Thursday, November 29, 2007
I went out to SHE BANG at TCs last night to hear Tracy Mack and The Shondes. Tracy rocks on a beautiful guitar all by her lonesome and she showed remarkably good humor in the face of technical problems with the sound.
The Shondes were just lovely. The first song was a bit loose but then it came together. Lots of energy -- particularly the engaging vocals. My only complaint is with the short set. Including the encore, they were done by 12:15am! And they were the headliners. But how lovely to stumble down to my local venue and find a new band to love. Hope they come back soon. Good job, B (the energy behind SHE BANG evenings at TCs). We want more.
And on the horizon, Hullabalo, Deep Space, and Jam Samich on TCs on Saturday.... and then many, many bands after that. It isn't quite time for the Blow Out yet, but it is coming soon and all you folks in local bands should consider getting in on it -- deadline for applications is Dec. 28.
Wednesday, November 28, 2007
“If pornography is part of your sexuality, then you have no right to your sexuality,” writes Catharine MacKinnon, the grand dame of feminist anti-pornography crusaders.
This kind of hard-line rhetoric has done no favors to feminism. It feeds stereotypes about feminists’ intellectual rigidity and dour demeanors. And it drove many activists from the movement in the 1980s during the incredibly divisive “sex-wars” when some feminists tried to wrest the issue of pornography out of MacKinnon and Andrea Dworkin’s hands. The MacDworkinites prevailed, however. Mainstream American society came to accept their views as the feminist stance on the issue and for the last 20+ years, they have been recognized by the mainstream press and far too many public officials as the “experts” on what pornography does to women.
In some ways, MacKinnon (Dworkin died in 2005, but MacKinnon soldiers on) is the consummate radical. She goes hard to the extreme and stays there, giving no ground. Pornography is always bad for women: it not only objectifies and degrades them, but it perpetrates violence against them. She is doing, as a radical, exactly what she is supposed to be doing. And while feminism has suffered for it (and I am unwilling to let her off the hook there), pornography may have benefited from it. Pro-sex feminists and others who strode out onto the field of battle to challenge the MacDworkinites have done much to redefine sexual expression in our society. Sure, much porn is still “bad” in its production values, lack of character development, script writing, costuming, etc. but there is now, in contrast to the bad ol’ 1980s, much more variety of porn – who makes it, who it is for, and the kinds of situations, relationships, and people it portrays. Changing technology has contributed greatly to this, but it should not be lost that MacKinnon pissed off a lot of people and got them out there making lesbian porn, female-dominated porn, and much, much more just to prove she was wrong. And that has been a good thing.
So this morning, I am pondering what MacKinnon would say about all this. She has conceded nothing on this front. There is no indication that she went for the outrageous on the far end of the spectrum in the hopes of making smaller changes in the middle. Being who she is, I would be surprised and disappointed if she had. But I wonder, if I asked her about all this on her death bed many years from now, would she go out with a little smirk on her face?
Tuesday, November 27, 2007
Currently: Landscape Architect Chris and his client, the Depot Town CDC, try to figure out what (a) the community wants, (b) is physically possible, and (c) they think they can afford or find funding for. Chris munges all that into a draft plan.
Next: Chris presents the draft plan to the City’s Recreation Commission for comments (Nov. 29, 7pm, City Hall, open to public), to use, along with further discussion with his clients, to come back Dec. 13 (same time/place) with a final draft.
Following: The Recreation Commission will be releasing a Draft Master Plan for the entire city parks/rec system for public review and comment, likely for the month of January, then hold public hearing, pass it up to Council, who send it on to the State DNR.
Meanwhile: The Depot Town CDC uses their spankin’ new plan to shop for funding and start planning for the summer ’08 event-slash-construction season.
Budget will be determined partially by grant funding, partially by event revenues (the Elvis Fest people have a lot of overlap with the CDC people, and have committed money), partially by expected future revenues from anything built, and they’ll take it a piece at a time.
I'm going to try to hit the meeting on Nov 29th (Thursday!). Wanna come?
Wednesday, November 21, 2007
I did have my camera handy when my most recent project met its new person, however. I like to make odd hats (bright colors, odd shapes, weird yarn, lots of boings) but it is tricky to get the right kind of odd matched up with the right person (and then knit up in the right size!).
This one seems to have come off without a hitch. It is knit in that beautiful Andean Silk yarn from Knit Picks and I did a better job with the double pointed needles near the crown than I have in the past so, even for a crazy hat, it is pretty (if I do say so myself).
Tuesday, November 20, 2007
At this morning's appointments I took the opportunity to explain to all who would listen my bad experiences being put under as a teenager and they made appropriate noises about pre-medicating me to keep that from happening again, so I feel somewhat better about that. And I've got two weeks to wrap my brain around the rest of it, including the fact that I will be laid up for a couple of weeks and on crutches for "a while"... Any chance that I might chicken out of the surgery has probably been eliminated by the fact that I'm not allowed to take any ibuprofen for the week leading up to surgery. No pain meds for a week? Yeah, I'll probably be really ready for that hip to get fixed.
Monday, November 19, 2007
Friday, November 16, 2007
But then today, I stalled. Oh sure, I made it to the gym, I picked up the buying club order, I sat in front of the computer, but no real work would happen. I put in some hours, but little came of it. Sometimes it feels like all I am doing is mapping out the "real" work that I will do "someday." Ugh.
An unsettled afternoon turned me grumpy -- I was cold, tired, and feeling very unproductive. In such a state I often become greatly annoyed at the clutter of my house. I secretly (okay, it isn't really a secret) want someone else to clean it, but the menehune never seem to come. So I finally hoisted myself off the couch, opened a beer, put the earbuds in, and cleaned...
Ah, finally, some productivity... and with the ipod blaring, the rest of the world was gone. Nice.
Wednesday, November 14, 2007
Anyway, neighborhood groups started lobbying for new criminal statutes (making "obscenity" a crime -- something that was based on "community standards" after the Miller decision in 1973), better zoning laws, civil rights legislation, more zoning, licensing laws, and even buy outs of the businesses in question. Many of their arguments are based on the impact of these businesses on the feel, function, and perception of the neighborhood (stuff I am interested in) but then the arguments slide into territory I am less interested in -- morality, in particular, as more of the churchy folk get involved in the late 1980s and even just "straight ahead" feminist arguments about the exploitation of women and the violence of women encouraged by the materials and performances that these businesses offered. That's where it gets icky to me... my eyes glaze over and I start thinking about dusty the top of the fridge...
As I work on this and talk about it to friends, acquaintances, circulation desk attendees at the library, and grocery store clerks... the question inevitably comes up: so how do you feel about pornography? Unable to draw a firm line between my scholarly interests and my personal ones, I usually fumble the answer, but here is where my brain is today.
On the one hand, I am deeply sympathetic to the neighborhood groups who worked for a decade to (successfully) get rid of the adult businesses in their immediate communities. They were right, businesses that blatantly traded in sex created environments hostile to women -- and because of the geography of the area neighborhood women had to pass the doors of these bookstores and theaters to get to the bus stop, the grocery store, and the laundromat.
But then the members of the gay community that objected to many of these neighborhood efforts had a point -- the legal changes sought meant police and city attorneys now had a new arsenal of laws to use against gays and the physical spaces that they used to find each other. What laws are designed to do means relatively little until you see how they are interpreted and applied. All the good of the neighborhood groups, then, could be negated with the persecution of a politically vulnerable population. (I haven't yet done enough of the research to know if this happened.) Of course changes since the 1980s have made this less of an issue -- gay communities have more, new, and better spaces (real and virtual) than at any time in the past.
While it pains me to say this, because I am all about space, this whole approach seems off to me. It accepts the negatives associated with commercialized sex.
I do remain leery of adult businesses -- I routinely skip blocks where they are, especially the theaters -- but then I am not anti-porn. Really. I've enjoyed a bit of sexual entertainment myself over the years... especially as porn has proliferated and it is not just stuff made for and by str8 guys. That there are places like Toys in Babeland and events like the Dirty Show, that good little feminists like myself can like porn, that cool women such as Chloe can make erotic movies means there is a way to "do porn" in our society. The key to non (okay, how about just less)-exploitative, still-values-human-rights porn (and how about porn with decent production values? that would be good too!), however, is to take it out of the realm of the seedy. Part of doing that would be the minor [snicker] undertaking of making sex in general less shameful in our society. Ultimately the work of the neighborhoods in Minneapolis, then, appears shortsighted. They lobbied for eradication and relocation ("put it in the warehouse district downtown where no one has to see it..."). Maybe it is time to lobby for it to be better instead of being gone.
Sunday, November 11, 2007
O: "When we get home, do you want to play Chef?"
E: "Let's play Plans to Make the World a Better Place. I have this great idea I don't want to forget."
O: "Tell me. Tell me now."
E: "No, let's wait til we get home. My idea is nothing bad, but I don't want mom to hear."
O: "Well, I have an idea. My idea is that we should take all the weapons in the world and destroy them. We can throw them all in the garbage."
Thursday, November 8, 2007
The latter is full of discussions of how to improve the "civic good" (as defined by a bunch of middle class white people) through changes to the built environment. Under discussion are things like trash cans, street lighting, rest rooms, playgrounds, and parks. They agonize in great detail over designs for each of these items. What is most sanitary? What will be most aesthetically pleasing? How will the design impact people's behavior? Because I am interested in the reforms pushed by and for women, most of the journals I am reading come from the "City Beautiful" camp of city planning (as opposed to the "City Efficient" movement). These reformers and planners firmly believed that a beautiful environment and one designed to meet the needs of the population (play spaces for children, for example) would convince people to act better toward their city and their fellow residents. "Good" planning as a means of alleviating social tensions was at the foundation of the field of urban planning -- whichever camp the planners were coming from -- and I suspect that basic concept has not changed much even down to today (though ideas on how to do it certainly have).
Today the powers-that-be in Ypsi are trying their hand democratizing the practice of planning. The city has at least one urban planner, has master plans for parks, and conceptual designs for the Huron River Corridor. But today, all of these are coming before the public in an effort generate ideas and suggestions for revamping two of the city's finest parks: Frog Island and Riverside. I've got to wonder how much of today's design charrette is going to be about Murph and other city officials managing the public's expectations. I'm anxious to see what my neighbors bring to the discussion -- if they come at all. Oh, I'm sure some of the usual suspects (Pierce, Maynard, Getto) will be there, but will the stroller-pushers, dog walkers, joggers, and bench loungers also come? I hope so. And then there is the part of me that wonders, for all I know about historical efforts to design, redesign, and use public spaces, particularly parks, will I (that'd be Prof. Smarty Pants to you) have anything of use to offer?
I do love these parks and use both of them regularly. So what is my wish list for these parks? I want them to remain fairly natural -- the biggest draw for my kids is that they can stand on the river's edge and throw sticks in the river and watch the current catch them (and they can do this for hours). I want them to continue to be festival friendly. For a tiny city, we have the best festivals around. Space should also be open for community group events that do not have the funds of a big festival. I want the parks to continue to function as a bike-friendly cut through from downtown to Depot Town and the Corner Brewery (though the upper path around Frog Island should be widened and better maintained). There should be a decent place to pee while one is there. It should be lit, but not in an obnoxious, light-polluting way. Friendly kid space back from the river bank would be swell -- so caregivers for small people can zone out in the sun without worrying that Suzy is going to go from slide to river in a blink of an eye. Signage should be better -- including a map of the park system. Pedestrian/bike entrance should be more inviting -- the end off Cross is all about the cars when it is open and when it is not... well, it still hides the park behind the drive/parking lot and people have to go through the parking lot to get to the tridge. There should be bike racks near every entrance. There should be non-stair ways into the park at every access point for bikes, strollers, and wheelchairs. Boat pull outs would be swell -- I'd love to kayak to the Heritage Festival! I'd like the dog runners to continue to be able to use some part of the parks for that -- it is nice group of folks who regularly turn out with their pups after work. I would also like the parks to be able function as a political space (place of public discourse, a physical location for the public sphere, if you will -- that last bit of language was just to thrill the Habermasians out there). If we can festival in the parks, we should be able to rally in them without having to negotiate a bunch of red tape with the city (I'm concerned that once more infrastructure goes into the park the city will make them harder to use for such purposes). Ooh, and how about some cool public art? All the better if it is useful art (like play structures or bike racks). Okay that is probably enough wants for now...
If'n you want to come out and participate, the charrettes are today (Thursday, Nov 8) from 3-5:30pm (this is the one I'm going to) and from 6-8:30pm at the Senior Center on Congress in Ypsilanti -- next to Rutherford Pool.
Wednesday, November 7, 2007
This is why it is strange to yet again witness a somewhat contentious political issue grip the city while I sit 100 yards from being able to participate. Yep, as Ypsi as I am, I actually live just over the line in the township. As was the case for the highly contested mayoral campaign last year, proper-Ypsians struggled to figure out what to do with a city in severe financial straits. The city long ago slashed such "luxuries" such as the recreation department (which is why there is a "community" pool instead of a "city" pool -- local folks raised money and found grants to take over what is so clearly a "public" function). Eastern takes up a huge chunk of city land and pays no taxes. The city is hurting. Not surprisingly, someone came up with the idea of the city income tax.
The issue itself is dead for the moment -- defeated at the polls yesterday by a clear 2/3 majority. Since I couldn't vote on it anyway, I choose to not invest the effort to decide if I am happy or disappointed. What I am reflecting on this morning is how much some of my friends struggled to decide how to vote on both the tax and the mayor, how mixed and numerous the yard signs were in many neighborhoods, how thoughtful some of the blog posts were... I guess it all leaves me with the feeling that even if the budget for the place sucks at the moment (oh, and it does), it is a pretty politically healthy city.
Tuesday, November 6, 2007
Speaking of training wheels, I was wishing for some training wheels when trying my hand at bike polo on Sunday. Seriously, it wasn't that hard to stay upright, but it was tricky to actually engage other players with any semblance of intentionality/skill. I opted to focus most of my efforts on not hurting myself or others and then count on dumb luck to actually get and move the ball. The first game (3 on 3) was fun and my more experienced teammates were good sports while we all flailed about getting warmed up and used to the court. Noodling around with Andy and Dan(?) in between games was also nice, allowing actual opportunities to attempt goals... but then we re-grouped with 5 on each side and that was just a shit load of bikes. I fell back to focus mainly on defense since finding the ball and then getting oneself in any sort of alignment to get it from an opponent when one only has a mallet in the right hand was making my brain tired. Since my mallet handling sucked, I found I was more useful just getting my bike in between the opposing team and our goal. Somewhere in the middle of the third game (still 5 on 5), the switch in my head clicked and I was done -- a bit cold, a bit tired, and all too aware that I was keeping my kids out a bit too late considering E's homework load. After a graceful loss, I made a quick exit with the kids.
Just to round out my fairly bikey weekend, I should also mention the pleasant Bike Ypsi ride on Sunday afternoon. We were an amusing hodge podge of bikes and riders once again, but it was fun to pedal with new friends and, once we were warmed up, the day proved lovely. It is quite the trip to see some bike culture taking root in town.
So, all in all, I had a very social weekend, several outdoorsy adventures, a bit of bike time, a couple of naps, and a good time with my kids. I also learned -- in hunting for info on when cyclocross races started -- that my racing age is 40 (measured by the age you will be on Dec 31, 2008). Of course, it matters not, but it was still a little jarring to see!