Wednesday, April 26, 2017

Absurd Products

I've just heard of The Grommet, a catalog that aggregates inventions to sell to consumers. Some of the items are mildly interesting, but more are ridiculous. I laughed out loud at a few.

First was the Trtl:


It's not so much the product in this case (though that's funny enough). No, it was the photo of this guy in his plaid shirt with his dark facial hair blending into the dark fabric of the neck restraint. Really a bad shot. It's almost as if his jaw has gone into another dimension.

Then there was the Couch Coaster:


Which is such a quintessentially modern American product. How much of a couch potato would you have to be for it to be worth it to have such a thing? How often would you use it? But that's just it; The Grommet doesn't exist so much for you to buy things you need and will use; it's so other people can buy gifts they think their friends or family will use.

And finally, the Critter Catcher:


That is so, so lame. Why not buy a three-foot piece of plastic when improvising with something like a broom and dustpan you already own would do just as well. Oh, I see, it makes it possible to capture the creature without harming it.

Don't care. It's still a lame waste of plastic.

Tuesday, April 25, 2017

Good Riddance to the Liberty Square Monument

Yesterday, the city of New Orleans removed a monument, with workers starting before dawn to decrease attention. When they tried to remove the monument at an earlier point, the contractor's car was burned. This time, the monument was removed without incident.

I had assumed the monument marked some aspect of the Civil War, but no. It commemorated the so-called Battle of Liberty Place, which happened during Reconstruction in September 1874. Like the Wilmington Massacre, it was an example of white supremacists trying to overthrow an elected multiracial government.

The White League (also called the White Men's League) fought the duly appointed police of New Orleans, killing 100 people. Just another example of Blue Lives Mattering, I guess. They were finally defeated by U.S. troops sent in by then-president Ulysses S. Grant.

None of the White League members were ever charged with a crime.

The presidential election of 1876 saw the Congressional compromise that led to the end of Reconstruction (when Republican Hayes was elected president with a minority of the popular vote). By 1891, New Orleans was firmly in the hands of white supremacists and they erected the monument to praise the insurrection. In 1932, an inscription was added that read in part:

United States troops took over the state government and reinstated the usurpers but the national election of November 1876 recognized white supremacy in the South and gave us our state.
I'm glad it's gone. This is one that's not even worth keeping in a museum, in my opinion. The history of what happened in Liberty Square is important to know and preserve, but the monument itself should end up on the trash heap of eternity.

Monday, April 24, 2017

The Ugliest Shoes

Another random-photo-from-my-iPhoto-archive post for today:


Taken in September 2013, as seen at TurnStyle in Roseville, Minnesota.

Sunday, April 23, 2017

Ebony Thomas on Black Names

It's common among white Americans to disparage black people for naming their children as they do. There is clear evidence that people with “black” names are discriminated against in job searches. In the past, I’ve cited Ta-Nehisi Coates on this topic, when he wrote,

Would love to read a history of naming. Strongly suspect that there's nothing particularly original about "making up" names. So much of this just comes down to cultural ("racist") snobbery. You hate "Shaniqua." But why precisely? Seriously why? ...not sure why naming your kid "George Washington" because you think he'll have presidential properties is any more legit.
Ebony Thomas (@Ebonyteach), assistant professor at the University of Pennsylvania Graduate School of Education, yesterday tweeted a series of thoughts on this that I found instructive and want to be able to refer to later:
Nothing's wrong with our names. I'm glad that my name is Ebony. It signals my ethnicity. Something IS wrong with antiblackness, though.

We face discrimination [from] our names not because of what's inherent in a particular collection of sounds, but because racism exists.

Black American coined names are just more evidence of our creativity. For instance, some parents will use a portmanteau of their own names.

Our names? Handed down from history. Linguists can tell you about the La- prefix's origins from Creole, Greek names from enslaved ancestors.

Whatever you think of their politics, "Barack" and "Condoleezza" aren't exactly "Jack" and "Jill." They were who they were even with their names.

Stop repeating deficit, antiblack nonsense. Your screeching and laughter about our Black American names sounds like nails on a chalkboard.

Our names have deep meaning. This noise is nothing but antiblack, poverty-shaming, slavery-denying ignorance.

Black Americans can't pull our names from other cultures without being accused of appropriation OR coin our own names without being shamed.

(If we have names from Arabic or African languages? We're appropriating.
European or Asian ones? We're wannabes.
Invent our own? Ha! Memes!)

We even somehow "taint" names that came from other languages or cultures if we bestow it on too many of our kids. Exhibit A is "Tyrone."

Poking fun at the descendants of enslaved people (torn from their ancestors!) for having the audacity to freely choose names is disgusting.

You don't hate the name. It's a *word.*
You don't hate the way it's spelled, either, because you're speaking English.
You hate us.
/rant
That point about Tyrone is a good one (as are all her points, of course). Just as Evelyn became a woman's name, despite Evelyn Waugh, Tyrone is now a black name, despite Sir Tyrone Guthrie.

Saturday, April 22, 2017

March for Science

Minnesota got the good weather for the March for Science, while it was raining in Washington, D.C. Lots of photos.

First, the sign I made:


(I made a mistake in the spacing on the last line, so rather than waste a piece of cardboard I improvised.)

There were a lot of people there. I'm hearing estimates of 10,000, but if the Women's March was 100,000 as reported by police, I'd guess it was at least 20,000 from how long the march was and how full the area in front of the Capitol was.










This sign was made and carried by the child hidden behind the guy in the brown jacket:


It amused me because she has a pegasus unicorn saying that science is real. Not sure if it's intended to be ironic or not.
















Looking through the photos I've chosen here (out of two or three times as many I took) I realize I've selected a disproportionate number about climate change. But that's a major part of why the denigration of science matters, in my opinion, so I can't apologize.

Friday, April 21, 2017

Northern Spark

For today I went to a random spot in my iPhoto library and found these photos from June 2015. They're from Northern Spark, an all-night art festival in the Twin Cities that's been happening for about five years.

Northern Spark is known for the works that use projection onto buildings, and 2015 was a good example of this. People at the festival could have their live images projected onto the grain elevator adjacent to the Mill City Museum in Minneapolis:


That was pretty cool.

The other installation I took a lot of photos of that night was called mini_polis. It was an idealized, miniature version of Minneapolis by Niko Kubota, Jon Reynolds, and Micah Roth. When I was there a live concert was happening right next to it so people were standing on the wooden buildings to get a better view, which explains all of the feet you see in these shots:






This is my favorite image, possibly of all time:


Northern Spark 2017 will be held June 10–11, starting at 9:00 p.m. Saturday and running through 5:30 a.m. Sunday. The theme is Climate Chaos | People Rising. There are seven areas to visit, all located along the Green Line light rail from the Vikings Stadium in Minneapolis to Union Depot in Lowertown, St. Paul. I believe the trains will be free that night.

Worth attending if you're in the area. Full info here.

Thursday, April 20, 2017

Letters Written in Grass

I saw this in the grass alongside a gas station in Liverpool, New York:


That's UNL as in "unleaded," I guess, but I'm not totally sure how it was supposed to be used in the signage at the station.

It lay upon the grass, showing grass blades through the letters, and I knew that if I lifted it up, I'd see more letters printed by the sun:


And sure enough, there they were.

Wednesday, April 19, 2017

The Turnip and the Bunny

Lots of folks have commented on this photo from the Easter event at the White House:


The most common was a joke about it referred to the movie Donnie Darko, which is pretty funny if you've seen that film.

But I prefer this photo:


The turnip may have small hands, but his ears are getting really big.

Tuesday, April 18, 2017

Old Stuff from Cortland, New York

American small towns and cities are places of beauty. Recently I was in Cortland, New York, and got the chance to look at details around the downtown.

First, a fire station. This is a fire station. It's still used as a fire station:


It looks like they've replaced the big doors, but other than that... all original.

These fantastic sculptures flank the doors to a public gymnasium in the back of City Hall:


I'm not sure if the building used to be a high school or if it has always been a public gym provided by the city. But I love the heroic-sized girl figure. For the era it was built (1930s, based on the style), that's unusual.

The Cortland Standard newspaper was founded in 1867 and still publishes daily. Their building is beautiful (see more of it here), but here's a shot of the lettering over the door and some of the brick and stone:


Somewhere along Main Street, I saw this vintage (or possibly retro) State Farm graphic:


Cortland still has a video store, so it may not surprise you that it also still has an independently owned office supply store downtown, which may or may not still sell typewriters:


Note the Diehl fan hanging from the ceiling at left; there's one in the other window, too.

The bottom of this fire hydrant is an ad for another upstate New York city, Elmira:


This sign is not right in downtown, but I had to include it:


This antique fire box stands along Main Street. I don't remember having heard of the Gamewell fire box before:


I also don't know if it's still in use in Cortland, or just kept for historical purposes. Someone has been trying to maintain the paint job:


They're well intended, if not exactly skilled.

Monday, April 17, 2017

Health Barrels

You never know what you'll see in a public restroom. Whether it's diaper-changing stations or instructions on what not to flush, it's worth keeping your eyes open for oddities while answering the call of nature.

A few days ago I saw this in a women's restroom at an Indian restaurant:


It appears to be a small waste basket with a lid, but it was next to a larger, lidless waste basket. I'm not entirely sure what it was for, and the odd name "health barrels" made it even more confusing. Is it perhaps for unmentionable feminine products?

I have no idea.

Sunday, April 16, 2017

It May Be a Bit Fishy

I don't know whether this is funny or a sign of our culture's ability to turn sovereign, specific things into marketing:


I associate piranhas with security, don't you?

As seen on the back of a semi-trailer along I-94 in Wisconsin.

Saturday, April 15, 2017

Remembering the Fairness Doctrine

Nothing goes wrong immediately when a policy changes. Even the worst policy changes don't take effect right away, as they roll out over days, months, and years.

The Fairness Doctrine was one policy that changed under Ronald Reagan. It used to require broadcast media to provide balance in their coverage of politics. Its loss took some time to metastasize, so much so that it escapes notice as a major cause of our current political divide.

Some people like to blame social media for the chasm, but as a recent study found, the less people use social media, the bigger the divide, so that's not it. Instead, it comes from listening to right-wing talk radio, watching Fox News, and the way they've driven crazy into the mainstream, to the point where Alex Jones and Breitbart start to seem reasonable.

All those radio stations and Fox are made possible by the death of the Fairness Doctrine.

It can't be changed back, especially when it comes to the interweb. Part of the legal basis for the Fairness Doctrine was that broadcast frequencies were a limited resource, owned by the public (in contrast with newspapers and, later, cable channels and the web).

But it's a useful example of how policy changes have huge effects. Remember it and be cautious about change, when you get a chance.