Friday, January 30, 2009

It's a Beautiful Day in the Neighborhood

I want to be grumpy about public broadcasting fund drives. But I can’t. And it’s all because of Sesame Street.

I started contributing to public broadcasting the morning I heard the woman on the pledge drive say that Sesame Street had been on the air for 30 years. I remember stopping in my kitchen in the midst of a busy morning trying, and failing, to picture a world without Sesame Street.

Now, Sesame Street is almost 40 years old, having premiered on November 10, 1969. It’s watched in over 120 countries and has won 109 Emmy’s. It remains a pioneer of interactive, multicultural, educational programming that emphasizes both academics and the arts. And, it’s still really frigging cool. Mister Rogers, not to be outdone, was in production from 1968 to 2001 and is still aired daily.

So, before you get pissed listening to the next public broadcasting fund drive think about this; if we didn’t fund public broadcasting in the past, we wouldn’t have had the Muppets, Big Bird, or Snuffleupagus, and we wouldn’t know about the Land of Make-Believe or how paper bags are made. And face it, Sesame Street is just good for you, look at Maria and Luis, who have both been on the show since 1971, and neither of them has aged a day.

Fountain of youth or not, and regardless of the state of the economy, now is not the time to stop supporting public broadcasting.

To donate to public broadcasting:

For the not faint of heart: a tribute to Mister Rogers:

Thursday, January 29, 2009

The Dancer: II


Every pair of pointe shoes is handmade, and, like snowflakes, inherently unique. Ballet dancers began rising en pointe in the late 1700's in an effort to appear weightless and ephemeral. It takes years of training to be able to do even the most basic of steps in pointe shoes, and it never becomes either easy or painless. It is impossible to fully grasp the art and athleticism of ballet without holding a pair of pointe shoes in your hands.

Dancers are supposed to rotate through a couple of pairs rather than wearing one pair all the time. It's partly to make sure that we always have shoes that are broken in, partly to let them dry properly, and partly to give our feet a rest from breaking in newer pairs. My feet look like this because I switched pointe shoes last night, and ended up taking the skin off three of my toes. The ones I didn't bother to tape. I felt it happen, during a long combination of turns across the floor. I turned to the girl next to me and said as much, "I think I just lost the skin off my toes." But here's the thing, I was dancing well last night and pushing to get it right, so I kept dancing.

By the time I took off my pointe shoes I had bled through my tights and part of the toes of my shoes. This is not an uncommon occurrence, and makes you no tougher than anyone else in the studio, but it does provide you with the ballet equivalent of "street cred", not because of the minor injury, but because of dancing through it. Which I will have to do for some time. I have two days to heal up, tape up, and put my pointe shoes back on. I will not have new skin in that time. But I'll still dance.

"Now now ladies, no huffing and puffing. No one wants to see a ballerina looking like it requires effort..." Miss Christina, one of my instructors

Wednesday, January 28, 2009

This Little Piggy

Its been 16 years since I've had a piece of bacon. For more than half my life and to varying degrees, I have eliminated meat and dairy from my diet. When I was younger it was a choice based on the loosely formulated ethics of myself and my peers. And then it became about nutrition. Now if I'm asked for a reason for not eating meat I say that it's some combination of ethics, health, and habit. A lazy answer at best. But the real reason to not eat meat or dairy, or at least not very much and certainly locally raised, the reason that most accurately encompasses all of the repercussions of this aspect of modern diet, is really very simple.
Not eating meat may just result in world peace.
Meat production and consumption is tied to global hunger, deforestation, soil loss, water quality, class wars, and global warming. As just one example, 70% of U.S. grain and 80% of corn goes to feed cattle, not people, and the World Watch Institute tells us that "Continued growth in meat output is dependent on feeding grain to animals, creating competition between affluent meat eaters and the world's poor."
Not to mention the distressing karmic consequences of our collective and ongoing abuse of the very animals we depend upon for sustenance.
In his essay "The Only Diet for a Peacemaker is a Vegetarian Diet" Fr. John Dear discusses both the tangible and ethical connections between peace and food consumption and ties his discussion to the Christian directive to pursue and propagate peace. He notes that Mahatma Gandhi, Albert Schweitzer, Thich Nhat Hanh, Tolstoy and St. Francis of Assisi all agree, vegetarianism is a keystone to humanity, compassion, and peace.
To read Dear's entire essay:
To watch the veggie world's response to Paris Hilton's Carl's Junior Ad:
PETA's banned Superbowl Ad
Photo Courtesy of:
The Only Diet for a Peacemaker is a Vegetarian Diet, John Dear, Published on Thursday, July 10, 2008 by the National Catholic Reporter

Monday, January 26, 2009

Reality Check

Today, I made it through my entire work day without speaking to another woman. I talked to contractors, local regulators, and project managers, not one of them a woman. This is not unusual for me. When I do talk to another woman at work she's usually someones secretary. Or a receptionist.
I am neither imagining nor exaggerating this. Of the 1228 professional geologists currently licensed by Oregon, 156 are women.
I'm not sure what I think about this. Generally, the guys are bigger than me, which means they carry heavy things more easily, lift things higher, have more leverage, and don't seem to get as cold as I do. But I get the job job done, as do the other 12.7% of the workforce made up of women. As far as I can tell, the only reason being a girl impedes my ability to do my job is because of the way I'm perceived, and consequently treated, by the men I work with.

Sunday, January 25, 2009

Do or Do Not.

In post-WWII Poland the communist authority officially sanctioned only one artistic movement, Socialist Realism, a style of realism intended to further propagandize socialism and communism. By the 1970's a new communist Poland had emerged in response to social unrest and a failing economy. Citizens were granted limited freedom of speech and access to western media. In isolation, a new Polish aesthetic developed. As some consequence of this new modernity, western movies were imported, but released with new poster art, as demonstrated above in the official movie poster for the Polish release of Star Wars.

Star Wars - gwiezdne wojny Limited edition art poster with the film subject. 400 copies printed Original Polish poster designer: Michal Ksiazek

Friday, January 23, 2009

A Good Meal.


In the 1940's Northern Ireland created a "Grow More Food" program, which included ploughing, planting, and harvesting the land in front of the Parliament building. This leads me to wonder how many community garden plots, tomato plants, stalks of corn, zucchinis, summer salads, loaves of bread, might we cull from the White House lawn or the Washington Mall?

World hunger statistics in real time:

Photo by M McNeill18 Mar 1940

The Dancer: I

One of the distinguishing features of dance as an artform is the masochism inherent in its participants. As company members, our lives and bodies are not our own, but offered up, sacrificed for the greater good, for someone else's vision. My knees look like this because of a piece choreographed by a good friend that we've been working on for a number of weeks. A piece of hip hop that is proving to be beyond the grasp of his dancers, classically trained ballet dancers. Its not just that the movement is unfamiliar, which it is, but we lack vocabulary to put to the steps, which means we can't say the choreography to ourselves as we dance, and we have to learn it by muscle memory, a tedious and repetitive process. But mostly, the piece is actually painful, and at times frightening, with its knee turns and handstands with splits, particulary in the practice studio with its hard floors and low ceilings. But we love this man, and he's a true artist, so we dance, knowing that it isn't good enough and that we're running out of time. Pull it together. Do the artist justice. Collect the bruises to show you worked for it.
"If you dance, you dance because you have to. Every dancer hurts, you know."~ Katherine Dunham

Thursday, January 22, 2009

The Mexico City Policy

Today is the 36th anniversary of Roe v. Wade. My entire life experience is from within the context of the rights provided by this decision. I am probably not capable of correctly picturing the ways in which the lives of myself and my friends would be different had we lacked reproductive rights. But here are a few things I do know:
Worldwide, there are more than 200 million women who wish to avoid or delay pregnancy and who do not have access to modern contraception.
Every minute of every day, a woman dies from a pregnancy-related cause.

More than 33 million people are living with HIV/AIDS worldwide.

Worldwide, approximately 19 million unsafe abortions are performed annually.

The number of people, primarily women, living in extreme poverty worldwide is 1.3 billion.
Improved access to birth control, women's health services, and HIV prevention can improve gender equality, maternal health, and child survival; and reduce poverty worldwide.
For more information or to take action contact Planned Parenthood:
For a brief history of reproductive rights in the United States:
(statistics courtesy of Planned Parenthood, 2008)

Wednesday, January 21, 2009

Raise Your Hand

A moment of prayer, joy, and hope, captured at the inaguration. A good reminder that now is the time for us to stand up and be counted. A reminder that we are all one voice, one helping hand, one foot soldier pushing towards a new way of being in the world. It is the actions of individuals that will steer the path of the masses.

Tuesday, January 20, 2009

On This Day


I sat today in a common lunch room with men and women in muddy work boots and safety vests and watched Barack Obama become the 44th president of the United States. We sat in silence, let the sound of Yo-Yo Ma’s cello drift over us, and believed him when he told us that those who seek to misuse power, who lack compassion, charity, and responsibility stand on the wrong side of history.

Monday, January 19, 2009

Introducing...Little Miss Sio

(or, things you end up doing instead of breaking up and ruining your vacation)