Sisters of Avalon

September 30, 2009

For my International Studies in Human Rights course this week, I’m reading Disposable People: New Slavery in the Global Economy. My copy has been used at least once before, and the margins are only somewhat stained with the former owner’s comments. His/her hot pink pen scribbles and underlines pieces I agree with, and I readily underline over her own markings. My comments sometimes overlap with hers, or they stand on their own. Other times I can only underline and put exclamation points by her notes.

This kind of dialogue can’t happen in a Kindle. While I may never meet this person, and as Billy Collins has so beautifully written, I have established a melancholy relationship with the previous reader, which makes my experience that much richer. The margins are fat and begging to be taken and deflowered. I’ve claimed them as my own. My dark blue ink collides with the previous person’s hot pink – an illustration and tribute to accessible knowledge. At the end of the book, Kevin Bales asks that the reader pass on the book to further the education. I am all too ready to give this book to someone else. Let the dialogue continue.


The Boy Who Harnessed the Wind

September 28, 2009

In case you aren’t aware, the book The Boy Who Harnessed the Wind comes out tomorrow. It’s about a young man in Malawi during the famine who pulls together scraps to make a windmill for his family as a way to harness energy. Chad Farris writes a bit more on the book and the subject. I finished reading Three Cups of Tea a couple months ago, which I enjoyed, but I’m much more excited about this book. I believe this one will be more about development and sustainability starting from within the community. And that’s a beautiful thing.

I need to get back to work, but I’m just so excited for this book that I needed to post something.


“School is very important. Your mama is right.”

September 25, 2009

I really can’t believe the TEA party protest really happened. But you know what? It goes to show that education needs to be a priority. I’ve yet to see a facetious video of a left-wing protest, but I’m sure they’re similar. Either way, this video illustrates our country’s dire need for better education and stronger values.

The population does not seem to understand how to read and/or process news and information. Maybe if the government stopped cutting funds to our education system, more people would understand why or how the government functions and operates the way it does.

The most difficult issue is promoting value in education. I want people to make informed choices. I want people to know as much as they possibly can in order to make the best decision and strongest arguments. At this point I don’t care whether people associate with Republicans or Democrats. Just give people the tools to think for themselves. (I do believe, however, that if education improves and options expand, people will become more moderate, but possibly lean towards a liberal approach to issues.)

And as for my own personal peeves with universal health care, just look at some of these people. Do you really want to keep these people alive as long as possible? I know, I know, health care is a universal human right, but come on. You agree with me a little bit, don’t you? As New Left Media illustrates, these people don’t always know what they’re fighting for or against. That’s not a health problem. That’s an education and accessible information problem.

So continue your fight for universal health care, but I, for one, will push the fight for education. But I’d like to see you convince me otherwise.


Robert Mapplethorpe House: Day One

September 17, 2009

I just taught my first photography class at the Robert Mapplethorpe house. It’s very different from teaching high schoolers, but I think I’ll enjoy it. I feel I have less in common with them, but it makes for an interesting discussion. They saw the series Down in the Park by Yoshiyuki Kohei  in an issue of Aperture, and they thought it was horrible and that they shouldn’t be published or taken. It’s a good point: who wants to see these things?, though we didn’t explore voyeurism at length. Also looking at A Village Destroyed, some thought they could take the pictures, others said they wouldn’t want to. The ones who said they could do it said it’s because the story needs to be told. I liked that.

So far I’m excited because they seem excited. I think next week I’ll bring in a few more photo books (now that I know what they like), and hopefully we’ll start taking pictures. Hopefully.


Do the KFC

September 15, 2009

I don’t know why, but lately I’ve been thinking about chicken. More specifically, I’ve been thinking about animal rights and how they pertain to chickens. Here’s what I’ve been thinking: anything that can survive without a head doesn’t need rights.

Sure, Mike the Chicken still had some of his brain stem attached. But how many living beings could survive with most of its head/brain cut away? And besides, what else do chickens provide? Even if you do let them graze, what are they contributing to the great circle of life (besides their tasty selves as food)? I don’t know the history of chickens before we domesticated them, but I can’t imagine they did much. Furthermore, I don’t think chickens can really tell the difference between being locked in a cage and living in an open field. How good of a life can a chicken have anyway?

I believe the bigger concern regarding chickens is their energy use. I understand that it generally takes twice the amount of energy to produce meat than it does vegetables. Does it take more energy to keep them locked up or to let them roam? I’ve heard arguments for both sides, but if free range farming is truly more efficient, then I would absolutely support it. Chickens don’t need rights. The world needs to be energy efficient.


Tumblin Down

September 13, 2009

(Please note: I’ve been meaning to write this post since the end of August. Now that my senior year of undergrad has started, I don’t think I’ll be posting as often, but we’ll see…)

I don’t know if you’ve heard about the Doctors Without Borders most recent ad. Apparently it’s stirring up some dialogue in the NGO and health care development world. Our friends at Aid Watch talked about it, and our buddy at Transitionland wrote about it as well. I’ve decided to give my two cents, just for gits and shiggles.

The horror people feel is like what they see (or should see) in human rights and documentary photography. We are attracted to pain. This particular ad, however, plays on a different dirty desire. The image remains the same: a desolate land with a concrete building in the foreground. (Why Aid Watch takes it upon themselves to assume it’s Africa, I have no idea.) Then a soundtrack plays of a child wailing and crying. The text that appears on the screen tells the audience that militia raped his sisters and clubbed his parents to death, and then it says, in seemingly innocent white lettering “We Can’t Operate Without Your Help.”

I agree to some extent with Transitionland. This is what MSF does. If you’ve been gazing at pictures from Abu Ghraib, Vietnam, and Chernobyl, and you can watch movies like Hotel Rwanda, Inglorious Basterds, and Saving Private Ryan, and looking at goodness knows what other imagery is out there, then you can watch this ad. If the commercial makes your stomach twist, then it’s done its job, don’t you think? It sucks that making you feel that way is its job.

But it’s not the imagery that makes you a little sick – it’s the audio. And that’s what I find so amazing about this ad. Is it just as much of a violation of dignity if the audio is heard, rather than an image seen? If the image of the boy crying and having an operation played on your screen, would you be more outraged and disgusted? Or would you have accepted it as more NGO promotional imagery? And this is what I loved about Transitionland’s post. She included more ads that are clearly worse (in different ways) than the most recent MSF ad. I don’t know about the discussions surrounding those ads, but I imagine it could be similar to the ones revolving around this one.

So congratulations MSF for promoting further discussion about your work by means of a more dignifying way. I’m interested to see how NGO promotional media will progress.


Wander My Friends

September 4, 2009

I had a Twitter discussion with Alanna Shaikh regarding pictures she posted on her wall of shame. The ads, marketing, and ex-pat no-nos is fine. They bring attention to things that are wrong with development and aid work. She also had an image up of a child, who appeared to be a burn victim or mine victim or some other unnatural cause. I said it shouldn’t be up there because it only perpetuates the problem. Her response was that “someone needs to call that woman out” and “Re: gaze. My thought was the horse was already out of that barn.” It seems like a reasonable assumption. If the damage is already done – if the picture has already been taken – what’s the harm in posting it one more time?

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