Monday, August 30, 2010

Pat Barker: Life Class

We've all read Pat Barker's amazing Regeneration Trilogy about World War I. She sort of set a benchmark of contemporary historical fiction. I barely remember the books, but I remember loving them. Which I'm sure is why I picked up "Life Class." But reading "Life Class," which follows three young art students through the beginning of World War I felt a little bit like reading one of Irving Stone's or James Michener's books- each is different, but they're all the same. Rather than following poets like in Regeneration, Life Class follows budding artists, struggling to reconcile pre-war England's frivolity with the grotesque reality of war. I really can't remember Regeneration, but I remembered it the whole way through this book. If you haven't read Barker, read the trilogy. If you have, skip this one.

Friday, August 27, 2010

Film Friday


Wednesday, August 25, 2010

Stumped by Shoes

I recently saw a dude wearing some hideous wetsuit like contraption on his feet that was a slight variation of Toe Socks which reminded me of another, fading trend in shoes, and than had another (even worse?) invention brought to my attention. I decided these trends must be brought to light.

Apparently, T, who keeps me up to reasonable date with all things modern, the hideous things I saw were Vibram Five Fingers. She said it to me about 5 times, and I never caught on. That's right, Vibram Five Fingers. They do indeed have five little holes for you to put your toes into them, just like toe socks, or mittens. And they do indeed look like wetsuits for your feet. I'm not sure if they're actually made of the same stuff (I'm pretty sure kangaroo leather isn't in wetsuits) but I'm telling you, they're stretchy things for your toes.


(photo courtesy of thenickster.)

I guess the theory is, shoes cause problems. Doing things barefoot is better. Doing things barefoot in shoes that are like being barefoot is best. It's safer in all of our extreme sports- like running on sidewalks and rocks and climbing, etc. And doing things like going to Gordo's, which is where I saw my first pair of these things. Therefore, being healthy and strong and having good feet while sporting modern Aqua Socks can be yours, for only $75-$100. Right.

So this is the least egregious of the three sets of shoes that I want to discuss. It's just... weird, and ugly, but I too am weird, and have no fashion sense, and as T said, I don't have to wear them, nor do I have to be seen with her if she wears them. (She hasn't worn them yet, as far as I know.) The next pair, though, really rubbed me morally in the wrong way. The awesome Sociological Images sent this one out yesterday- shoes that are meant to look as though they are covered in oil from the oil spill. (You just must click the link. The shoes are uglier than you can imagine.) SI sums it up, so I don't really have to:
This looks to me like an example of “conspicuous conservation.” The term was originally derived from the phrase “conspicuous consumption,” defined by Wikipedia as “lavish spending on goods and services acquired mainly for the purpose of displaying income or wealth.” Conspicuous conservation, then, is the (often lavish) spending on “green” products designed mainly to advertise one’s environmentally-moral righteousness.

If you wear regular shoes and donate to the gulf spill clean up, your altruism is entirely invisible. But if you buy these hideous things, everyone gets to know what a nice guy you are.
It looks like the shoes come out in a November collection, so I can't find a price tag, so I can't put a value on the awesomeness of saving these shoes- for a hundred dollars, you can wear ugly shoes and get the benefits of going barefoot, but I'm guessing it's more to wear hideous shoes to give some money to a shoe company and some nonprofit to help the oil spill while not really doing anything at all. Sure, all of the proceeds "go to the oil spill" but, the company's gotta break even, too.

Last but not least are shoes that have been around awhile: the MBT shoes. They are the big clunkers with the rounded platform soles- I had never actually seen anyone wearing them till a recent trip to LA, where I also saw about 15 different styles (an oxy moron?) being sold in a store. (The only other place I have seen them being sold is Santa Cruz, approximately 5 years ago. I only saw one "style" being sold, and never saw anyone wearing them.) Actually, according the MBT, these are not shoes, they are footwear, and like the weird toe shoes, they believe that the best kind of walking is walking on sand, barefoot:
The positive effect of the MBT is based on the principle of "natural instability". An effect which can, in fact, be achieved without the benefit of high-tech footwear: by simply walking barefoot on soft, uneven, natural ground such as sand or moss. However, in today's thoroughly modern world this is not always easy to do - but the health benefits are significant. While wearing MBTs the body is forced to maintain its natural balance, thereby stimulating and exercising the body's supporting muscle system which results in numerous pro-body benefits.
Here's the part that bugs. A doctor with back problems "grew aware" of the Masai in Africa (the "M" in MBT) and

= and put two and two together: perhaps there was something to walking on soft surface with bare feet which enables the body achieve its natural walking style and, hence, reduce the amount of pain you feel thanks to the way you walk.
Basically, he made bank on the name of a cattle-based tribe in Africa that has been relegated to the driest, denuded land. He's not alone, but that doesn't make it any better. For $250, you too can "Step into a Stronger Body," like the Masai. Who seem to step into a strong (possibly starving) body. In Los Angeles, you step with your MBT footwear (not shoes) as IF you were stepping barefoot on sand, though there is sand only a few miles away on, where you could easily step barefoot. The attempt to lose weight, rather than to exist in a healthy manner is not enough: being healthy requires money, cultural appropriation, and technology. Even shoes (I'm sorry, footwear) imply racism, neocolonialism, and unexamined privilege.

Friday, August 20, 2010

Linda Greenhouse and Reva Siegel: Before Roe v Wade

My mom picked this book up for me because she remembered Linda Greenhouse's previous book, "Becoming Justice Blackmun," and thought I would like this one. She knew nothing about it, just that she liked Greenhouse and thought I would enjoy this, knowing my interest in the subject. She was right- I enjoyed the book, despite (because of?) its format. The book is a series of documents, each prefaced with a little context, that led to the Roe V Wade decision. Although I've read a lot about Roe V Wade, I've never read any source documents, and they were surprising. Obviously, the authors got to choose/filter what the readers will read, but there is at least the appearance of seeing multiple sides of the issues.

The dialogue has changed so much, the documents reveal, from language to the parties involved. Anyone looking at the abortion debate today, or in the late 90s through today, like I have, would point to far-Right republicans, fundamentalist Christians, and pictures of fetuses and coat hangers as some of the main images of the debate. Even having read historical accounts, I was surprised to read that most religious denominations were for "reform" of the criminal laws against abortion in the late 60s, including mainline Protestants. The documents on how people like Pat Buchanan had to construct a Republican party line *against* abortion, especially during the re-election year campaign between Nixon and McGovern. Further, in Blackmun's "hand-down" of the Roe v Wade decision mentioned nothing about women's right to self-determination over their own bodies and reproductive systems, which was very much part of the discussion. The picture of the Supreme Court responsible for the Roe v Wade decision was very telling:

If you're interested in women's rights, or you're a feminist, or you care about abortion, or choice, or anything like this, really, the book is worth a read. It requires patience, and isn't really a page turner, but it's fascinating.

Friday, August 13, 2010

Film Friday: Ode to Joy

Mac is getting old, there's no arguing it. But he's still Mac, and he's still very happy.

ode to joy

Thursday, August 12, 2010

Happy, Happy Mac

Happy, old Mac. He used to do this so much more vehemently. But he still does it, and happily. This is the Mac-neuver you see at the top of the blog. Video courtesy of KayVee.Inc.

Wednesday, August 11, 2010

Novella Carpenter: Farm City

I heard about this book twice- my dad read it and told me about it and I promptly forgot about it, as he read it on the kindle, and therefore couldn't give me a copy. Out of sight, out of mind. I'm pretty sure he told me I would probably be interested because it was a local book- Oakland lady makes Oakland farm and I'm an Oakland girl. Then, last month, some volunteers who work at my shelter mentioned the book to me, shocked and alarmed that the Oakland farmer was not just a vegetable farmer, but also a meat farmer, a rancher of sort, an Old McDonald type farmer. An Old McDonald type farmer who also ate cute, fuzzy animals like rabbits, and cute feathered animals like chickens and ducks and geese. They were aghast, I was interested.

I'm a vegetarian, but not a vegan, and I don't really concern myself with other people's food choices. I've written about why I voted against Prop 2 last year, so I wasn't as shocked as my friends, and I tried to go into Novella Carpenter's book with an open mind. I have seen small scale vegetable gardens in Oakland, and I appreciate eating locally for environmental, food justice, and cultural reasons. I appreciate the fear of people who are finally making strides at raising awareness of rabbits as house pets, but you can't win them all. I purchased this book, again to the alarm of my friends (purchasing a book by an animal grower/eater?), to put my money where my mouth is- supporting a local bookstore, and an author- mostly because I am curious about what goes on in Oakland. And Novella Carpenter represents a lot of strange stuff that goes on in Oakland.

Carpenter started out as a "normal" (?!) backyard farmer, with vegetables and some chickens. Then some ducks and geese. Sometimes these animals were inside of her house, to keep them safe and warm. And then a beehive. Then she got some rabbits, which she started out just rabbit-sitting for a friend, and ended up breeding for food. Then she got pigs, which led her to dumpster diving all over Oakland and Berkeley to feed their ever growing appetites (8 buckets a day). I think this was beyond "bordering" obsession- she describes herself and her husband in Chinatown dumpsters and the dumpsters of gourmet restaurants trying to find the pigs "favorite" food. Really. Carpenter went for a month eating only what she could grow or trade with other growers, and ended up eating decorative corn on the cob because she was so desperate for carbohydrates.

This is too much. The book was too much. The obsession was too much. I later spoke to a friend who has met Carpenter, and her theory is that Carpenter knew going into the farming that she was going to write a book, thus the over-kill (pun intended). This is a cynical view, but it makes sense. I would have appreciated candor on this point by Carpenter- it would have made her and her project much more likable. I still think urban farming is a noble goal, but I certainly wouldn't want to live next to her. And just because she lives in the ghetto (as she tells us over and over) doesn't make her any better of a neighbor. Her pigs are gross and huge and they escape, she admits. Geese and ducks and chickens are stinky, and they shit. A lot. Why should people in West Oakland have to live with this just because she condescends to allow people to "steal" things from the garden that is on land that she's squatting on? Why not find a legal plot to farm and raise livestock on, preferably not butting up on your downstairs neighbors house? (Sore subject.) And I see the rabbit volunteers point: it has become taboo to eat certain animals. On the other hand, raising your own animals for meat is fairly sustainable. She crossed a certain line for me when she gave a meat rabbit (unfixed of course) to a young kid in the neighborhood (righteously making sure he had parental permission) with no discussion (or thought?) to the repercussions.

Reading this did prompt me to pick up Jonathan Safran Foer's book "Eating Animals" that controversially discusses eating dog. In for the horse, in for the rabbit.

Monday, August 09, 2010

You Can Take the Girl Out of the Job...

But you can't take the animal control officer out of the girl.

My sister has always given me a hard time, because it's hard to go anywhere with me. I don't know if I attract stray dogs or if I just see them. I can't help it. It happened before I was an officer, but since I've been doing animal welfare stuff since I was 18, it's hard for me to remember if it happened since ever. Basically it happens a lot. I just expect it. And until recently, it's been very hard for me to just look the other way and drive by. I'm annoying, I know, but I usually try to track the dog down and leash them and do... I don't know what with them. Anyway.

I'm also annoying in general about animal stuff- is that dog on a leash? Where's that dog owner? Why does that have balls? etc, etc. If you know one of us, you know how it goes. If you don't know one of us, you're not really missing much, at least that part of it. We're great people, but it can be a little tiresome. I do all these annoying things, and I still know it's tiresome. I try to control myself- I've driven by a few stray dogs lately, really! The other day on the way home from a ballgame with my dad, I even let him drive by two pit bulls that I know I could have caught easily. I did ask him if he had leashes, even though I knew he didn't, and I did look in the backseat for leashes, even though I knew there weren't any, but I didn't make him go back, even though I could have caught them without a leash. Anyway.

I went to the Sonoma County Fair with M on Sunday. It was great. I took the day off to go, which is amazing- I never take the day off. But I couldn't help myself, I was still working. On the way up, I found out from M and B that rescue groups are placing intact dogs on spay/neuter contract. This is illegal in California. A friend of theirs, someone I respect greatly by hearsay, told a group she would only adopt the dog intact due to past experiences. I totally believe this person will neuter the dog, and that no breedings will happen. But that's how the conversation started- the group let it happen. And then M and B told me about other groups- they had no trouble rattling off three to five groups that also adopt out without altering the animals. M suggested it's cheaper for the groups- if an adopter takes the animal to their own vet, it doesn't come out of budget. But really? It's illegal and unethical. I pocketed this information and put my blinders back on. For a minute.

Then we watched dock diving, which was fun, of course. While they were doing practice runs, a woman was working her bulldog in obedience. They looked like a great team, and out of nowhere, a malinois ran right up to them. The woman grabbed the mal by the collar and kind of held her out at arms length, looking around in what I interpreted as panic. There were about 5 or 6 other people with leashed, amped, aroused dogs and no one moved to help. So I went up and grabbed the mal by the collar. (Who DOES that? Grab a strange malinois by a collar? Answer: a dumb off duty animal control officer.) The lady was like, oh, she'll bite someone, I'll put her up. Oh- it was her dog. Right. My friends were like- yeah, that's her dog. Whoops. I felt stupid. I later apologized to the bulldog owner, saying I didn't mean to grab her dog (a big no-no in dog sports) but that it looked like someone's dog had gotten loose and too close to her bulldog. She was chill about it, saying if it had been any other dog, it would have been a big problem. I even annoyed myself that time.

Later, we walked around the horse stable (see my very awesome horse picture below) and a meowy cat came out and made friends with B and M. I could not believe myself, but of course I found myself checking if the kitten was fixed. Of course the kitten was not fixed. M told me to take my hands off the cat, thinking I was taking the cat. Of course I was NOT taking the cat, but of course I was checking for spay scars. Really? Really?

It's innate. I may be burned out, I may need more days off, but I can't help it. It's like... who I am. For your time, Horse, double time.


Friday, August 06, 2010

Film Friday

Got a new camera- the Golden Half. It's a toy camera, a film camera that I think has a total of two buttons and two dials. It takes split frames, two pictures per frame. The super fun and frustrating part is there's no way to know which picture will line up with which. Which is awesome.

I shot a whole roll yesterday, and had a great time doing it. Only about 5 pictures came out worth looking at, but the whole endeavor was awesome. Here's one that I love.


Thursday, August 05, 2010


Yesterday was an amazing day. Some very cool things happened in California, especially in Oakland. Ron Dellums announced he wasn't running for Mayor again, Prop 8 was ruled unconstitutional and the A's won! OK, one of these things is not like the other in terms of momentous-ness, but all of them happened all at once. I was sitting at an A's game with my dad, checked on twitter, knowing that the Prop 8 decision would be announced, saw it had been announced, checked in again to see any updates regarding stays, details, etc, saw Ron Dellums would not be running for reelection, and then the A's won. Which is pretty exciting, if you're an A's Addict, and the A's are making .500, one way or another.

Now to the second most important thing. Ron Dellums announced yesterday that he was not seeking reelection. This may be a surprise, or it may not, depending a)if you're cynical and b)if you can stand to follow news on the man (I can't). He refused to take questions, saying that he was "with his wife," which is hilarious, because it's well known that his wife is Mayor Pt. 2 of Oakland, and rumors are flying that he was scheduled to make the announcement today, but nicely tucked it in during the announcement of the Prop 8 ruling so that it would go quiet, quiet into the dark night. Most politically active people in Oakland would like to celebrate the going-away party of Ron Dellums, but are even more interested in celebrating the going-away of Prop 8. Maybe the smartest thing Ron Dellums has done in... a long time.

Now, to the real story. I mean, some politically active people, and some not politically active people (more of the latter) cared a LOT about the A's game yesterday. The A's and the Royals played a terrible game, because they are both terrible teams, and the A's came out on top. They were luckier. Two pitchers pitched well, which means Brett Anderson may really be coming back, which is good news. But really? Aside from the 20,000 people who were there, and the, oh, 10,000 more who givadamn, yeah, not news. The news, which came out at the same time, is that there is a God, and his name is Ronald Reagan. I'm pretty sure former President Reagan didn't know what he was getting into, and I'm pretty sure progressives and people who understand that civil rights extend to everyone didn't know that Ronald Reagan would be the one who moved this fight in the right (meaning correct, forward, progressive) direction, but Reagan appointed Judge Vaughn Walker in 1987 to the federal district court. In a little twist of fate, "Two dozen House Democrats, led by Rep. Nancy Pelosi of San Francisco, opposed his nomination because of his alleged "insensitivity" to gays and the poor." (see wikipedia.) In 1989, George H.W. Bush, a close relative of Reagan God, renominated Walker, and he was confirmed unanimously.

Yesterday, Walker's ruling on "Perry v. Schwarzenegger" (this all cracks me up, politics are a fickle game, eh?), was amazing. A giant step forward for civil rights, a giant slap in the face for a lot of well intentioned people who think some people are more deserving than others, because of, well, I'm not sure about why. I lost a lot of faith in my state when Prop 8 passed, and felt a little bit like I needed to move to Iowa or Massachusets, or... anywhere where all people were treated like people. And I'm not gay, and I don't even care about marriage that much. I'm not even sure that marriage is the right "right" to be fighting for right now. It's the fact that rights shouldn't need to be fought for. It's the fact that my idea of God, your idea of God, etc, should not stop me, you, my neighbor, etc, from doing what they should be able to do as citizens, as human beings. (On a side note, the folks behind Obama's twitter account failed to mention this momentous ruling. And another person wisely tweeted that Obama's failure to support equality is going to look mighty foolish in 30 years.) Walker laid it out that rights are rights, and all people in California deserve them. Clearly. Articulately. (In a much more gung-ho way than the A's or Dellums.) I leave you with some of my favorite parts of his ruling:

Relative gender composition aside,
same-sex couples are situated identically to opposite-sex couples
in terms of their ability to perform the rights and obligations of
marriage under California law. FF 48. Gender no longer forms an
essential part of marriage; marriage under law is a union of

Plaintiffs do not seek recognition of a new right. To
characterize plaintiffs’ objective as “the right to same-sex
marriage” would suggest that plaintiffs seek something different
from what opposite-sex couples across the state enjoy —— namely,
marriage. Rather, plaintiffs ask California to recognize their
relationships for what they are: marriages.

The evidence at trial shows that domestic partnerships
exist solely to differentiate same-sex unions from marriages. FF
53-54. A domestic partnership is not a marriage; while domestic
partnerships offer same-sex couples almost all of the rights and
responsibilities associated with marriage, the evidence shows that
the withholding of the designation “marriage” significantly
disadvantages plaintiffs. FF 52-54. The record reflects that
marriage is a culturally superior status compared to a domestic
partnership. FF 52. California does not meet its due process
obligation to allow plaintiffs to marry by offering them a
substitute and inferior institution that denies marriage to same-
sex couples.

Proposition 8 targets gays and lesbians in a manner
specific to their sexual orientation and, because of their
relationship to one another, Proposition 8 targets them
specifically due to sex. Having considered the evidence, the
relationship between sex and sexual orientation and the fact that
Proposition 8 eliminates a right only a gay man or a lesbian would
exercise, the court determines that plaintiffs’ equal protection
claim is based on sexual orientation, but this claim is equivalent
to a claim of discrimination based on sex.

As presently explained in detail, the Equal Protection
Clause renders Proposition 8 unconstitutional under any standard of
review. Accordingly, the court need not address the question
whether laws classifying on the basis of sexual orientation should
be subject to a heightened standard of review.

Proposition 8 cannot withstand any level of scrutiny
under the Equal Protection Clause, as excluding same-sex couples
from marriage is simply not rationally related to a legitimate
state interest.

Proposition 8 fails to advance any rational basis in
singling out gay men and lesbians for denial of a marriage license.
Indeed, the evidence shows Proposition 8 does nothing more than
enshrine in the California Constitution the notion that opposite-
sex couples are superior to same-sex couples. Because California
has no interest in discriminating against gay men and lesbians, and
because Proposition 8 prevents California from fulfilling its
constitutional obligation to provide marriages on an equal basis,
the court concludes that Proposition 8 is unconstitutional.

Tuesday, August 03, 2010

Fame Whore

I feel like a little bit of a braggart, but I'm just so incredibly internet famous lately, that I kind of can't help it. My picture was just featured at the BART website encouarging people to take BART to Art Murmur. The cool thing is that this picture also just won some kind of prize for a contest. I've never won a prize before. Woah, dude.

Monday, August 02, 2010

Mini Fame, Again

Ok, I kind of solicited this fame, but I'm proud of it. Oakland Murals is the inspiration behind this awesome new spot at Oakland North. I was kind of funky about being featured in it, but I'm so happy that Jill got to talk to Malia of Malia Movement and the awesome folks at Community Rejuvenation Project to get what she really needed- faces and information about what the murals are about. I'm just a facilitator.

I love Oakland. Some crazy shit has been going down here and I'm having weird feelings that alternate between "you can't go home again" and "forget it, themacinator, it's Chinatown." So it's good to have something positive to work on. Which, in fact, is why I started this in the first place.

Oakland murals color the urban jungle from Jill Replogle on Vimeo.

So don't forget to check out the article, and Oakland Murals.