in history when American Indians suffered at the hands of folks in authority remains today.

The best contemporary evidence is the choice of vocal citizens, a government, and an energy corporation to divert an oil pipeline away from the settler city of Bismarck, North Dakota, and reroute it a half-mile from an Indian reservation and under its water supply.

Yes: we need a reminder that American Indians continue to live in dreadful conditions ignored by mainstream America.

And the problems won’t be solved by a coat of paint.

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29 June 2019

Mural by Victor Arnautoff (1935) from a photo downloaded from KQED and credited to the George Washington High School Alumni Association

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Two-Eyed Seeing

Inviting Natives to the Table

caribou

One of the world’s leading scientific journals devotes space to Native Science this week.

The article in Science begins with the cry, “Don’t shoot the leaders.”

The entreaty comes from aboriginal hunters of North America who learned to avoid killing caribou that lead migratory packs.

Without their trailblazers, the pack would get lost.

Native, aboriginal and indigenous knowledge systems often get short shrift from mainstream scientific communities.

But native know-how, gleaned from centuries of experience, often proves the most credible way of navigating daily life.

The Science article, called “Two-eyed Seeing,” encourages mainstream scientists to work collaboratively with indigenous peoples when problem-solving, particularly in the areas of health, risk and the environment.

The idea of two-eyed seeing emerges from the Mi’kmaq principle called Etuaptmumk.

Albert Marshall, an elder of the Mi’kmaq community, says the term means learning to see with two eyes: one from traditional knowledges, and one from Western ways of knowing.

Because indigenous knowledges emerge from a certain place or location, aboriginals are best-equipped to understand when local fish populations diminish and why certain plant species thrive.

The article reaches out to mainstream scientists to invite native knowledge-keepers to the decision-making table.

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24 June 2019

Caribou illustration by John Woodhouse Audubon (1812-1862). Original from the New York Public Library. Digital image by rawpixel (copyright free)

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#indigenouswaysofknowing

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Save the ship

queeg

… Not the captain

A columnist recently made a brilliant reference that only a cinephile would know.

Paul Krugman writes:

I gotta say, it was very clever of Nancy Pelosi to steal Donald Trump’s strawberries, pushing him over the edge into self-evident lunacy.

I got the reference only because—like many of my college brethren of the 1970s—we watched our fill of Humphrey Bogart films.

The strawberry incident marks Captain Queeg’s obsession with fruit that went missing on his battleship, The Caine.

The 1954 film—from the Herman Wouk novel that earned a Pulitzer Prize—features Bogart, who plays the hapless captain where the crew mutinies.

The Caine Mutiny reveals, ever slow slowly, the captain is losing his marbles.

Literally.

Throughout the film Bogart illuminates the metaphor by fondling marbles like a taxi driver in Cairo fondles worry beads.

Bit by bit, the captain’s sanity unravels.

Like any narrative worth its salt, the movie builds to a courtroom climax where the captain becomes unmoored.

Krugman’s metaphor is an apt one: we have a lunatic commanding our ship of state who’s afraid his strawberries are being pilfered.

The Caine’s crew courageously wrests control.

Sentient, thoughtful and moral warriors reject the captain’s shenanigans and impeach his sanity by declaring a mutiny.

But unlike the film, our country’s crew stokes the captain’s madness.

As I write this, I hope for warriors who have the guts to confront the lunatic with the tools at hand and strip him of command.

Save our ship and get rid of the madman.

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=ZlV3oQ3pLA0

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29 May 2019

#thecainemutiny

#hermanwouk

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#dumptrump

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

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LITTLE THEORIES

fake stamp

What Does Integrity Mean?

When news hit that some overly eager parents helped smooth the ride for their children’s entrée to college by paying bribes, I was disappointed.

Disappointed that the system seems to have served folks who can grease the wheels so their kids can get into college while other kids wait on the sidelines.

The story speaks to so many issues that resonate today: integrity, grit, persistence and shared values.

Like so much news today, the story sparked when celebrities were caught red-handed, forking over dough to have their kids cut ahead in the admissions line.

They bribed test-proctors, athletic coaches and middle-weight college officials.

We pay attention because Hollywood’s lights are shining.

The irony is that, as the news broke, a Hollywood film was winning awards for a story about a writer who sold letters from famous authors for cash.

Problem is: the writer invented the letters.

She passed them off as originals and pocketed the dollars.

Like the college-entrance scandal, the film, Can You Ever Forgive Me?, forces you to consider the meaning of integrity.

The film’s protagonist, Lee Israel, forges letters from such notables as Franny Brice, Ernest Hemingway, Dorothy Parker and Noël Coward.

Israel comforts herself saying she was “offering something better than the original: ‘It was better Coward than Coward. Coward didn’t have to be Coward. I had to be Coward and a half,’ according to Kathryn Hughes of The Guardian.

Parents who helped their children into colleges also made their share of forgeries.

In one instance, a test-taker “corrected” an applicant’s answers on her entrance exams, and, in another example, an applicant submitted photographs that had been faked to show the applicant’s head on the body of a competitive athlete.

Each example shares two common elements: a lack of authenticity and a lack of integrity.

Our culture purports to admire the authentic, but, truth is, we think our real selves bland compared to our avatars.

So we disguise ourselves with the hope that camouflage will make us more appealing.

The disguise is tied to your integrity.

In Lee Israel’s case, she cashed in on a faked letter that wasn’t true, and twisted the memory of a dead writer unable to set the record straight.

In the college entrance scandal, someone faked an application that granted her admission but another soul lost her place in line.

Both examples show how we lose our integrity when we harm others.

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26 April 2019

#littletheories

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Native Science

easter in madison

Easter in Madison with Wey-Wee-Nah and Wak-O-Apa (Rachel and Megan)

Easter Frocks and Magic 

My mother would sew four matching Easter dresses each year–the only day I can remember when my sisters and I all went to church.

Easter was bright and warm in Southern California, and my grandparents would arrive before breakfast on Sunday with baskets of chocolates.

We’d stain our dresses hunting for hard-boiled eggs in the grass, which my parents hid.

My grandmother would dip into her Indian funds and buy us Easter shoes: white patent leather Mary Janes or sandals.

The funds were courtesy of oil unearthed on the reservation, and my grandmother used her share for rent, gasoline, food and treats for the family.

My grandfather would arrive with a live rabbit or Guinea pig, which would infuriate my mother and bite my sisters’ fingers.

The animals would disappear within the week.

When my own girls were small, they indulged my sewing and wore frilly frocks on Easter and dyed eggs in the kitchen.

My husband would cook lamb—a tradition in his family—and we’d eat the ears off chocolate bunnies.

When I was little, my grandmother would treat us to dinner—spaghetti at a neighborhood Trattoria.

We’d wear our hand-made dresses and new shoes, and crowd around my grandmother at the dinner table, begging her to show the waiter her magic.

“Show him, Granny, show him!” we’d cry.

My grandmother was obliged to perform for the waiter.

She’d take a water glass and set it in front of her.

“Do it, Granny, do it,” we begged.

And then Granny would remove her teeth and drop them into the water glass.

We screamed with delight.

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#littletheories

#Easter

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LITTLE THEORIES

home flower

Surviving in the age of Marie Kondo

We are situated in the age of Marie Kondo, where “to kondo” is a verb.

In the age of materialism, “kondo-ing” makes sense; get rid of what you don’t need.

Count me in.

I acquire more than I need.

My saving grace has been the move.

Each time we engage in the move, we retire boatloads of belongings to the recycling bin.

And—because we have so little storage space—Goodwill benefits from my largesse.

But today I missed the items I donated.

I gave away all my unused household porcelain and crockery, only to find today that I have nothing to catch the water drips from the planters.

This week I found fresh herbs at the garden shop, loaded them on my bike, and cycled home.

I emptied the dead flowers and herbs from the outdoor vessels but came up short in the saucer department.

I recycled the widowed saucers—those that lost their cups to cracks and broken handles–and now I have nothing to catch the drips from my pots.

There’s not one single abandoned saucer.

All my lost saucers are now all partnered with a tea cup or a potted plant in Goodwill heaven.

Damn Marie Kondo.

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#littletheories

#mariekondo

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#nativewriter

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Posted in garden fever, gardening, kondo, nativescience | Tagged | 1 Comment