Saturday, June 30, 2012

SCOTUS 2011-2012 Major Cases

I am such a political geek! I LOVE this sort of stuff.

3 Photos From My Own Yard

Sister wind conspired with cousin limb to remove bother francis' head! Oh My!

Storm Damage In My Neighborhood

A tree took out my neighbor Tim's cars. Gordon is helping him clear away some of the debris.

The park at the bottom of the hill.

70 mph straightline burst of wind and the tree didn't stand a chance.

Another smashed car, I counted 7 in the three blocks I walked.

And the sound of cicadas has been usurped by the buzz of chain saws and tree chippers.

Pride Birthdays and Memorials for the Coming Week ~ July 1st to July 7th

Thursday, June 28, 2012

Summer Tradition?

My newest painting purchase (top) joins the one I bought last year around this time (bottom). Perhaps I should start every summer with an art investment?

Presidential Race Map 2012 - #'3

New polls show a distinct moving toward Obama in Ohio, Florida, Nevada and Colorado. Iowa slips into the tie category, and voters in South Dakota and Arizona are tracking more strongly toward Romney.

Folklife Festival 2012: "Campus And Community: Public and Land-grant Universities and the USDA @ 150"

If it's the Fourth of July, and you're in the nation's capital, it's Smithsonian Folklife Festival time! Every year I look forward to what the good old James Smithson's legacy institution has to offer. There are always 3 presentations. Traditionally, they have been 1) a governmental agency or anthropological idea, 2) a state or U.S. region, and 3) a nation or world region. In past years these have included Tibet, Mali, Texas, Wisconsin, Vermont, Nasa, the Spoke Word, and Wales. In the recent past, they've been changing up the themes...

This year would be a perfect example. The three offerings are: 1) Land-grant Universities and the USDA, 2) Anacostia (DC neighborhood), 3) and the AIDS quilt. On it's face, I was very disappointed and perplexed. But it's summer, and so I go!

The bulk of the space was given over to the section titled: "Campus And Community: Public and Land-grant Universities and the USDA @ 150" Full disclosure, I did not attend a Public or Land-grant University. I attended a small regional university and a small regional college for my Bachelor's degrees and M. Ed.

Best I could tell, 22 schools were invited to participate. The first thing I noticed was the University of Tennessee's offering: it was the same solar house that they had displayed back in March on a site near here for a Department of Energy sustainable living competition. Interesting, but for me "been there, done that". So what were some of the other schools peddling as Folklife?

University of Maryland: Robotics with Legos. Okay, this might not be a bad as I originally thought...

University of Montana: Finding dinosaur bones.

University of Mississippi: Milking a robotic cow. Very popular!

Indiana University: Community quilting and cultural heritage. I got to sign a patch that will be made into a memory quilt of the festival by a group from Fort Wayne called "Sisters of the Cloth Quilting Guild".

University of West Virginia: Witness protection programs. Gotcha! I don't know what their focus was, the freaky mascot stole all of my attention.

University of Texas Pan American: Mariachi Music. They were awesome! Beautiful harmonies.

University of Hawaii: Traditional Hawaiian Mele Oli & Mele Hula.

I stayed for this lecture. It started with a performance a cappella by Aaron J. Sala, musicologist and professor of the traditional mele "Hole Waimea".

He then distributed copies of his translation of the traditional poem and deconstructed it in the face of the island nation's history. What a gift, and I was so glad that I had recently read Sarah Vowell's "Unfamiliar Fishes".

USDA: Plants and a Test Kitchen

I stepped in here long enough to listen to this woman basically tell us that if you don't cook the meat you buy from the grocery store within hours of purchasing it, you're playing with bacterial roulette. She went on and on ad infinitum to the degree that I wondered how many more minutes I had to live after my recent lunch from the Azerbaijani Food Tent (more on this later).

Plants in boxes... Been there, done that, too!

Wednesday, June 27, 2012

Folklife Festival 2012: "Citified: Arts And Creativity East Of The Anacostia River"

The second area of focus for this summer's Smithsonian Folklife Festival is Anacostia. For those who are unfamiliar with Washington, D.C. let me say this--you will be hard pressed to find a more diverse, interesting, and historically-segregated city in the entire country. Anacostia is the traditional "ghetto" of the nation's capital, and I mean that with no disrespect. Accepting the urban American understanding of the word ghetto, Anacostia is overwhelmingly black, poor, and lacking in access to basic economic, welfare, and cultural amenities. Anacostia has a high crime rate with outsized criminality around drug usage, sexual exploitation and violence. Just this past week two children and a counselor at a summer camp were shot in a spray of bullets that involved gang activity and had nothing what-so-ever to do with any of them. That is the popular image of Anacostia.

Anacostia is also a rich cultural enclave. There are many wonderful, dynamic, and selfless people who believe in the power of community to catalyze change who are devoting their lives to making Anacostia a vibrant and invigorating place in which to thrive. Arena Stage, one of the pre-eminent regional theater companies in the nation, is located there. The Frederick Douglas Museum and Cultural center testify to Anacostia's centuries long location as a folcrum of justice and civil evolution. My resent visit to the Kenilworth Park & Aquatic Gardens is a example of Anacostia's natural beauty and resources.

And yet, a strange choice for the Smithsonian Folklife festival. A choice that feels easy and inexpensive. Of all the foci this year it was also the thinest in terms of ideas and space. I found this to be the most disappointing aspect of the festival, because you have what ought to be a hometown advantage, and it felt squandered and dis-respected en large.

And yet those who participated were wonderful, even as the organizing theme was hard to pin down. "Good Hope & Naylor Corner" never did become apparent to me as to what it is. Confusing.

As I watched, the tent became alive with the story telling of Master Griot Baba-C. He epitomized the heart of those afore mentioned Anacostians whose faith in their community drive them to become beacons of hope and life. The festival owes such performers a better venue in which to express their visions than the one provided.

And if there simply isn't enough depth in Anacostia--and I don't believe this to be the case--to fill out a third of this festival, then create another opportunity like a series at the Kennedy Center.

The only other thing happening during my visit was a demonstration of spray-paint mural making.

Hungry and with two options: Barbacue and Azerbaijani cuisine. How cliché can you get? Black neighborhood = barbacue, right? On the other hand, Azerbaijan and Anacostia?! Really? Other than occupying the same volume in a traditional was hard to make the connection, but easy to make the choice.

I love food. I am not afraid to experiment. I went with option 3 "Toyuq Shish Kebab. To drink, I picked "Dyushes". I should have known that things weren't good when the hunky guy operated the cash register behaved like I was his first EVER customer, and the cash register was a complex algorithm-contraption, and clearly labeled, pre-packed, styrofoam carry out containers where mysterious creatures dangerous to the touch... Oh, the joys of hindsight! I didn't even complain when he rang it up as 9 + 4 instead of the posted 9 + 3 (perhaps there was a tax?).

Feeding thousands from under a tent miles away from the source of production is a challenge for a well-heeled operation. It can only be a nightmare for a novice establishment--I don't think there is some mega-Azerbaijani-festival-food conglomerate out there. So suffice to say that the picture on the placard did not deliver what it promised.

Furthermore, I have this dear, dear friend who has a fixation on how food born pathogens affect the digestive track. She always claims some set and certain time frame from ingestion to reaction. It's a number like 16 hours and she claims a scientific superiority when espousing her understanding of's a battle I never think worth engaging. I know it's poppycock! Lunch at 12:30--violent gastro-intestinal response began at 3:30 and continued again and again and again until 4:30 and then slept until 8...awoke to another episode, and now at 10:30 steady as she goes. So much for Azerbaijani food!

Folklife Festival 2012: "Creativity And Crisis: Understanding The AIDS Memorial Quilt"

The history of the AIDS Memorial Quilt and a piece of U.S. real estate called "The Mall" is a very important and unique one. The Quilt has been displayed in its entirety only five times -- in 1987, 1988, 1989, 1992 and 1996 -- and each time it was on The Mall.

I have to admit that of all of the themes this year, this one seemed the strangest to me. After having visited it today, it still does.

To expand the idea, the names of those with quilt panels were printed on canvas and used to adorn the low fence that separate portions of the presentations.

This display gave detailed looks into the lives of some of the people from other places who had died of AIDS.

In one area a set of tricorn placards with the history of the quilt narrated on them attracked visitors like these professional folk on their lunch break.

A main tent was set up for displaying further information on the parent organization. The tent in the back ground was decked out for a quilting bee that had yet to get fully organized. There were also smaller tents and canopies where names would be read out and memories of those with panels would be shared.

And then there were the panels themselves.

I actually had the privilege of seeing the quilt in 1996. It ran the full length of The Mall from the edge of the capitol to the shadow of the Washington Monument. It was impossible to apprehend, and all I wanted to do was walk and cry. So visceral was the feeling, that even the act of breathing became intentional.

Today the experience was very different. First, the amount of panels was so much less, and I know it still looks impressive--but having been to a mountain, a walk on a hill just isn't the same. Second, in 1996 the graves were still warm. I was hard pressed to find a panel today that had a death date later than 1995 on it. What had seemed like a holocaust, now felt like history. My emotions still welled up within, but not with the same stark and hopeless intensity as had been the case just 16 years ago.

Respectfully, I commend to you just a few of the panels that caught my attention.