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July 2008

Six shooter and the right to own guns

I have an essay for the Ethnographic Praxis in Industry Conference due, so I have to keep it short. I just wanted to ponder the Supreme Court's 2nd Amendment decision on the individual's right to own guns.

Now gun ownership is one of those areas in which I agree with Chris Rock, "No normal decent person is one thing. OK!?! I got some shit I'm conservative about, I got some shit I'm liberal about. Crime - I'm conservative. Prostitution - I'm liberal."

Gun ownership is one of those areas that in spite of viewing Bowling for Columbine 1000 times, I'm "conservative" about, but for liberal reasons and with some caveats. First the caveats, I believe in the individual right to own guns, but there should be restrictions on the types of guns. I do not think semi-automatic or automatic weapons of any kind are valid weapons for hunting or home self-defense, and thus such be banned. I believe that every gun owner should have a license and have required training or be able to pass a "shooting" test in the way that you have to pass a driving test to get a drivers license.

Now the Constitutional issue of the 2nd Amendment hinges on whether gun ownership is permissible for those only part of a militia. The 5-4 split vote was that individuals could own guns without being part of a militia. I agree with this decision because of the underlying assumption behind the 2nd Amendment is that you cannot trust the government to protect you (i.e. Redcoats in your house), thus need to have means of self-defense of the home, community, etc. Granted this was before the standing army, but due to US history with the African-American community (and other communities as well), I do not think it is prudent to trust the government so much that you give up the means to defend your community against potential abuse of power.

The first action of any totalitarian regime is to disarm any oppositional factions. Yes, I might trust an Obama administration, but if for some reason it becomes a totalitarian regime, I want to be able to defend myself against the National Guard or US Military if it rolls tanks down my street.

But you might say, most of the weapons are being used to kill innocent children in drive by shootings. This is where the caveats become important from a policy perspective although I understand the reality of gun theft and running, so that requiring licenses and training does not help the situation. I get it. But, one of the important messages of Bowling for Columbine was that it was not the amount of guns on the streets that caused the rates of homicide in the US, but rather the culture of fear propagated by the media and unscrupulous politicians. Eliminating individual gun ownership may seem to be the most practical solution to gun-related violence, but I would want to approach things from a different perspective. I'd make policies that would require broadcasters to make sure that 50% of their content covered "positive" news. If the FCC can regulate sex, it should regulate violence in the media by saying "Okay, you can have your Murder/Death/Kill, but you have to give equal time to Compassion/Life/Alturism."

Now the irony of all this is that I do not own a gun, nor do I desire to own one.


Feelin' better

Jerry is back to his old self today. I am at 75%. Last night I volunteered for the Biennial gala. It was very beautiful and fascinating to see Santa Fe's art glitteroti.

It was shockingly lacking in diversity. Besides myself and the artist Nadine, there were no other African-Americans. There were only a hand full of Native Americans, Hispanics, Latinos, and Asians.

Today, I am hanging out at the Santa Fe Opera, telling people when the next bus is coming. I'll make sure to bring a book and my camera to take pictures of the sculptures there.

Now, I'm off to the farmer's market.


Ain't no cure for the summertime flu

So today, Jerry and I are sick. Jerry won't eat and was lethargic during his walk this morning. I'm trying to figure out if his teeth are bothering him, but he won't even eat the yogurt this morning.

I have a flu or at least checking my symptomology it is the flu, not a cold:

  1. Fever: didn't check but I've been having the sweats, which are indicative of a fever
  2. Headache, big time. I though I was going to die yesterday until I took two Advils
  3. Aches and pains, all over.
  4. Fatigue/weakness, I feel super weak. All I want to do is lie down and watch Law and Order reruns.
  5. Extreme exhaustion, walking Jerry this morning was so difficult.
  6. Stuffy nose, sneezing, sore throat: yep, but these are more often cold symptoms
  7. Chest discomfort, just started today.

Tonight is the gala for the opening of SITE Santa Fe Biennial. I am supposed to be working tonight, but I think I will have to skip the after party and go to bed.


SITE Santa Fe Biennial

Experimentation, Ephemeral, Experience, Collaboration, and Community. These are the five words that Lance Fung, curator of the SITE Santa Fe Biennial, Lucky Number Seven, used to describe the essence of the art experiences.

Yesterday, I attended a walk-thru and lecture given by Lance to prepare the guides and docents. I believe the hype that this is a totally different framework for an artistic experience for artists, communities, and the art world. In order to free the artists from the constrains of market driven pressures, the works commissioned from the 22 emerging artists had to be hand-made and ephemeral. The idea is that if the artist knows that the work will never go to market because it is recycled, reused, destroyed, or in some very special cases, gifted to children or a community; he or she will produce more experimental art.

What most impresses me, as an anthropologist, was Lance's desire to make the Biennial a collaborative experience. All the work had to be site-specific to Santa Fe. So the artists were brought all together last April to visit Santa Fe and get to learn about one another. They spoke with community members and everyday Santa Feans. They visited museums, pueblos, Los Alamos, Roswell, etc.  These experience resulted in not just community among the artists (which as he narrated is very rare for an art exhibit) but also community between the artists and Santa Fe's multiple communities (Anglo, Hispanic, Latino, Native American, etc.) Much of the work, such as the Hiroshi FujiSan's project with the recycled bottles, were local + artist collaborations, including a slew of interns from all over.

The Biennial is going to be an amazing experience of art, but my experience of participating as a volunteer really reflects the essence of what it is about. Through my participation, I've experimented with new forms of expression (plastic bottle sculptures), my presence is ephemeral (I leave in five weeks), I've had and shared amazing experiences with people through collaboration, and most important, I've found a community. It will probably be Diasporic, but I will share a bond with everyone who I met.

The Biennial opens this Friday, if you are in the area, do come.  Here is the link to the Biennial documentary, check out Lance's video and the video's of the artists.


NYC Last Week

So I was in NYC last week for the Mellon-Mays SSRC 20th anniversary gala. The Mellon-Mays SSRC program takes underrepresented college students and prepares them for professorial academic careers, mostly in the humanities and social sciences. They provide lots of funding, including research grants and pay off up to $10K in undergraduate and graduate college loans. The hold annual conferences and workshops for networking and mentorship.

This was the first conference that I had attended and I probably will not attend another one. The conference itself was great, but since I'd never attended previous ones, I did not have a clique to join. And the groups were extremely cliquish. But it was cool to be around really intelligent and accomplished people of color and be able to have spontaneous conversations about middle class black masculinity and the performance of law. I did get to meet some people from Bryn Mawr College at the reception and that was cool.

The Mellon-Mays SSRC program is a great model for increasing diversity in academia, which makes me think about what it would take to do this sort of program for the field of design.

The rest of NYC was a social whirlwind as usual. I got in on Wednesday afternoon and checked into one of the dorms at Columbia University. I had never spent time on the Upper West Side/Harlem. The area is really nice with the river and the parks. There is a good vibe and it doesn't feel as crowded as Mid-town. I met with Manual on 125th Street in Harlem where he treated me to some really good vegetarian Jamaican food and ginger brew. I had the beans and rice, fake chicken curry, and collard greens. We then went to see Amateur Night at the Apollo. That was hellva fun. The audience was about 1/3 white and 2/3rds of color (mostly black and latino), which led to some interesting dynamics with the MC. Most of the jokes were about making fun of blacks, latinos, and dissin on whites. It feels awkward to diss on whites when they are in the audience. Anyway, most of the talent were mediocre (not exceptional but not bad enough to boo of the stage). About three performers were really great.

Thursday before the Mellon Mays SSRC program, I took the 1 Train from Columbia U to 22nd street to make a 9AM conference call with Leilah and Leah Rico of AIGA at AIGA headquarters. We went over a design and strategy project we are doing for them.  Then, I took the F Train from 23rd to the MoMA where I had a meeting 10:30 AM with Ric Grefe.

He knows a lot about art, which makes sense considering his wife is an artist. It's just that one rarely gets to interact with him outside of work projects and strategy. There was some work in terms of asking follow up questions to the design and strategy project and he was doing a hard sell on some design policy stuff that he wanted me to get involved with, but I said no.  It was sooo hard to say no, but it was the best thing for me to do.

He had a call at noon and I had to get back uptown for the MM-SSRC stuff. Then Friday AM, I had breakfast with Saki Mafundikwa, the Zimbabwean director of ZIVA, and his 6-year old son, about his participation in a Black Designers Forum we are holding at the UIC -Motorola Innovation Center in August.

I then caught my plane to Denver, which ended up being late so I missed my connecting flight at 5:30pm MT. They rebooked me on the 9:30pm MT flight which was delayed until 11:00 PM, which meant that I missed the last Sandia Shuttle from Albuquerque to Santa Fe, which meant I had to pay $200 for a private limo. I got in at 2:00AM MT and Jerry kept me up all night because he was both excited I was back and pissed off that I had left him for 3 days.

Everyone at Casa Del Toros took care of him, so he had a good time without me. He was taken on long walks to the river and given lots of petting and treats. I really love Santa Fe.

So now I finished the introductory chapter of my book, In Design We Trust, yippeee!!! But that's another post.


Final Sculpture for SITE Santa Fe

So today I spent all day finishing my sculpture.
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Here is the view from below, which is what most people will see when it is hanging from the lamp post.

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Although I did not have time to do this, I am glad I did for two reasons:

  1. It is good to make something creative with your hands. I've not had the opportunity to do so in  along time.
  2. I got to meet really cool Santa Feans and visiting interns. So now I have people to go to farmers market with or take African dance with. I've particularly bonded with Dakota and Alicia, with whom I'm taking the dance class  tomorrow night after writing.

Yesterday, I spent the day with Gong Szeto, Bonnie Schwartz (his wife) and Willow (his daughter). I know they are going to read this, but trust me that I would say the same thing if they were not.  :)

They are truly good souls, smart and funny people, who think very deeply about the world, yet are still able to engage with it openly. The best thing that will come out of spending the summer here in Santa Fe will hopefully be the friendship I establish with them.


Sculptress of Plastic Ristras: SITE Santa Fe Biennial

Sorry, I haven't been posting. From some reason, not all of the posts from my mobile phone have been going through. For the last three days, I have been playing artist at the SITE Santa Fe. We are preparing for the biennial in a couple of weeks. A bunch of interns and community artists are helping to build these sculptures based on the work of Hiroshi Fuji, an emerging Japanese artists who does sculptures out of plastic bottles.

So we got to wash bottles the first day. It was actually fun because there was lots of women, so we would gossip and wash like women probably used to do when they went down to the river. A lot of people did not come back in the afternoon because they wanted to do only the fun making part not the preparations.

The second day and third day, I've worked on my sculpture, which was to create a ristra out of plastic bottles. Ristras are the strings of dry chilies that people hang on doors here in Santa Fe. I made two of them with the help of Dakota, a local artist in clay, and it took over 45 green and blue plastic bottles. Then I made four small non-chili ristras to fill out the space because the armatures cannot show when they are placed on top of the parking lot lights at the Santa Fe Opera.

Here is what it looked like at the end of yesterday. The blue green color makes it look like sea kelp, but then as someone pointed out (it looks very nourishing) which means it looks like a bunch of nipples. I will go back this AM to work on it. Then at 12:30pm, I meet Bonnie and Willow, who are the family of Gong Szeto, who I only know virtually, but will meet for the first time today.

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VPs for Obama

So it seems that Barack Obama has wrapped up the Democratic Presidential nomination. Yippeee!!!! So now the question is who will be VP. I still feel a tug in my heart for an Obama/Clinton ticket. Out of other prospects that have been floating about my second favorite will be Bill Richardson on NM. He is probably one of the most seasoned, smart, progressive, and nice politicians around. If Obama cannot stomach Hillary, he would do well to be able to capitalize on Richardson's experience of how Washington works, which is what Obama needs even if he is going to do things differently. You have to know how things have run in the past before you can change them.

Not to sound cynical (I got Wyclef Jean's If I Was President in my head), the VP candidate is going to be super important. Because if Barack does become the first black president, he will be a major target. And if that worst-case-scenario comes to pass, cities will burn.

But for now, I am full of hope and optimism and pride in America that we can see the day when we can have a black presidential candidate. Yippee!!!