Guest Post – On the Anniversary of the Murrieta Protests


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unnamedNote: My friend Monica Romero-Curiel had some experience with the children bused in at Murrieta California. I asked her to write something about the events as she remembered them, and thankfully she sent the following. I’ve edited it a bit, but for the most part I’ve tried to preserve the tone of her own writing. I think she has a very interesting story to tell.

I hope you agree.

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It’s been a year since America, and the rest of the world, got to know Murrieta, CA. It wasn’t a pretty sight.

In the months prior, the United States had been overwhelmed with a  tide of Central American children and minors entering illegally. Parents desperate enough were sending their children alone to the US in the hopes they would be granted asylum. Encouraged by false promises from smugglers who painted these amazing stories on how in North America they keep the kids and help them build a better life.

There is a glitch on the America’s immigration system that makes the staying in USA rather easy.  smugglers knew about it. When the United States gets Mexican immigrants trying to cross the border illegally, they get deported almost immediately. The same can not be done with Central American immigrants who get detained, processed and eventually released in the US, sometimes with family members, friends, etc. After that, they get a month notice to appear at an immigration office. This almost never actually happens and immigrants simply start a living without documents in the US.  This is the source of the chaos we all saw last year.

Most of these little immigrants were detained in Texas, but their facilities were just overloaded. Texas needed help from other states in processing the rising number of minors. One of the States that were willing to help was California and the kids were sent in buses to different counties to be processed.

Enter Murrieta.

Word got out that kids were being transported there and a group of people started organizing to make sure “illegal aliens” were turned away. Sadly, the whole world got to know Murrieta through the protests. When the buses arrived, the protesters blocked the way screaming at the buses full of kids who didn’t quite understand what was going on.  People held nasty signs and kept screaming at the kids.  I got to watch all of this on TV, I could see the kids’ faces full of terror, and crying and it broke my heart.  I can’t understand how people can be that vile to children.  When some of the protesters were interviewed, it was clear to me that they didn’t really understand why the kids were there, they wanted them out of town.

I went to bed that night and all I could think of was the kids’ faces looking through the window at the people shouting; “DEPORT, DEPORT !” Some of the protesters kept screaming that they wanted an America without people coming over and take away their rights. I wasn’t clear to me which rights they were referring to, or how children were taking them. These kids just needed to be processed and, sadly, send back to their crime ridden country.

The next morning I woke up and I started searching for more news about this. The buses had been turned around and redirected to different places.  I went to work and while I was driving, I kept thinking how the kids must feel. They were alone, their parents had left them by themselves and I was sure they were scared. When I got to work, the news kept showing the confrontation between angry protesters and pro-immigration activists. Ironically, by blocking the entrance to the town, the protesters effectively delayed the deportation process and obstructed law enforcement (a crime in itself).

I found out some of these kids had been abused by drug criminals/thugs in their own country. Most of these crimes never get reported for the fear of retaliation. I found out the majority of these kids were from Honduras, a country that has the world’s highest murder rate, others were from some of the poorer rural areas of Guatemala and El Salvador.

Their story touched me.

I have been living in the USA for 27 yrs but I haven’t lost my accent, so I have encountered racism quite a few times.  I imagined how the kids must have felt after seeing people shout and spit at them (people were spitting at the buses).

Local municipalities and churches sent word requesting the public’s help. Families that could host some of these kids for a few days while they were being processed, mostly seeking bilingual people so that it could help the kids feel at ease. I called the place where they had a group of these kids in Fontana, CA. and offered my house to a couple of children. They took my number down and they called me the next day. They had 3 siblings from Honduras who they didn’t want to separate and wanted to see if we were willing to take them. I said yes immediately.  Even though I wasn’t sure if I was able to afford it, I thought since my family is big as it is 3 little kids wouldn’t make much of a difference.

The next day, my son and I went to pick up the children. When I saw the kids I broke down crying. They look exhausted, hungry, and scared. At first they were hesitant when I started talking to them, so we stayed around the place a little longer until they seemed a bit more comfortable with us. We have a spare room, so they were going to be able to sleep together. The kids’ ages were 4, 6 and 7. The little girl was the oldest.

That day we got home, we fed them and showered them. The next day we took them to the park where they, being kids, enjoyed running up and down a little hill. The 4 yr old kept asking me when he was going to see his mom. You could see his little face getting sad every time he talked about her. I told him; “soon.” Then he hugged me with a very tight embrace that it was so hard for me to hold back my tears, I didn’t want him to see me cry. I watched them in awe holding hands, the little girl acting protective with their younger siblings.  When we got home, she began to feel more comfortable with us, so she started sharing stories of her town. She talked about how at night, they are supposed to lock all the windows with a big pole, so no one is able to open them from the outside. She also talked about food. She kept telling us how she felt so full now and that sometimes the 4 year old is the only one who eats a second meal a day because he needs it, so he can grow tall and strong. You could see the 4 year old’s face blushing as if feeling ashamed he has to eat a bit more than his siblings.

The 6 year old wasn’t talking as much as his sister. Out of the 3, he looked more frail. I knew he needed more time to feel comfortable at my house.  I spared them from any type of images on the TV about the nasty confrontations that kept still going on between activists and protesters.

That night, I asked the kids if they wanted to do something in particular, since I had to take a week off from work I was able to spend more time with them. The 7 year old looked at me and with the reddest face possible she asked if we could drive by Disneyland, they wanted to find out how it looked. That comment touched me so deeply, as I knew even though she was so young, she was aware that it would cost money they didn’t have, so she was settling with just the option to look at Disneyland from the outside. I told them we could, as long as they were able to go to bed earlier. The 6 year old jumped and went straight to my son and hugged him so hard and said; “thank you.” It was hard to keep our eyes dry in front of them.

The next morning the subtle noises from their bedroom woke me up, it was only 7am and the 7 y/o had already made their bed and was trying to comb his little brother’s hair. I just didn’t know how to react, I’m not used to kids being that independent at such a young age, so I told her I would finish it. The 6 year old was particularly chatty this time, and he was telling us he is used to get up at 5am every day to go with his dad to get fresh made bread so his mom can prepare some sort of sandwiches that she sells in the corner. And by the time they get back, it’s time for them to go school.

I just didn’t know what to say. I finished combing his brother’s hair and I asked them if I could hug the 3 of them and they answered me with a big hug. I was able to score tickets for them for Disneyland and they were laughing of excitement.  I would never forget the look in their little faces as they were handed their entry ticket.  Needless to say it was a long day for me, but the perfect day for them.  We exited the park around 10 pm, and we had to make a short walk to the car. My son took us through a short cut across the parking lot, and I noticed the 7 year old stopped cold. I asked what was wrong and she pointed at some tourist buses parked in the front. She asked me if I was going to leave them there. I assured her we were not and they looked at me and smile and held my hand tighter.

On our way back, the 3 of them were trying to sing different Disney songs and kept talking about every single thing they got to see.  I only kept thinking how difficult it would be for them the day they had to leave. That thought almost made me regret having signed up for this.

The next day the children woke up later than usual and went down to have breakfast. I just kept admiring that little 7 year old acting like a little mother to his 4 year old brother. It’s difficult to imagine all the things they have seen in their short life. As breakfast progressed, they kept getting more and more comfortable, so much that the 6 year old started talking about the day they were in the bus. He told us people kept hitting the bus and throwing things at it. One of the officers inside told them to sing songs, but his little brother at some point got too scared that he peed on his pants. The 4 year old got really offended and started to cry out of embarrassment. I told him it was normal to be scared once in a while and hugged him. The 7 year old kept quiet but got up to hug his little brother. I asked her if she had been scared too and she said that they were sitting down resting their heads on their laps, but the shouting and the hitting on the bus made most of them cry. The 6 year old told us that when they got down from the bus, they had to cover their heads with a little blanket so the mean people would not see them. The 4 year old kept hugging me but started asking for his mom. I promised him they would see her soon. In the meantime, I was trying my best not to cry with them.

I tried to change the subject because I wanted them to just be happy at the moment and forget about the atrocities going on, but the 6 year old kept talking. He was telling me that a friend of the family had this magazine with him one day, and there is where they saw pictures of Disneyland. He said that when the friend left the magazine unattended, he ripped the page that featured the Castle and placed it under one of the beds in their little house. The 7 year old interrupted him saying that it was that day when they went outside to play ball in front of the house, when a car pulled over across he street. Their parents had taught  them to come inside the house or to hide under a parked car when they thought something bad was happening. So when they saw the car coming to a screeching halt, they instinctively dropped to the ground and moved to the nearest parked car for cover. She said she was holding the 4 year old’s hand but she decided to cover his eyes instead. A guy jumped from the car holding some sort of a rifle and went inside the little house, it didn’t take long when he came out dragging a young man, who according to the 7 year old, was about 17/18 years old. Outside they kept shouting at each other while the siblings were moving underneath the car, when all of a sudden the teen tried to run away and the guy with the rifle just shot him. the shooter went to say something to him and started to kick him. Then, he just got into his car and drove away leaving the young  man there dying. Neighbors started gathering and called an ambulance, but she says they sometimes don’t even come and people have to ask around for help.  Their mother had already run outside looking for them and when she saw them, she took them inside the house.  She told me that while they were hiding, all that she could think about was the magazine with the pictures of the Castle and people smiling. That is why when their parents told them they were gonna send them to America, they thought about Disneyland.

My son asked if the children knew if any of their friends had been sent to America as well, and the 6 year old said that he didn’t think so, because in order to come you have to work really hard to save money. The 7 year old said she used to help cleaning a house for some lady who owns a store next to the school. I asked her  about her house-cleaning duties because I couldn’t think of a 7 year old working as a maid. It was just too much. She said that she had to sweep the whole house, make the beds and gather all the dirty clothes and put them inside a tub with soapy water. But that was only after school, because before school she helps her mom making the sandwiches she sells in the corner.

I just had to ask them how was the trip coming to America. They said they took a bus for days, and that a lady had been with them all the way until they arrived to Mexico. Once they got to Mexico, the smugglers moved them to a van with another group of people and left them on a warehouse for a few days. The 4 year old was quick to point out he didn’t like that, the warehouse had roaches that would crawled on top of them at night and also, they forgot to bring them food one whole day so they decided to sleep most of the day instead.  The 7 year old said she felt like crying most of the time, but she didn’t want to make her siblings cry more, because they were scared.

All I could think of was the people from Murrieta, how deplorable that adults would willingly scare these little kids that have been through enough, they’ve suffered enough trauma.

The smuggler came back the next morning and took one group to a van and they had to wait a little bit for him to come back for them, when he came back he had sandwiches and juices, he gave them to them and told them to be ready because they were the next group to leave. They devoured the sandwiches and grabbed the bag with clothes, then walked with the smuggler to the van.

In the van, the smuggler kept giving them instructions. He told them that once they crossed to America, a border patrol would find them and they would help them.  The 6 year old kept complaining with his sister about being warm, they had to wear two layers of clothing because they weren’t allowed to carry much inside their bags.

The smuggler took them to the edge of a river (which I’m assuming is the Rio Grande) and told them he had a raft hidden there that would take them across. So they got into the raft and in no time were across the river where another guy helped them get out and told them which path to follow. He said they shouldn’t worried because the border patrol would look for them and help them.  The children told me they walked quite a bit until a border patrol saw them and the kids ran towards it. They said it was much better after the patrol took them to the building because they weren’t cold or hungry. They were able to take a shower and change clothes.  The next day the officials explained they would load the children into a bus because they were going to California (Murrieta).

I asked the kids if they had any family here because I found it more troublesome that their parents would just send them without any adults waiting for them. They said they had an uncle here, but they don’t remember his address. They only had his phone number, which the border patrol took away. The patrol assured the kids them they were contacting him.

After this, I decided to take the children to a park, that whole conversation had left me flabbergasted.  I got to keep them for 2 more days before I had to report back with them, it was extremely difficult saying goodbye to them. They all cried while we were hugging.

I wasn’t allowed to keep any personal information from them, so after I left them there, I had no way of ever contact them again.  I’d like to think that they made it to his uncle and that they are receiving all the help they desperately need.

All this situation is disgraceful, these are tiny people who depend on us, adults, to take care of them. It’s unbelievable to think that people would turn their backs on the children and also intimidate them so much. Kids don’t understand about borders laws; deportation. All they know is that they are going to a safer place where they don’t have to worry about being hurt. Apathy is going to hurt us more than we think.

About a month after they left, I read about a group of kids being murdered after they had been sent back to Honduras.  My heart sunk.  I just wish we’d lived in a world were kids didn’t have to suffer like this.

When Making Do Trumps Making it from Scratch


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RAGU-OLDW-MARINANARA-VEGGIES-SAUCE_largeI still remember with horror the time a young teenager announced that he couldn’t eat spaghetti with my mom’s homemade pasta sauce. Oh I could allow for differences in taste, but his stated reason threw me. It wasn’t Ragù (and by ragu, I do not mean simply a ragù, but rather Ragù, as in the label).  It seems that Ragù is what his mom always served, and he just couldn’t enjoy eating anything else. So, this kid was rejecting a home-made  meal for a can of pre-made pasta sauce, and at the time that was something I just couldn’t wrap my mind around.

There but for a crock-pot go I, or at least that’s what I told myself, feeling a bit sorry for this poor gyu who had grown so used to pasta made on the fly that he couldn’t even enjoy the real thing, or at least the Wall family variation thereof. Mom didn’t make everything from scratch (or near-scratch, as the case may be), but when it came to pasta, she put in the effort. On that day I was REALLY thankful, because I really didn’t want to go through life with Ragù as my idea of pasta sauce. Even still, I had to admit to myself, I wasn’t entire without similar quirks.

fudge-browniesBetty Crocker brownies would be exhibit A here. To this day I do not think I have ever enjoyed a brownie that was not a Betty Crocker brownie. Oh I’ve eaten them, dammit anyhow. I have forced other brownies down my throat and sometimes even managed not to cringe or gag while doing so. I can hardly imagine why these other things share the same name as the brownie you can make with Betty Crocker and a couple of eggs. If I had the chance to choose between any other brownie in the known universe, but without Betty Crocker as an option, well I would rather go without dessert entirely. The only brownies I have ever loved are Betty Crocker brownies.

I have no delusions about this. Betty Crocker brownies aren’t culinary genius. They aren’t God’s gift to tongues everywhere. But to me they are most certainly the paradigm case of what a brownie should be. Show me a better brownie and I will only taste one that’s worse.

Which makes me kinda hopeless, I know.

It’s an odd thing when some manufactured food stuff becomes the standard by which home-made meals are judged complete failures, but it happens. And when it happens, it’s kind of hard to explain to people. It’s one thing to insist on high standards, but when your standard is a package label, you can feel awfully silly telling someone who worked damned hard to cook something from scratch that the result just isn’t good enough for your finicky self. Sill, taste in food is certainly one of the habits we acquire from the world around us. So, it shouldn’t be too surprising to see capitalism leave its mark on our taste buds. And yet, I think the weirdness remains. We aren’t really supposed to prefer some of these things by common reckoning. We’re supposed to eat them, because we can, because it’s easier. Most times, folks assume you’d go for the real thing if it was available.

Sometimes that just ain’t so.

grands-flaky-layers-originalAlso my idea of a strawberry shortcake begins with Pillsbury biscuits squashed flat. It’s otherwise normal, but don’t even try to put the strawberries and whipped cream on a spongy cake, homemade or otherwise, because I’d rather just eat the strawberries. When it comes to strawberry shortcake, Mom used biscuits. So, that’s what I want.

Damned silly of me!

I am curious though? Is this just me and that kid? Or does anyone else out there have similarly ironic preferences?

A Visit to the Pinball Hall of Fame in Las Vegas


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A rather Unpretentious Sign

A rather unpretentious sign

I was 14 when my family moved to the Las Vegas area. We’d been traveling through on a regular basis for many years, almost always stopping for a day or two. This was long before the place had grown it’s Disneyesque side. So, a night on this town always meant I was essentially along for the ride.

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Sooner or later, I knew Mom & Dad would head out onto the casino floor. What this meant for me was time in the arcade. Just about every casino had them, and back in the day, that was just about all they had for the under-age crowd. Sometimes I enjoyed this and sometimes I didn’t, but for many years I experienced Vegas largely through the the video games of the day. So, you can imagine my pleasure at discovering the Pin Ball Hall of Fame!

It’s a funny thing how nostalgia seems to carry it’s own kind of contagion. A visit to the past never quite sticks to the themes one starts with. Walking through the aisles of this place makes me think of music heard in decades; people I haven’t seen in ages, and buildings long since torn down or remodeled till they can no longer be recognized. It’s a funny thing to count Vegas as your home, even if it’s one you’ve been away from most of your adult life. But this place takes me back to the early years in Vegas. I couldn’t possibly feel more like I belong in Vegas than I do as I hit the play button on a game of Asteroids. I hadn’t seen that game in I don’t know how long. Yet here it sits, along with countless memories!

But that’s just me. The Pinball Hall of Fame (PBHoF) could probably stir some memories up for most of us old enough to remember these old games.

If you want to see a labor of love just come to 1610 E. Tropicana Avenue. The building houses countless pinball machines and arcade games stretching back for decades. yes, you can play the games. In most cases you can play them for a quarter, and by ‘a quarter’, I actually mean ‘a quarter.’ I most certainly do NOT mean tokens. Some of the more modern games take 50 to 75 cents, but for the most part, a game that would have cost you 25 cents in 1980 will cost you that now at this establishment.

The PBHoF is a non-profit run by Tim Arnold, and that helps the experience a great deal. He always appears hard at work, doing his best to keep the machines up and running, and he seems to do so for the sake of the games themselves. I can only imagine the many ways a business could milk this experience for more cash, and probably ruin the experience in the process. As it is today, you’ll find yourself walking around with a few quarters in your pocket looking for the right game to play the, just as you might have when some of these machines were shiny and new.

Oh yes!

Oh yes!

My favorite game is still Asteroids, though a few dollars were enough to prove I no longer possess the ability to roll the score over. As I recall, a good player back in the 80s could fill hours of time on a single quarter. My best was a little over one hour. Today, it’s a few minutes.

I also enjoyed trying a number of the old pin ball games, taking in the art-work and the narrative themes used to sell them. Several of these old gems included a information telling us a little about who designed and manufactured it and what made the game distinctive as it came out.

I particularly enjoyed some of the oldest games in the place, the ones that didn’t fit into a common paradigm. Game designers tried many different things over the years, and quite a few of them can be found here. This old baseball game is a great example. It seems simple enough, but it was quite hard to play. What fascinates me about it is the way it sets up the challenge. It’s a unique approach, one that hasn’t found its way into any of the popular game themes of the last few decades.

Of course the site also includes vintage bubble-gum and candy dispensers and an odd leg massage machine that I wouldn’t quite describe as relaxing. (It wasn’t exactly unpleasant, but well, I really can’t describe it.) You can even watch an old flip card movie of a Joe Lewis fight. You could test your romantic side for a quarter or prove your strength for the same. One of the more amusing features of the old games would have to be the extra instructions needed to explain some of the old coin intakes. I suppose they are necessary now, and that too makes me smile.

I couldn’t pretend that I found all the treasures of this place in my two visits. That’s okay though, because I plan to go back.

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There are More Persons in this Conversation than are Dreamed of in Your Philosophy!


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I don't believe in gods, but Tom Yum Ghai might just be a holy sacrament!

No gods, but perhaps a holy sacrament! (Tom Yum Ghai)

“I don’t believe in atheists.” That’s a phrase I’ve been seeing a lot lately. It passes for clever in apologetics blogs and it helps many a drive-by tweeter to troll the atheist hashtags. I somehow doubt the majority of these people are making references to the Chris Hedges book from 2008, but who knows how the meme rolls? The bottom line is that lots of folks have found it fun a fun phrase to say.

I wish I could give them all a cookie.

In one respect, at least, the argument does seem fitting. For so long the topic of ‘atheism’ has had a larger presence in Sunday school sermons than it has in the words of actual non-believers. To meet folks who actually claim the title must seem rather surreal to many believers, a bit like having the villains from a story come to life and begin talking back. How much this has to do with the emergence of the so-called new atheism, and how much of this may have been a problem even for the nay-sayers of previous generations, I don’t know, but I do think a lot of Christians must be rather surprised to find other voices have begun to shape a topic over which they expect full control. It really must seem like the height of rudeness for the characters in ones’ own stories to begin asserting ownership of their own narrative. Telling us that atheists aren’t real is a bit like banishing us back to the story lines of Christianity. We are supposed to be vanquished at the end of the sermon; we aren’t supposed to talk back.

…which is what this phrase is really all about.

If pressed on the matter, and sometimes without needing to be pressed at all, those repeating this almost-edgy mantra can usually produce an argument on the matter. Essentially the idea is that atheists are misrepresenting our own selves. Often the argument is that deep down we really know that there is a God. Sometimes, the argument is that we are just rebelling against a god we actually know to exist, or that we simply want to enjoy a life of sin regardless of this god that we really know about. …deep down in our hearts.

I can’t recall if I’ve ever seen this claim that atheists really know there is a god linked to the whole atheists-are-really-just-agnostics-who-need-a-dictionary theme, but that wouldn’t surprise me. Ultimately, both strategies effectively deny the reality of atheism, and of course variations of both arguments are legion.

There is of course little reason to respond to these arguments, but hang on because I’ve got a couple reasons for that at least.

…the not responding part.

I think it pays to recognize interpersonal aggression when you see it, and to separate that as much as possible from efforts at thoughtful discussion. Disbelief in atheism is a paradigm case of poisoning the well, and people don’t do it because they want to talk to you about what you believe, what they believe, or what people might believe in Eastern Mongolia. They are doing it because they want to establish control over you at the outset of the conversation. Why they want that is another question, but make no mistake the issue is control, not some theoretical point they might want to make about anything.

You can have a real conversation about whether or not God exists. You can have a real conversation about what She might be like. You can have a real conversation about what people might or might not know about Her. None of these conversations should be confused with questions about what is or isn’t an accurate representation of your beliefs on that topic.

How do we know what people believe? In most cases, the answer is simply because it is what they have told us what they believe. Support for the truth or falsehood of an assertion about something in this world would ideally take the form of objective evidence, but claims about what one does or doesn’t believe are normally declared by fiat, so to speak, and in most cases, the conversation proceeds from there.

I’m not suggesting there are never any grounds on which to doubt people’s self-representation, but I am suggesting that it’s more than a little unusual to do so. The basis for such doubts ought normally to come from the actions and statements of the party accused of misrepresenting themselves. When (as is almost always the case with dismissal of atheism) the grounds for doubt are little other than theoretical assumptions as to what other people MUST really believe despite their own protestations that is a question good and begged.

It’s also the end of the conversation.

There is of course a secular variant of this argument. We could as easily maintain that believers don’t actually believe what they say that they believe and that all of them are really just pretending to believe in gods. We can go that route if we really want to. But what would be the point of talking about it?

Or even thinking about it, really?

It’s a damned easy world in which those who don’t agree with you become liars or deluded wrecks right from the first nuh-uh, and taking seriously the possibility of real disagreement over an issue is part of taking the issue (whatever it may be) seriously to begin with.

Contempt is always contagious.

The Dumpsters of Atqasuk


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128Since I seem to be sharing dumpster art these days, I thought I’d post some pictures from a trip to the village of Atqasuk. I spent some time there last April, I think. It’s a small village of a little over 200 people located on the Meade River.

Naturally, their dumpster graffiti features prominently in my pictures from that trip. This community appears to be a little more interested in public service announcements than artsy murals, but some of the announcements have an artsy side of their own.

(Click to embiggen. you know you wanna!)

Dumpster Goodness!

General Images


Moar Dumpster Goodness!


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Gotta watch out for bears around here!

I’ve said it before, I know. What do you mean, you don’t remember? Well I have

(And I’m deeply hurt that some of y’all don’t remember this thing that I once said before.)

…I think.

Anyway, it remains just as true now as whenever it was that I said it before; Barrow has the best dumpsters! Yes, it does. Here are a couple new ones, and one that I think I somehow missed a ways back.

And yes, that’s it, just a brief moment to indulge in a little dumpster-based jingoism, and with that I’m outta here.

…actually, I am literally outta here. Time to fly South for a little time away from the frozen North.

I miss it already!

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Recollections of WIPCE 2014


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IMG_1010closeupIt was almost a year ago that I attended the World Indigenous Peoples Conference on Education, held on the campus of Kapiʻolani Community College in Oahu.

This was a beautiful but rather surreal experience for a number of reasons. First and most obvious, the muggy heat of Oahu was a bit much for me after a winter in the arctic. …not so much that I wouldn’t want to go again, but, yes there was a day or two that had me longing for the air conditioning of my room. Second, I haven’t attended many academic conferences for some time. So, it felt odd to be back in that mix and listening to the sort of papers I remember from days long past and ambitions long since set aside. As usual, the panels were a fair mix of dull to amazing with plenty of kinda-both happening as well, which is exactly as I would expect it to be.

I remember sitting in one of the conference panels and thinking something about the whole conference really bothered me. At first, I couldn’t quite put my finger on it, but then I realized how much of a hassle it had been moving from one panel to the next. Everyone had been rushing around pretty quickly. They were not quite pushy, but folks had definitely been moving with a purpose, …almost a vengeance. It wasn’t just that this was unpleasant, which would make it a lot like a lot of other conferences. What bothered me was just how uncharacteristic it felt, given the participants. What had bothered me, I realized, was that I wasn’t really accustomed to seeing indigenous people proceeding with such reckless abandon through a schedule. That’s when it donned on me that we were not on Indian time. We weren’t even close. The panels for this conference had been scheduled so tight, you had to leave early or arrive late to a panel in most cases. Being good scholars, people were getting the job done, but the end result was an indigenous gathering with a sense of time better suited to caricatures of German culture than Native anything. This is what had seemed incongruous to me, and I couldn’t help but chuckle when I realized it.

Hell, in Barrow, we don’t even think of it as a native thing, because the rest of us are the same way. What sociolinguists call “Indian time”, we would call “Barrow Time” up here. If an event begins at 8, that’s means 9ish, and even then, don’t be surprised if things actually start around 10. But Barrow Time isn’t just a sense that start times are iffy; it’s also a sense that the people present count more than the clocks. Events proceed when a certain critical mass of people have arrived, said their greetings and settled in comfortably.

…and that’s when we’re in a hurry.

The bottom line is that this conference did NOT have the usual leisurely pace that I’ve grown to expect from indigenous communities. I suppose this could have been a reflection of the limited samples I’ve experienced in my own lifetime. I still think it far more likely that the difference in behavior could be attributed the conference schedule. Left to their own devices, I can’t help thinking some of these folks would have proceeded much more slowly, a lot more deliberately, and in the process gotten to know each other a bit better.

It was outside on the campus of the college where the tone of the conference seemed most fitting, what with people milling around, chatting, and taking in the entertainment. This is where each of the communities present really represented themselves best. At one point, there was a mini-powwow out on the grass, and of course the Maori kept storming the stage to perform a haka. A Sami lady sang a lovely song in the opening ceremonies, but I’m a right bastard for leaving my camera in its case at that particular moment. Ainu held a wonderful round dance toward the end of the conference, and you can almost tell how great it was from the film. …almost.

At some point I snuck downtown to capture some of the street art. A trip to  Punahou School and a visit with a friend out on the coast rounded out he trip nicely. Anyway, here are some photos and videos.

Unfortunately, I only captures a small portion of the performances. A lot of coolness just didn’t quite make it through my lens. I thought I’d share what I can here now, because some of it really was kind of fun.

(You may click to embiggen)

Let’s start with a few general pictures.

A Small Selection of Performers.

Street Art!

Maori Haka

A Youth group from Australia. (As I recall this dance had to do with the introduction of European honey-bees into Australia. …the most salient difference between them and the local variety being the presence of a barbed stinger.)

Hula Dancers.

Let’s finish it off with that round dance I mentioned earlier.

Nothing to See Here, Just a Middle-Aged Guy Bitching About Kids These Days and their Damned Music!


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See kids, this is how you scare the old folks. …at least it worked for awhile.

Kids these days are so Goddamn normal. Their music doesn’t even bother me.

Back in my day we used to walk six miles, barefoot through rain sleet, or snow, just to piss our parents off. Granted, long hair was getting a little old by the time I met my inner rebellion, but we had Satan in our games and all over our music. Apparently, the horned one couldn’t fiddle, but he sure helped Dio lay down some Heavy Metal word salad worthy of an eternity in the always-lit-coal mine. So what the Hell was a Holy Diver anyway? I didn’t know, my Mom didn’t know, and frankly, I doubt Dio knew. If you played it backwards, the guy probably just toweled off or something.

…but in a bad way.

So, what do you kids do to piss my generation off?


Bieberositide is not even worth being mad at. Oh sure, the boy causes trouble, and Miley Cyrus almost did something racy once or thrice. Some folks enjoyed being mad at her for awhile. I recall Britney spears kissed Madonna once, and a few people may even have humored them by pretending to be offended, but seriously? That’s all ya got? It’s a tired script boys and girls, and it has about as much kick as well-watered American beer. Plus, these antics have fuck-all to do with music, or performance, or really anything but marketing strategies.

I for one am neither shocked, nor offended by much in contemporary music, and I haven’t been for sometime. I’m old, I’m cranky, and I’m white. I’m exactly the sort of person pop music is supposed to piss off, and I can’t think of anything recent that’s worth a bug-eyed angry moment.

Damned kids!

We bought a better brand of rebellion than you can find in the stores now. It almost seemed authentic at times, or at least it had pedigree. Hell, even Ozzy loved the Beatles, and they were into love and revolution or something. One could even find the traces of war protest songs in the nooks and crannies of the seemingly world of hard rock. Eighties-era politics might have lacked the earnestness of folk music protest or the urgency of The Vietnam Era tunes, but hints and allusions could be found.

And then of course there was the actual music! Would you believe some musicians actually discussed music during interviews? It’s almost as if the music itself was an important part of being a musician!

The professionally cool today only seem to talk about their lust lives, or maybe that’s all some people ask them about. It’s all so very underwhelming.

As a young kid, I used to wonder what future generations would do to carry the musical torch into the faces of older generations. between Punk Rock and Heavy Metal, I didn’t see how volume and raunch could go much further without putting people in the hospital. Rap was a curve ball in my world, and I never have quite wrapped my lily-white mind around it. Even that’s calmed down lately, so it seems. Listening to pop radio these days, I think I finally have my answer. Today’s youth are going to bore us to death.

Fricking kids. Your music is boring.

Also, get off my lawn!

Sartre Was Right, But Hell Sometimes Has an Endearing Quality


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So, awhile back I’m sitting at a booth for the place I work at a largish regional conference. I’m the last guy on the planet that you want to be selling anything (trust me!), but the others are busy with an event of their own. Anyway, I’m sitting at the booth answering questions, handing out stuff, and just generally putting a face behind the table…

…in walks a sweet lady and we talk. She knows some people from up where I live. I don’t recognize most of the names and quietly kick myself for being an antisocial bastard, but otherwise the discussion seems to go well. She is friendly, and I am in a good mood. She eventually decides to move on and we say our goodbyes.

Then she tells me she loves Jesus.

I nod and I smile.

And then she asks me if I love Jesus too?



If I answer her with a ‘no’ that can as easily be taken to mean that I think Jesus is a jerk as that I simply don’t believe in him, which is just a bit more harsh than I would normally wish to come across, even if I weren’t the current face of my workplace. This is why the complex question is commonly thought a fallacy, but saying that here isn’t going to help me at all, because this woman is just not going to understand the problem. I’m trying to be honest and nice at the same time, and she’s NOT making it any easier for me.

This is hardly the first time my lack of faith has stuck out like a well hammered opposable digit. The North Slope of Alaska is the Bible Hat of the country and ungodly folk like me are not too common around here. So, I am trying to wrap the conversation up as gracefully as my bull-in-a-china-shop personality can manage, but honestly, professing faith in Jesus is a little more courtesy than I can muster in good faith, so I explain that I am not Christian. I do it as nicely as I can, and it’s certainly  nicer than just saying ‘no’, but well, anyway…

So, the woman says she’s going to pray for me. I am generally happy to take goodwill in whatever form it is offered, so I thank her for this, imagining her doing this kindness on her own at some indefinite time in the future. That’s when she reaches out her hands and adds that she is going to pray that Jesus will come into my life. That’s when I realize she means to do it right then and there, which casts kind of a new light on the subject. Apparently, I am to play an active role in this ritual, minimal as it may be, the point of which is explicitly designed to change my life.

There she is with hands outstretched waiting for me to take hers and commence praying for Jesus work a miracle. And once again, this is a bit more than I am willing to go along with.

One might even say that I was tad uncomfortable.



I wouldn’t call this a teachable moment so much as a learnable moment, because this is hardly the only awkward clash of worldviews to fall into my life in the last year or so, but it’s a good starting point for thinking about them. Both my would-be prayer-partner and I are trying to negotiate a significant difference in world view. Each of us is trying to be decent about it (at least I think we both are). The trouble is that each of us gets our ideas about how to treat people with different views from within our own world-view, so each of us has only the vision of fairness and respect that our own way of looking at things has to offer.

I’ve been as nice as I can be really, short of professing faith I don’t have or inviting faith I don’t want. To ask more of me is an imposition, as I look at it, and I have been as polite as possible about the boundary this woman is testing. Seems fair to me, but of course she has her own views on the situation. If I don’t know the Love of the Lord, surely the most decent thing she can do for me is to try and share that love with me! What decent person would reject such a wonderful gesture? And who could possibly regard her efforts to share the Lord as an imposition? I may sound sarcastic, but in this paragraph at least I do not mean to be. I can easily see the logic of her behavior, or at least a logic that would make that behavior reasonable within the context of the views which have produced it.



I could come up with less charitable interpretations for both my own behavior and hers, but I’d prefer to afford the benefit of the doubt here and ask that others do the same.

The general public entertains a broad range of ideas about the nature of belief and how to get along with people whose beliefs differ from out own. Some of these meta-beliefs provide us with practical solutions to potential conflicts, and some of these meta-beliefs water down the meaning of the beliefs people profess to have. In either event, much of the way we handle different beliefs is itself a question of sharing at least some of these beliefs about how to hand the difference. Simply put, folks get used to compromise. So, it can be rather disconcerting to meet someone who doesn’t accommodate our own sense of fairness, someone who doesn’t share in the same scripts about how to find a compromise. And that is of course how a godless fellow and an evangelical Christian end up sharing a really awkward moment over the prospect of an impromptu prayer.

Neither my would-be prayer partner nor I meant to be jerks. And still the conversation wasn’t exactly a walk in the park. Ah well!

People are hard.


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