Tuesday, December 30, 2008
Highlights: Saturday morning on Stockton St with all the Chinese grannies shopping for live fish and greens whose names we don't know; a thorough visit to all the Japantown stores where the child found exactly what she wanted in the anime/manga category, and I bought a copy of the movie Sakuran, directed by Mika Ninagawa; shopping, cooking and eathing with my mother who graciously hosted a gathering for a few friends in town for the MLA; walking with my nephew in North Beach and drooling over books at City Lights.
Today we will do our favorite walk down by the bay at Crissy Field, and then try to outfit the girl who has grown 2" in the last 18 months.
Here is a little view of the "specific ocean" and Seal Rock, so named because the sea lions used to sun themselves there, but now that they can hang out in the much more sheltered docks by Pier 31 to amuse the tourists, they don't go to the rock any more. .
Saturday, December 27, 2008
Today we will join the throngs of shoppers on Stockton Street in Chinatown, then make our way to the Ferry Building for the indoor part of the market.
Thursday, December 25, 2008
Some other new favorites from 2008 include Cloud Cult, Weezer, Estelle, Kate Nash, Gnarls Barkley and a host of others. Thanks for the music, folks!
Wednesday, December 24, 2008
I am so grateful to fresca for stepping in at the last minute to help take care of Mr. Leo. Thank you!!! She is thinking about Tina Modotti lately, and that reminded me of this old post.
Saturday, December 20, 2008
I share with you a video that was sent by email from a friend who has this bumper sticker on his car: !Teruel existe! It's a parody of the cover of "Rivers of Babylon" as done by Boney M. which I have now discovered, thanks to this incredibly thorough article in Wikipedia, to be one of the most popular musical "acts" in the world: x (whose first hit, Daddy Cool, is forever engraved on my brain because I was living in France in 1976 when it was a massive, monotonous, inexplicable hit.)
Updated: this is a clip from a satirical TV program that gives an insider's perspective on life in Aragón ("Oregon"), Spain. You can watch clips from the programs online, now in its second season Oregontelevision.com.
Friday, December 19, 2008
Thursday, December 18, 2008
I told her that I was grateful for my health, not expecting the worst, but she wasn't buying it. On the one hand, it could be said that I was seeing the worst. On the other, I was also (at least internally) feeling grateful for my health. But I was also repeating a gesture I'd seen my mother make many years ago, when she said cheerfully, "I'll be one of those ladies pushing a shopping cart in the Tenderloin" and we, her daughters, had reacted with the same horror at what seemed like a fatalistic expectation of the worst, but now, I see, was a kind of magical conjuring: "I'll say out loud what is my fear, and thus dissipate its power over me." Because my mother is not one of those homeless women on Ellis street; she has worked hard and taken good care of herself. And I am doing the same. But the power our words have on our children is not only that of our muddled intentions, and I need to remember that.
After thinking about this incident, I recognize that lately I have re-activated my "cynical defense mode." It's a form of shielding myself from all the pain that I'm afraid would overwhelm me if I really held it in consciousness without defenses. On some level, the jokes about shoes flying at Bush make me laugh, but the reality of the torture inflicted on the shoe-thrower horrifies me. The recognition that his rage is felt by millions who contemplate the deaths of all those killed and maimed as "collateral damage" in Iraq is almost too much to bear. And after the long drawn-out struggle to elect a person who symbolizes our desire for change, the pain that I hear from so many who feel betrayed because Obama has invited an activist for bigotry, Rick Warren, to read an invocation at his inauguration is also my pain (but think how many people would scream if he'd invited Rev.Wright!). I can't shut it all out, and sometimes I feel as if I am écorchée vive. But I am most profoundly aware of my gratitude because I am trying to be mindful of my fears, and transform them into compassion. Unfortunately, what I am doing to defend myself is experienced by others as cynicism at best and anger at worst, but certainly as negativity and not compassion. (So I talked to my daughter about this and we hugged each other and reminded each other that we love each other very much).
My hat's off to Phoenix Woman for reminding us all that along with Rick Warren, another person who has been invited to participate in the inauguration is Rev. Joseph Lowery. She linked to this incredibly thoughtful post by a young man named Matt who describes the effect that Rev. Lowery had on him.
From the "about" page:
"HISTORY: Minnesota Stories was founded in 2005 by Chuck Olsen, and was one of the first regional videoblogs of its kind. The New York Times even said it was "one of the best" videoblogs, and the site got a lot of attention from Twin Cities media. The site was on hiatus during much of 2008 while Chuck focused on co-founding The UpTake, a video citizen journalism organization. In November 2008, MN Stories was reborn as a video sharing community where anyone can upload video and participate. We hope you like it."
like it? we luurrv it!
Here's a story about citizen response to assaults on bikers on the Midtown Greenway:
I like this story about local blogger Ed Kohler and his one-person gang graffiti clean-up efforts:
Wednesday, December 17, 2008
The Young Turks bring us this update on M. Al Zaidi (who is still in custody, although it is not clear whose, or where, but his brother says that he has been savagely beaten and he faces trial) and the reaction to his act both in the Arab world and elsewhere.
Estimates on the number of civilians who have died as a direct result of violence during the course of the war in Iraq vary widely:
In November 2006 Iraqi health ministry estimates ranged from 100,000 to 150,000 dead. This contrasts with a survey of Iraqi households in the Lancet, which suggested about 655,000 Iraqis had died as a result of the war by July 2006.
A survey published by a UK-based polling agency Opinion Research Business in September 2007 suggested up to 1.2m people might have died because of the conflict.
The campaign group, Iraq Body Count, said the civilian death toll by October 2007 was between 74,000 and 81,000, although it has warned many deaths may have gone unreported.
Another survey, published by the New England Journal of Medicine in January 2008, said approximately 151,000 civilians had suffered violent deaths between March 2003 and June 2006. This World Health Organization study was based on 9,000 interviews across Iraq.(BBC Special Report, Aug. 2008).
Bush's reaction? To laugh, make jokes, and leave. Never a word to acknowledge that at least 200 civilians have been murdered in Iraq this month alone. Dick Cheney admits that he authorized waterboarding and torture on national TV. WHY have these men not been impeached? Kucinich presented articles of impeachment earlier for both Cheney and Bush earlier this year.
Why no impeachment?
Oh, yeah, we had to elect Obama.
Tuesday, December 16, 2008
I looked at one report on internet usage among Latinos in the US: while higher rates of going online seem to be correlated with education levels and English proficiency, I learned that the cell phone is an alternative mode of connecting for many immigrants:
Some Latinos who do not use the internet are connecting to the communications revolution in a different way – via cell phone. Fully 59% of Latino adults have a cell phone and 49% of Latino cell phone users send and receive text messages on their phone. Looking at the numbers in a different way, 56% of Latino adults go online, 18% of Latino adults have a cell phone but do not go online and 26% of Latino adults have neither a cell phone nor an internet connection..
Between Here and There: How Attached Are Latino Immigrants to Their Native Country? is a report that gets behind the data and looks at how data concerning specific activities might be indicative of a level of attachement (and ideas of citizenship) to native countries and the U.S.
I am sure I will be sending many students to this site for the kind of data they are looking for as they do their research projects.
Monday, December 15, 2008
THIS IS THE FAREWELL KISS, YOU DOG! "This is a gift from the Iraqis. This is the farewell kiss, you dog," the journalist shouted (in Arabic), Steven Lee Myers of The New York Times reported in a pool report to the White House press corps. Myers reported that the man threw the second shoe and added: "This is from the widows, the orphans and those who were killed in Iraq." Journalists at the scene said the hurler was Muntadar al-Zaidi, a reporter for Al-Baghdadia TV, an independent satellite channel based in Cairo. (AP Photo/Evan Vucci)
As Chimpy McChimpersons smirked his way though the press conference in Iraq, we were getting official confirmation of what we already know: yes, indeed, the war has been a giant rip-off scam for Cheney/Bush cronies, an abject military and political failure, and the death of multitudes, and destruction of the infrastructure and economy of an entire country.
Like many, I laughed to see the shoes flying at Bush's head: laughed because finally someone had the courage to speak truth to power. His gesture expressed eloquently the feelings of millions around the world.
But now what? What has happened to this journalist who was himself kidnapped an tortured not too long ago? Baghdadia TV, his employers "fear for his safety" and demand his release. He has been bloodied and beaten as they dragged him from the room by his hair, and is being held in custody as Iraqi citizens and journalism organizations demand his release
Has he been tortured again? will he end up in a prison like Abu Ghraib or Guantanamo?
“Al-Baghdadia television demands that the Iraqi authorities immediately release their stringer Muntazer al-Zaidi, in line with the democracy and freedom of expression that the American authorities promised the Iraqi people,” it said in a statement. “Any measures against Muntazer will be considered the acts of a dictatorial regime."
The journalist's exact whereabouts were unclear, although one Iraqi official said that he was being held for questioning at Mr al-Maliki's residence, his shoes having been kept as evidence.
While people laugh and cheer at the multiple videos of his gesture, will those of us far removed from the conflict think about what he said as he threw those shoes, and the violence that continues to kill, maim and traumatize the people of Iraq? Juan Cole tells us what acts of violence have occurred while this is going on.
Michael Ware on CNN reports:
Sunday, December 14, 2008
Nezua has illustrated a new book which I intend to buy: Gods, Gachupines and Gringos: A People's History of Mexico by Richard Grabman who blogs at The Mex Files.
Chutry talks about end-of-the-year movie lists which clued me in to the existence of this collective culture blog the new critics.
And also connected me to Dr. Mabuse who informs us that The Criterion Collection (of great movies) has "gone hulu", meaning they are putting up links to an online film festival allowing us to watch some of their amazing and fabulous movies on line for free through their "auteurs" social networking site. Yay!
Saturday, December 13, 2008
First, I found this recent summary of how FM is being currently understood by the medical profession in the abstract of this article in the Oct 2008 issue of The Neuroscientist: "Fibromyalgia: A Disorder of the Brian?" Scientists have finally succeeded in using brain imaging techniques to detect specific differences in the brain images of people with FM and those without: "Fibromyalgia can no longer be called the 'Invisible' Syndrome":
"The researchers confirmed that patients with the syndrome exhibited brain perfusion abnormalities in comparison to the healthy subjects. Further, these abnormalities were found to be directly correlated with the severity of the disease. An increase in perfusion (hyperperfusion) was found in that region of the brain known to discriminate pain intensity, and a decrease (hypoperfusion) was found within those areas thought to be involved in emotional responses to pain.
In the past, some researchers have thought that the pain reported by fibromyalgia patients was the result of depression rather than symptoms of a disorder. "Interestingly, we found that these functional abnormalities were independent of anxiety and depression status," Guedj said."
This is important because for decades, people with FM have been treated as hysterics, malingerers, attention-seeking neurotics. For years, people with FM were angry and defensive that their symptoms were being dismissed as "all in your head," meaning "not real." This has changed somewhat, but I am still stymied by the fact that when I have a flare-up and must cut down on my work, I can't expect my colleagues or students to understand what is wrong or how they can support me.
Various types of TMS are now being studied for their usefulness in treating depression, migraines, Parkinson's disease, bi-polar disorder, cravings for alcohol and cocaine, as well as chronic pain relief and therapy after brain injuries such as stroke. A 2006 study from the Mayo clinic by Dr. Shirlene Sampson, et al, on a few patients pointed to the potential benefit of of repetitive cycles of TMS (rTMS) for relief of the chronic pain of fibromyalgia. Results of a larger 2007 French study on rTMS and fibromyalgia (published in the journal Brain) were based on an increased sample size and more systematic review of data. (Full text here). The blog Neuromod reviewed this study within the context of this emerging field called "neuromodulation." One of its major journals is the year-old Brain Stimulation (I love these journal names!).
Another study reviews some of these early research trials, and I've found calls for clinical trials specific to the use of rTMS for fibromyalgia that are being conducted now in the U.S.and France. Researchers are also now trying to find out how to refine their techniques of rTMS (where to apply it, what it seems to affect, etc). One hypothesis is that this treatment alleviates pain in people with FM because it reduces sleep disruption (maybe by correcting the alpha-wave disruption of delta waves in sleep cycles).
I've looked at some of the discussions of whether or not these non-invasive, non-convulsive, less expensive (but still experimental) treatments are as effective as ElectroConvulsive Treatment (ECT) or "electroshock therapy" (which still horrifies me because of past abuses, although I realize that for some people with severe depression that is resistant to all other treatments, it can be more effective than medications).
It is surprisingly difficult to find out who specializes in treating fibromyalgia in this area; in spite of the fact that I have a very sympathetic and competent doctor who has been great for me for the past fifteen years, my symptoms have been worse these past few years and the overall degradation of my quality of life is taking its toll on my resilience. I'm going to keep chipping away at finding more about new treatments and access to them in this area.
Friday, December 12, 2008
"Real conditions are that we are either hot members of the Academic Industrial Complex with hobbies of our choice, or tutors to the privileged classes with hobbies of our college’s choice, or activists in popular education with hobbies resembling the day jobs of hot members of the Academic Industrial Complex."
I will be thinking about this as I grade, as I write my paper for the MLA, and as I prepare my classes for spring, knowing that only 1/10 of the searches in our college can go forward, leaving many positions unfilled, departments that are already understaffed falling farther behind. In the short and long term, the politics of disinvestment in higher education promoted by our current governor and legislature (because they can't override his veto) have made the conditions of work at my institution--for staff, students and faculty--more difficult. Paying for college at our state's land-grant university without leaving with at least $25,000 in debt, has become an unreachable goal for many. Our fiscal realities are completely and utterly at odds with the professed goals of our administration.
In other words, we can either think big and meet the challenges, or we can collectively continue to advance blindly as if this were still the 20th century.
Wednesday, December 10, 2008
Each season of The Wire featured the song "Way Down in the Hole"
I like all the versions of the song.
Tuesday, December 09, 2008
Sunday, December 07, 2008
I fell on the ice last week, so hard that I broke the phone that was in my bag. Although I had been too cheap to purchase insurance, it was close enough to my contract renewal time that the guys at the phone store got the company to approve a deal whereby I would get a discount and a rebate on a new phone. I got the same kind of phone, but upgraded to the latest model which has video. While we were at the Temple of Commerce using a gift certificate that could only be redeemed there, we saw this unsual ...what, "mascot"? puppet? guy dressed up in a costume with a giant head handing out flyers?
So I can shoot video and email it to myself, then post it on the blog. Maybe there is a way to post directly, but I haven't figured that out yet.
My father spent fifteen years as a doctor in the Army during the Viet Nam war, performing surgery on the seriously wounded, and I grew up surrounded by the awareness of life-threatening injuries and the long and painful recovery from them. I lived for years in Berkeley where veterans of the war often ended up living on the streets because of inadequate attention to their needs. This, along with my study of U.S. military history in Latin America (both covert and direct), have led me to despise the political leaders who have ordered or condoned such actions with little regard for the cost to military personnel and civilians. It has also led me to have little patience for the public and media support of the seven years of this ill-advised war. The scandals about the shoddy and substandard service given to veterans under the Bush administration, are a national shame.
It is precisely for that reason that those who serve in the military as professionals with integrity are needed to help us fix this mess. I note with interest that this career military man (West Point, etc) has an MA in English literature from Duke University). I wish I could find out more information about that! My cynical army-brat heart feels hope that this appointment will bring substantive change.
James Fallow gives us the details on how Shinseki warned civilian leaders that if we went into Iraq we would need to have hundreds of thousands of troops to ensure security and control. When he retired, four months after war was declared, he had been publicly rebuked for this stand. As he demonstrated in his Atlantic Monthly articles at the time, (collected as Blind Into Baghdad, an excellent account of how we screwed up the beginning of the war that never should have started in the first place) Rumsfeld and Wolfowitz, who were in favor of a fantasy video-game style army, publicly rebuked and attempted to humiliate him. I say attempted, because Shinseki has shown exemplary integrity in refusing to ever comment on the conduct of the war, never earning a penny on the pundit circle saying "I told you so" or in any way bad-mouthing the institution he served for decades, having been wounded in Viet Nam. All this in spite of, or rather because of the fact that he had an uncle who served in WWII as one of the many Japanese-American soldiers who served in spite of the fact that the U.S. had interned them and their families in camps.
Let us hope that this former Army chief of staff, who enjoys the respect of his Army colleagues, will be able to do what it takes to shake up and modernize Veterans Affairs in such a way that all those whose bodies and minds have been shattered by their war experiences receive the care, support and understanding they and their families need.
Saturday, December 06, 2008
The written text of a book can be hosted online, and the existence of digital libraries. Project Gutenberg is one of the oldest, in which books in the public domain are digitized and made available to the world as ebooks. These are works that originally appeared in print, as opposed to material created in a digital format or "born-digital." Some copyrighted material is also being made available in online formats by publishers. A book published by a University Press may also be housed online as a way to bring readers to that press's site or to promote scholarship in cases where the author sees the opportunity to keep the work alive, long after the usual print runs have ended.
But I just discovered the existence of a word I had never heard before today: blook. Here's the wiktionary definition:
1. A book serialized on a blog (weblog) platform.
2. A book about blogging.
3. A printed book containing content which first appeared on a blog.
* 2006: "'Blooks are the new books, a hybrid literary form at the cutting edge of both literature and technology,' said Bob Young, founder of self-publishing site Lulu which organised and sponsored the prize." US cook wins blogging book prize BBC Online, 3 April 2006.
But, as it turns out, the term has been in existence since before the advent of blogging, as the Wikipedia entry details: blook was a term coined to refer to objects made to look like books, but which were not (a shortening of "looks like a book". There is more than one contender for recognition as the originator of the term, but I'm more interested in learning about the variety of things to which it might refer. There is a "Blooker Prize for Blooks" (formerly called the Lulu Blooker Prize) that has been in existence for about 2 years, and serves as a great introduction to a number of "blooks" out there.
An expanded idea of the blook comes up in this article in the Guardian about a phenomenon in which writers of non-fiction books essentially keep writing: the dedicated book blog (what Graeme Thomson calls, with a wince, the "blook") but here he is talking about the extension of a bounded text (print object or its audio or visual reproduction) into a site that acts as a repository for related material or acts an extension of a conversation about it. "A new stage in the life-cycle of content" is what the Blooker Prize site calls it, and that will have to do for now.
Ana Clavel's two book related sites are examples of how the creation of a book also inspires the creation of art, installations, events, and post-publications conversations: Cuerpo naúfrago and Las Violetas son flores del deseo.
"A good book blog (or – must we? - "blook") becomes a supplementary text, a place to explain, elucidate, apologise, dig deeper."He gives as one example the blog/blook of Alex Ross, the music critic for the New Yorker, has won The Guardian First Book award for a work of non-fiction for The Rest is Noise. His "blook" extends the book itself with audio files, a little video about the book, an archive of reviews, and other features that function, as Thomson says, like the special features of a DVD, and an expansion of the world referenced by the book over time.
Thursday, December 04, 2008
"Cuttlefish are great to work with because they don't stick themselves to the bottoms of tanks like octopuses do. And you don't have to house them separately like you do with octopuses—you can put them together in one large tank, which is much easier for cleaning and maintenance and feeding and all that. In terms of their performance in experiments, octopuses are unbelievably erratic. One day they will be brilliant and for the next five days they'll act like they don't know anything at all. So it actually takes pretty intense statistics to figure out what they know and don't know. In the past, I've had more consistent performances from cuttlefish, although sometimes they like to be erratic, too. In general I've had an easier time interpreting their performances, and they are more consistent than octopuses are."
Cuttlefish bonus: The Digital Cuttlefish
Monday, December 01, 2008
I want to hope that Obama's agenda will be implemented, sooner or later. As Al Giordano at The Field reminds us, our new foreign policy team has some promises to keep regarding this hemisphere, too.
Birdchick has actual photos of this event in the Minnesota sky. Thanks to her tweet, I ran out and was able to see it as well. Bob Collins has posted another photo at MPR's Newscut blog, but from Kenya. So amazing! I hope there are some more photos posted, maybe at NASA's site, Astronomy Picture of the Day.
But never mind the astronomy, what do the astrologists have to say about this important event?