Since 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!)
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.)
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!
(click to embiggen!)
It 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.
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.)
Let’s finish it off with that round dance I mentioned earlier.
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.
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!
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.
By now the story is pretty well known. A number of Native Americans recently walked off the set of an Adam Sandler movie (The Ridiculous Six) citing offensive jokes as the deal-breaker triggering their decision to leave. Most had been cast as extras, but the group also includes a cultural consultant hired for the film. Other sources have detailed the story better than I could, but let’s just get a few of their objections on the table so we all know what we’re talking about:
– The Indians in the movie are supposed to be Apache, but their outfits and material culture generally represented in the film would seem better suited to Comanche (and that not too accurately there either).
– The movie used offensive names for female characters. “No Bra” and “Beaver Breath” come to mind. “Sits-On-Face” was apparently in the script at one point.
– Come to think of it, the movie gives men offensive names too, “Five hairy Moles,” and “One Eyebrow,” for example.
– In the movie a woman is supposed to squat to pee at some point while smoking a peace pipe.
– The extras found a feather arrangement on a teepee inappropriate.
– In the movie, Adam Sandler is supposed to utter the line; “Say honey: how bout after this, we go someplace and I put my pee-pee in your teepee?”
…you get the idea.
I certainly hope that I don’t have to explain why any of this would be offensive. The question is of course what to make of that offense? Someone is almost always the butt of a joke, and so it sometimes seems arbitrary when a particular set of jokes like this one draws a vehement response. Those with little or no connection to the offended group are often that much more mystified, because they simply don’t understand all the implications, and it can be damned tempting to pass the whole thing off as political correctness.
The notion that these extras (and those who support them) are just being too damned sensitive about the whole thing is rolling rather predictably out in various tweets and blog posts. A spokesman for netflicks reportedly characterized the film as ‘broad satire’. Breitbart News carried that theme even further, denying that satire could be disrespect in any context and congratulating the film crew for standing their ground in the face of an overly sensitive group of extras. Sandler’s camp appears to have adopted the stance that his movie is meant to be all in good fun, and that it’s full of low-brow humor to begin with. One of the cast, Vanilla Ice, for example assured us that Sandler is not trying to make something on par with Dances With Wolves. So, it seems we in the public are supposed to give Sandler a pass, because he is just joking.
I’m usually pretty open to raunchy humor, but I find it very hard to imagine a context in which the jokes mentioned above would be anything other than toilet humor fit for a five year old.
…and let’s be clear. there is another context to consider here. For those of us who haven’t seen the film, it’s difficult to assess the context behind the jokes, but for those of us who haven’t lived lives as Native Americans, it’s hard to say what the overall context of life is for determining how these jokes must feel.
Context is a two-way street.
No, actually, it’s more like a giant roundabout with a lot of busy traffic.
The question here is just what makes these jokes funny to begin with (at least for those that find them funny)? It’s easy enough to say that a name like “Beaver Breath” is just a joke, but is there really any reason to suppose that joke doesn’t turn on a point of prejudice? These names don’t appear to be an in-joke, and they don’t turn any non-native prejudice on its head. They reflect little other than the sensibility of a child snickering at someone different. These jokes turn that difference into an object of brutal and straight-foreword mockery. and there is simply nothing in the accounts given so far to suggest that the target of this humor is anything other than Native American naming practices themselves. If this is satire, it is indistinguishable from racist propoganda.
That the jokes in question may be delivered with a congenial smile doesn’t change the fact that this humor is at face value quite demeaning. Some people don’t even seem to know when they are insulting others; either that or they simply assume the right to do so without being called to account for it.
This is why the claim that The Ridiculous Six is all just satire fails. Oh yes, the movie may well be a satire, but whatever it’s satirizing, there is no reason to believe these jokes aren’t actually directed at the Native American community.
There is nothing in these jokes that suggests familiarity with their own subject matter, much less appreciation for the people close to it. This is why the costumes matter, not because the movie was meant to be historically accurate, but because knowing the difference between Apache dress and Comanche dress might have communicated at the trace of a capacity to give a damn. When such things become too much to ask, the benefit of the doubt slips out the door. And when those who raise the issue, as these extras did, are told by a producer they are being overly sensitive and they should leave, well that pretty well slams the door shut altogether. If there was any chance this humor could have reflected anything other than outright prejudice, the treatment these extras received on the set would appear to have set that prospect to rest.
…which puts the claim that no offense had been intended in this script in an awkward light. It would appear to mean little other than that Native Americans themselves are not supposed to take offense at such things. Sandler and company have produced a highly offensive script, and when called on it, they have done little other than to beg others not to see the plain point of their own jokes. In effect, they have put the responsibility for the insult on those that have called attention to it (which is an awful lot like the strategy taken by Dan Snyder and the Washington football team). in effect, they blame those they insult for knowing they have been insulted. Does that rhetoric sound familiar? It should. This is of course precisely why conservative culture warriors are beginning to weigh in. It isn’t that they don’t know the movie is offensive; the folks at Breitbart for example are defending it precisely because they know that it is.
It’s easy to dismiss Sandler himself. He has often (almost always) presented himself in a rather juvenile manner. His characters are often simpletons, and the humor they produce is accordingly full of foolishness. When this fails, as it often does, Sandler leaves behind more than a trace of disappointment in the jokes. He also leaves us with that slightly creepy feeling that we’ve seen too much of someone’s personal baggage. Still, the man is capable of outstanding humor, often using this very approach. I do recall some brilliant moments in Sandler’s career; Lunch Counter Lady and The Hanakka Song come to mind. I don’t exactly pine for new examples of his work, but I can honestly say that he has brightened my day once or twice over the years. I say this, not because I feel like defending the man at the moment, but because I think it’s important to note that he is at least capable of doing something better than this.
Unfortunately, the man is also capable of turning out utter trash. Case in point, putting a peepee in a woman’s teepee. Try as I might, I cannot find any context in which that line reflects anything but the crudest sensibilities of a petulant child. Reading about this, I can’t help thinking Sandler has gotten entirely too comfortable passing the naughtiest jokes of the playground off as professional comedy. I for one hope that he will take a lesson from his extras, and try once again to produce comedy worth watching.
Postscript: I noticed an interesting pattern in this video showing the conversation, the film-makers continually insist that the movie is sympathetic to the Native American characters. Why? Because Adam Sandler’s character loves them.
Speaking of Dances With Wolves…
Suffice to say the notion that respect for Native American characters rests on little other than the values of a non-Native character would be ironic at best.
Actually ‘perverse’ is more like it.
I suppose it really shouldn’t surprise me, but it’s amusing to see just how fascinated some folks are with the mechanics of gay sex. It wasn’t that long ago that Phil Robertson treated us all to a sermon the advantages of sticking your penis in a vagina rather than into an anus. No, I’m not talking about his more recent rape fantasies. I’m referring instead to Phil’s interview with GQ Magazine, the one in which he shared this little gem:
It seems like, to me, a vagina—as a man—would be more desirable than a man’s anus. That’s just me. I’m just thinking: There’s more there! She’s got more to offer. I mean, come on, dudes! You know what I’m saying? But hey, sin: It’s not logical, my man. It’s just not logical.
Countless conservative Christians came to the man’s aid in the dust-up over that interview, most praising him for taking a Biblical stance on the issue. Okay, so the Bible has some interesting passages, I know, but somehow I just don’t think Phil got that comparison from scripture. But of course what counts as a Biblical stance in some circles would seem to mean whatever most holds some folks feet to the fire. Celebrity Christians don’t curry favor with cultural conservatives by talking too much about anything Jesus said or did. (The Prince of Peace bores them to tears.) No, to get in on that market you have to hurt someone in Jesus’ name.
If the American movie industry has taught us anything, it’s that sex and violence go together like bees and pollen, or better than bees and pollen, I guess, cause, well that’s a damned tragedy too. Anyway, the point is that it shouldn’t surprise us that an industry celebrating verbal violence would invariably sex-up the narratives, albeit with an ironic angle on the topic.
So it should come as no surprise that Phil Robertson is not the only one to add a little pornography to his apologetics. Take for example Brian Klawiter, one of the latest folks to put his business on the line against homosexuality. It seems that Brian’s auto repair business won’t be serving those of an homosexual orientation. According to Media Matters, Klawiter has the following to say on the topic:
My company will be run in a way that reflects that. Dishonesty, thievery, immoral behavior, etc. will not be welcomed at MY place of business. (I would not hesitate to refuse service to an openly gay person or persons. Homosexuality is wrong, period. If you want to argue this fact with me then I will put your vehicle together with all bolts and no nuts and you can see how that works.)
He later offered that he would repair a vehicle, apparently even for gay customers, providing they didn’t make a display in his shop. …which is almost reasonable, or at least it would be were it not for the rather irrational fear that his business may soon become a hot-spot for make-out sessions among the homosexual community. Anyway, the point I’m trying to make here is; look at that man’s poetry!
Putting a car together with nothing but bolts?
Nailed it, bro!
But seriously, does anyone else get the idea that some people are just a little overly concerned with the mechanics of other people’s sex lives? I’m not just talking about the moral question about what other people oughtta do. That’s old hat. What I’m talking about is a rather insipid interest in just how the act gets done.
As if we all know what act we’re talking about to begin with!
It does seem a common assumption amongst straight people that gay sex means butt-sex. If you remind straight folks that gay sex could also mean lesbian sex, well that just throws a wrench in the whole works, and then some guys start to pine for their late-night cable sessions. That standard bit of hypocrisy aside, what the fuck would any of us straight guys know about it anyway? There are lots of ways to get down, even among the square crowd, so why is anal penetration the heart of this issue?
…perhaps we could even ask why love isn’t the heart of the issue, at least for gay marriage, but that would just be way too mature. People would yawn and wander off to talk about something else. So, it won’t be the way folks talk about gay rights three beers into a Friday night, and it won’t be the way they fill the seats of a straight-shootin’ church on a Sunday.
Pat Robertson will get us right back on track with a little bit of porno-preaching here (compliments of the Huffington Post). According to Pat, the gay rights crowd won’t stop at acceptance or equal rights, they want us to do it too, and by ‘it’ I mean whatever icky it your mind can iterate! …or his anyway. You can give the whole rant a listen on the Huff Post link. It’s a “weird world” we live in, Pat assures us, and I almost agree. It certainly is a weird world that he lives in.
You’re gonna say that you like anal sex, you like oral sex, you like bestiality,” he added. “Sooner or later, you’re going to have to conform your religious beliefs to the group of some abhorrent thing. It won’t stop at homosexuality.
Yep, there you have it, gay rights means anal sex for every-one, and that’s just the start.
No doubt the whole thing leads to dancing!
Not to worry though Pat, Bryan Fischer of the American Family Association assures us that God and humanity are both naturally disgusted by the very act of gay sex. Check out his speech, quoted here on Towleroad. According to Fisher (and I’m using Towleroad’s transcription), God himself can hardly stand the site of gay sex:
When God sees it, it causes him to recoil. And when we think about the actual act of homosexuality, we have exactly the same reaction. Most people think about that, they don’t want to think about that, they don’t want to visualize it because it is disgusting. And if people aren’t politically conditioned to accept it, their natural reaction is that’s just not normal, that’s just not natural, that’s not what human beings were designed for, that’s not what they were made for.
I don’t know about the rest of you, but I’ve certainly heard enough of this argument from other sources to get the impression these guys are hardly working a novel line of reasoning here. And I’m continually amazed that so much free-form sex-fantasy counts as Biblical reasoning. Some of these guys really are dancing to the beat of a different drum here; they just don’t seem to know it.
My point is that there is actually something a bit perverse about all this, not the gay sex of course, but the narratives these guys tell about it. Long before these crusaders get to the politics, read the scriptures, or try and address the psychology of the issue, a good number of them have already defined the entire thing in terms of the sheer physical act of anal sex. If that is what the issue means to them, it certainly isn’t because gay rights advocates have been framing the issue in those terms. Quite the contrary! It’s almost as if some folks might be using their attacks on the gay community to explore a few creepy themes of their own. And no. I’m not suggesting that this is latent homosexuality. That would be a tired old cliché. Homophobia is it’s own kink. It’s one that some folks seem determined to share in the most public of places.
Not much to say about this, other than that the video doesn’t really do it justice. I took this on my old blackberry in 2011. I was standing just outside the casino on the Standing Rock reservation getting ready for a trip to Sitting Bull College. I expect locals might find the sight rather ho-hum, but to me anyway, it was pretty cool.
Do I really talk like that? I should never speak.