Jen Bingham

Writer

Month: February 2014 (page 1 of 2)

How to Behave During Black History Month

So, I feel the need to add my two cents to the Black History month conversation.

By listening to what black people have to say.

Give it a try!

I decided to write this post in reaction to comments on this article by Erika D. Smith about an Indianapolis a lunch menu served at a private local school to honor Black History Month. I won’t repeat any of the comments but here’s part of what Erika said:

My guess is the good folks at Park Tudor didn’t think about all of this when they decided to put fried chicken and collard greens on their menu for Black History Month. But I can assure you, every black person who has seen that menu has. The stereotype hits close to home and it stings.

This is what racism is. It’s about history. It’s about emotions. It’s about context. It’s about a lack of respect for what others feel.

It’s not necessarily about intentions. Having good intentions does not guarantee a good reaction. But in the end, it’s how we react to those reactions that matters most. Will we point fingers at others, close our ears and yell that they’re being too sensitive? Or will we quiet our egos for a moment, listen to others’ points of view and come to a new understanding?

I’m gonna list some more things below that are worth your attention.

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You can read some stuff by Roxane Gay, who consistently blows me away with her thoughts on race, pop culture, and well, everything. She has recipes on her blog, answers questions, just generally hangs out being awesome. Here are some thoughts about the Jordan Davis verdict:

I didn’t know much about North Omaha growing up, but on Saturdays, my mom took me there to get my hair done because she didn’t know how to do it. That’s when I first saw black people other than my family, or Haitians. And I saw how different that neighborhood was from mine—run down, abandoned but not. I was too young to understand that I was seeing American poverty and segregation. As I got older, the stories began about North Omaha, as this dangerous, gang infested place. It was strange to hear these stories, because I never saw that North Omaha. I saw the kind women who had beautiful hairdos and smelled like cocoa butter and did my hair and told me stories, and hushed me when the relaxer started burning, and who laughed with my mother as they talked about things I was too young to understand.  I was also too young to understand how lucky I was to live in a manicured suburb where my biggest struggle was white kids wanting to “touch my hair.” Privilege is a motherfucker and only now, as an adult, do I truly understand.

I want to say I am angry but what I feel is past anger. It’s a lonelier place than that, tinged with exhaustion, or weariness but what a shameful luxury it is to be in this place, to have the time to ponder injustice instead of living with it in the brutal ways so many people around the world do.

You could read Ta-Nehisi Coates, who I love so much. He is amazing and he loves oatmeal. Here he talks a bit about the ways black people raise their sons in America. He is smarter than all of us.

Last Thursday, I took my son to meet Lucia McBath, because he is 13, about the age when a black boy begins to directly understand what his country thinks of him. His parents cannot save him. His parents cannot save both his person and his humanity. At 13, I learned that whole streets were prohibited to me, that ways of speaking, walking, and laughing made me a target. That is because within the relative peace of America, great violence—institutional, interpersonal, existential—marks the black experience. The progeny of the plundered were all around me in West Baltimore—were, in fact, me. No one was amused. If I were to carve out some peace myself, I could not be amused either. I think I lost some of myself out there, some of the softness that was rightfully mine, to a set of behavioral codes for addressing the block. I think these talks that we have with our sons—how to address the police, how not to be intimidating to white people, how to live among the singularly plundered—kill certain parts of them which are as wonderful as anything. I think the very tools which allow us to walk through the world, crush our wings and dash the dream of flight.

This NPR article about the Kinsey Collection, a collection of African-American art, artifacts, books, documents and manuscripts:

Seventeen-year-old Tonisha Owens stared wide-eyed at the faded script on an 1854 letter. It was once carried by another 17-year-old — a slave named Frances. The letter was written by a plantation owner’s wife to a slave dealer, saying that she needed to sell her chambermaid to pay for horses. But Frances didn’t know how to read or write, and didn’t know what she carried.

“She does not know she is to be sold. I couldn’t tell her,” the letter reads. “I own all her family and the leave taking would be so distressing that I could not.”

The thought of that girl carrying that letter is one of the most heartbreaking things I can think of.

Life Follows Portlandia

On a recent commute from the suburb where I work to the slum where I live, listlessly listening to an NPR story as is my wont, I was suddenly snapped back to reality .

What was it, you ask, that was so electrifying? Nothing less than life following Portlandia. Like how it does.

hate olympics

Remember that time when Carrie and Fred came home from London, and ran straight to the Mayor to tell him London  was overrun with “Olympic stuff” and “international jocks”? If there was a list, they didn’t even want Portland to be on the list.

Here’s what they had to say when Greg Louganis sat them down in a hot tub and asked them about their fears:

Greg Lougainis What are you so afraid of, what scares you the most about the Olympics coming to Portland?

Fred: Just like all the traffic the commercialism.

Carrie: All those athletes, no offense but running around with their big muscles.

THE EXACT SAME CONVERSATION JUST HAPPENED ON NPR. (Sort of.)

REPORTER: At a nearby pub, a few hardy souls are standing outside enjoying a pint. And they’re more than happy to dive in on this subject.

VEDAR MYKLEBYST: We don’t want the Olympics. No, why should we? We have enough things to use our money on.

Reporter: Vedar Myklebyst says he’d rather see the Norway’s oil wealth go to things like hospitals and schools. His friend Morten Andersen is against the idea, too, but for a different reason.

MORTEN ANDERSEN: We could definitely afford it, the money is no problem. But I think we have a problem with space because Oslo is very tiny. So if we got a lot of visitors, that would present a problem for, you know, commute – you know, the bus and trains and everything. They’re already crowded enough as it is.

Hey Oslo, just give a shout out to Greg Louganis. He will be happy to hot tub with Vedar and Morten. Just as he sweet talked Carrie and Fred by telling him that Olympic athletes are “like the punkers of sports” he will see into Vedar and Morten’s souls and tell them what they need to hear in order to welcome the Olympics into their hearts and minds.

I challenge any living person to be negative about the Olympics around Greg Louganis.

louganis

You know what’s even cooler than that? Pins. People trade pins.

Relax

If this horse were a person, he’d be wearing a faded jean jacket and offering you a hit off his bong.

“Relax,” he’ll say when you complain about how awful the last couple days have been. “We’re gonna eat some Stouffer’s French bread pizza, listen to some jams, and play hacky sack.”

Then he’ll quote Roadhose, telling you “Pain don’t hurt,” seemingly in reference to your stressful work day. It all makes sense at the time.

Even though it’s no longer the ’90s and horses can’t talk, it’s still kinda beautiful isn’t it?

jean jacket horse

This horse enjoys listening to Billy Joel: Greatest Hits Volume 1 & 2. NO APOLOGIES.

Wild by Cheryl Strayed

wildCheryl Strayed walked 1,100 miles along the Pacific Coast Trail in 1995. A long-time camper, she’d never backpacked before, setting out with a pack of unknown but exceptional weight. She faced bears. She walked for days with only 7 cents in her pocket.  Her feet took such a beating she lost six of her toenails.

This book takes us with her on the trail and through a past that seemed to demand some life-saving roll of the dice: the death of her beloved mother, a heroin habit, cheating, divorce. She reveals her weaknesses and strengths with exceptional grace and wisdom.

Verdict: Read it
Genre: Literary memoir

Your Sunday Comic

This comic explains clearly why you need to eat more candy.

Nedroid is one of my favorite comics and is the handiwork of Anthony Clark. He is a magical pixie who lives on the Internet. I own a Beartato stuffed animal. That’s right I admitted it. My name is Jen and I own a Beartato stuffed animal.

roaring emptiness

 

Come Bearing the Greenest of Spring Bouquets

This baby moose is so happy that the snow is melting in Indianapolis, Indiana, and that is definitely NOT a projection of my feelings about the matter. It also wants you to know that Scandal is an awful show, even though it can’t seem to stop watching it.

In any case, both this moose and myself are happy spring is within our grasp.

moose

Photo Credit: Munich Zoo Hellabrunn

The Magician by W. Somerset Maugham

magicianThe titular magician is modeled on Aleister Crowley, the well-known creepy loser from the early 20th century. In high school, the Satanist kids talked about him all the time!

Maugham describes the characters beautifully,  but their motivations are hard to ascertain and their quotations are often accompanied by painful adjectives. Wayyyyyyyyy too much of the first third of this novel consists of The Characters Who Aren’t Secretly Aleister Crowley telling complicated stories about The One Who Is Aleister. Once the plot gets rolling, there’s a brief “spell” of interesting action, but then everything goes off the rails into Stupid Land.

Verdict: It isn’t very good, but I liked it and I’m glad I read it because I like WSM
Genre: English Novel

Your Valentine’s Day Comic

Happy Valentine’s Day! I hope nothing invades your celebrations. Today, I plan to continue my Valentine’s Day tradition of staying home by myself and watching an Ingmar Bergman movie.

spider

Alt text for this image: four legs good. eight legs bad.

A Softer World always brings the darkness to any situation. This particular piece is rather lighthearted compared to some of their work. If you scroll through their work, you will probably feel like someone turned over a rock and saw the darkest part of your soul. And then you’ll feel relieved that someone finally understands you. The comic is a collaboration between Joey Comeau and Emily Horne.

A Glimpse into the Dipper’s Bedroom

The photo name, “A Glimpse into the Dipper’s Bedroom,” is translated by the photographer (you will understand the importance of this comment in a sec). I don’t actually know what a dipper is. I do know that Remo Savisaar is one of my favorite nature photographers and he’s Estonian and that it’s always a good day when he posts a photo with a long caption that I can run through Google Translator. I take it that Estonian is not old GT’s strong suit.

Here is the lovely photo of the dipper.

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Here is the wonderful handiwork of Google Translator:

I spent a lot of time pleasantly in the company of the water board, but every night, just as the light was especially sweet, the bird vanished away. A moment earlier, and was at one point she was gone. And so, day after day! One evening, when it all again for re-thinking that I take the risk and crawl to the edge of the ice pretty soon. I was just sentrimeetri from the waterline, and now, finally, I saw where the water is cardboard! This form of the site, which was located on the outskirts of ice under the water board was a bedroom. He hid in there, squat down and let out the creator.

The translation is The Best. Seen through the dark glass of a poor translation, the glimpses  of Mr. Savisaar’s whimsical nature and patience with animal photos = also The Best.

Stephen Fry’s Bacteria Portrait Scientifically Proven to Carry a New Plague

A sensational claim, some may say. And yet The Telegraph’s Pictures of the Day for February 10, 2014, contain incontrovertible evidence.

The sixth picture with caption:

potd-bacteria-port_2816800k

Picture: The Big Bang UK Young Scientists & Engineers Fair/PA

A portrait of Stephen Fry grown from his own bacteria. The ‘bacteriographs’ are made from a sample of the subjects’ bacteria – and have been grown by Zachary Copfer, an American microbiologist-cum-photographer. To make the Pop Art style images, Zachary cleverly exposes areas of a petri dish to radiation in order to stimulate the bacteria’s growth. This creates a photograph grown entirely from the bacteria itself. Zachary is the only person in the world practicing this art, which he terms ‘Bacteriography’. This is the first time his work has been brought to the UK. 

Disgusting enough on its own, but then comes shocking proof of the role Fry’s bacteria painting will play in the future of society’s destruction. Photo 7 with caption:

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Picture: The London Dungeon/PA

People dressed as 17th century plague doctors on the London Underground en-route to The London Dungeon, as the attraction is promoting a Bubonic Plague event Outbreak! running from 17-24 February.

I see from the juxtaposition of these two photos that Stephen Fry’s bacteria portrait contains a new plague, introduced for the first time to the UK in portrait form, which will sweep through the world as did the original bubonic plague. Thanks a lot, Stephen Fry. I expected better from you and your bacteria.

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