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18 Sep 17:00

Clever Land Artist Copyrighted Earth to Beat an Oil Pipeline

by Urbanist
[ By WebUrbanist in Art & Installation & Sound. ]

land artwork surface copyright

Canadian land artist and sculptor Peter von Tiesenhausen occupies a stretch of land in Alberta covered with his artworks, but it was not until he turned the top six layers of the soil on his 800 acres of land itself from private to intellectual property that he was able to fend off encroaching corporate interests.

land sculpture water figures

In Canada, a landowner has surface rights but must allow the government to grant paid subterranean access, allowing companies to create or mine passageways, pipelines, minerals or other natural resources below the ground.

land art hole breach

They are compensated, per, and “this compensation is usually for lost harvests and inconvenience, but, Tiesenhausen reasoned, what if instead of a field of crops these companies were destroying the life’s work of an acclaimed visual artist? Wouldn’t the compensation have to be exponentially higher?”

land artwork gallery bridge

Effectively, by contacting a lawyer and protecting the surface of his land as intellectual property, he has prevented anyone from breaching that surface without compensation, which, for a work of art, could be essentially any amount. While oil companies could contest his claim, so far they have settled for costly reroutes, perhaps to avoid losing and setting a precedent that could hurt them more in the long run.

land art gallery installation

“I’m not trying to get money for my land, I’m just trying to relate to these companies on their level,” says Tiesenhausen from his home near Demmitt, Alberta. “Once I started charging $500 an hour for oil companies to come talk to me, the meetings got shorter and few and far between.”

land art hanging museum

Now an artist, Tiesenhausen has a great deal of experience with natural resource companies, having worked in oil fields, mining gold and even crushing boulders for airstrips earlier in life before turning to large-scale works of land and installation art and sculpture.

land art wood sculpture

Cantech Letter notes of the clever strategy, “This is eerily similar to the defense Portia deploys against Shylock in ‘The Merchant of Venice’ in which he is legally entitled to extract a pound of flesh from a debtor who can’t pay, so long as he doesn’t extract a single drop of blood or marrow or bone.”

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16 Sep 15:00

Being Counted: Reporting My Rape at a School Under Title IX Investigation

by Katie Rose Guest Pryal

July 2014

The first thing I have to do is find out X.’s full name. I know his first and last name, but I want to have his middle name. Being able to say all three names has power. Like when I get mad at my kids and say all three names, they know they’re in deep shit.

I don’t even know how to spell X.’s first name properly—it’s a name with a couple of possible spellings. Since I figure he’ll be a practicing doctor now, I just Google him. I don’t think twice. I type his name into the search bar and Google takes me right to his home page. To the page of his plastic surgery practice in one of the wealthiest towns in the United States.

Cheesy synth-jazz plays in the background while I stare into the eyes of my rapist.

I am not prepared for this.

I am not prepared to look into his eyes after so many years. After one doctorate, one marriage, and two children. This is not something I could ever have been prepared for. I hit mute on my computer.

I hate this man. I hate that he has a plastic surgery practice. The menu for the work he does divides women into body parts like “thighs,” “face,” “breasts,” and “torso.” Women’s eyes stare at me through my screen. His homepage looks like a fucking porno site. I get his full name and shut the browser.

I type his name into the rape reporting notes that I’m preparing to bring with me to campus. The notes feel inauthentic when compared to the report of, say, an undergraduate in a moment of crisis. But I know I will fight similar battles to the young women reporting rapes after finding themselves naked in frat house broom closets or basements.

The rape reporting people on campus will want details (details I won’t have.) They will want to tell me what to do with my report (and I will have to resist them.) They will quickly form ideas about what kind of person I am the minute I walk through the door (and those ideas will likely be wrong.)

Because they will want details, I’m preparing notes. My first problem is that I don’t remember the date. Fortunately, I’m detail-obsessed. I’ve kept journals since age thirteen to record everything. So that’s the first place I look to find the date. But, for some reason, I didn’t write down much about X. raping me. I didn’t write down the date. This is very unlike me. (Note to Past Me: What were you thinking?)

No problem, though, because I also keep a detailed calendar. Like, if Adrian Monk decided to keep a calendar, he would be jealous of my calendar. He’d ask me for calendar lessons. I start flipping through my past calendars, year by year, to the calendar for 20-- … and it is gone. Fucking gone. They’re all lined up on the shelf, and that one is missing.

Now, I wouldn’t have written in the calendar “Raped by X.” on whatever day in 20--. But I would have written down when I was flying to visit a guy that I’d just started dating. The reason I was in Chapel Hill at all, instead of in Greensboro where I was attending graduate school, was to stay overnight with my sister so I could fly out of the Raleigh airport the next morning on Southwest Airlines.

In the early morning hours before that flight, X. raped me.

Read more Being Counted: Reporting My Rape at a School Under Title IX Investigation at The Toast.

13 Sep 21:44

"I don’t have any dreams. What’s the point?...

"I don’t have any dreams. What’s the point? I’m poor. I don’t have any skills. I wash the utensils in the kitchen— that’s what I do. But I like the girls I work with. We make fun together. I tell jokes. They tell jokes. I’m happy— it’s in my nature."

(New Delhi, India)

13 Sep 14:00

Saturday Stat: The Average Prisoner is Visited Only Twice

by Chris Uggen PhD

Prisoners who can maintain ties to people on the outside tend to do better — both while they’re incarcerated and after they’re released. A new Crime and Delinquency article by Joshua Cochran, Daniel Mears, and William Bales, however, shows relatively low rates of visitation.

The study was based on a cohort of prisoners admitted into and released from Florida prisons from November 2000 to April 2002. On average, inmates only received 2.1 visits over the course of their entire incarceration period. Who got visitors? As the figure below shows, prisoners who are younger, white or Latino, and had been incarcerated less frequently tend to have more visits. Community factors also shaped visitation patterns: prisoners who come from high incarceration areas or communities with greater charitable activity also received more visits.  


There are some pretty big barriers to improving visitation rates, including: (1) distance (most inmates are housed more than 100 miles from home); (2) lack of transportation; (3) costs associated with missed work; and, (4) child care. While these are difficult obstacles to overcome, the authors conclude that corrections systems can take steps to reduce these barriers, such as housing inmates closer to their homes, making facilities and visiting hours more child-friendly, and reaching out to prisoners’ families regarding the importance of visitation, both before and during incarceration.

Cross-posted at Public Criminology.

Chris Uggen is a professor of sociology at the University of Minnesota and the author of  Locked Out: Felon Disenfranchisement and American Democracy, with Jeff Manza. You can follow him at his blog and on twitter.

(View original at

04 Sep 14:00

James Baldwin on the Idea that He Should Trust the Hearts of White People

by Lisa Wade, PhD

In the clip below, James Baldwin powerfully explains why he, as a black man, has no reason to assume that white people care about him and his people.

Responding to Dick Cavett, he says, “I don’t know what most white people in this country feel, but I can only conclude what they feel from the state of their institutions.”

He goes on to present a devastating list of ways in which American institutions are segregated and biased.  He concludes:

Now, this is the evidence. You want me to make an act of faith — risking myself, my wife, my woman, my sister, my children — on some idealization which you assure me exists in America, which I have never seen.

It was 1968, four years after the Civil Rights Act.  This year marks its 50th anniversary. How much have things changed?

Hat tip to Tim Wise. Cross-posted at Pacific Standard.

Lisa Wade is a professor of sociology at Occidental College and the co-author of Gender: Ideas, Interactions, Institutions. You can follow her on Twitter and Facebook.

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12 Sep 14:00

How Do We Decipher Sex in Daily Life?

by Lisa Wade, PhD

Flashback Friday.

In Michael Kimmel’s sociology of gender textbook, The Gendered Society, he offers us the following two pictures and asks us to decide, based on our gut-level reactions, whether the two individuals pictured are male or female:


If you are like most people, you find, perhaps to your own bewilderment, that the first individual seems male despite the female pubic hair pattern and apparent female genitalia and the second individual seems female despite the presence of a penis and scrotum.

Kimmel suggests that this is because, in our daily life, we habitually judge individuals as male or female on the basis of their secondary sex characteristics (e.g., body shape, facial hair, breasts) and social cues (e.g., hair length) and not, so much, their primary sex characteristics (i.e., their genitalia).

In that sense, Kimmel argues, social cues and secondary sex characteristics “matter” more when it comes to social interaction and gender is really about gender (socially constructed ideas about masculinity and femininity), not so much about sex (penises and vaginas).

Images borrowed the images from Gender: An Ethnomethodological Approach, by Kessler and McKenna.  University of Chicago Press.  Originally posted in 2009.

Lisa Wade is a professor of sociology at Occidental College and the co-author of Gender: Ideas, Interactions, Institutions. You can follow her on Twitter and Facebook.

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11 Sep 16:22

too much mustard — it’s good to be the king

by Rob Press
11 Sep 14:00

“Man Up, Ladies!” … But Not Too Much

by Chloe Albin and Georgiana Bostean PhD

In order to be successful in many parts of labor market, women must exhibit traits that are typically considered “masculine.” The title of a fashion article in Glamour magazine hints at — okay, blatantly states — this reality:

Man Up, Ladies! That whole menswear separates look is so hot right now. (Suits, layers, plaids, you name it.) We’d promote you instantly!


The article reinforces the idea that masculine characteristics are favored in many white collar jobs. In contrast, feminine characteristics carry a negative connotation, like when a New York Times article conflated being feminine and an undesirable employee when they contrasted the positive attribute of being “productive and results-oriented” with being a “sissy.”

Women can do masculinity, then, to reap some of the rewards offered to those who embody it, but there’s a catch: women must maintain their “femininity,” too. Women face gender rules that require that they wear makeup in order to be seen as beautiful and competent. Not doing so brings costs.

One study, for example, compared viewers’ perceptions of females with varying degrees of make-up, ranging from no make-up to glamorous. Research participants were shown photos of female faces and asked to rate the images on attractiveness, likeability, competence, and trustworthiness. Respondents rated the faces wearing make-up higher on likeablility, competence, and especially attractiveness, compared to the faces with no make-up.

These gendered behavioral and beauty norms amount to a double-edged sword for women.  They must do masculinity to be successful at work, but they must be feminine to get along.  So, man up, ladies… but not too much.

Chloe Albin is a senior at Chapman University studying dance and psychology. Dr. Georgiana Bostean is an assistant professor teaching sociology and environmental science and policy. She studies population health. 

(View original at

11 Sep 14:06

"Let me tell you about my son. When Aditya was born, there was a...

"Let me tell you about my son. When Aditya was born, there was a very popular television show on the air, and the main character was named Lord Rama. Lord Rama was known as a revealer of truth. So I joked with my best friend that my son was going to be just like Lord Rama, and he was going to bring a great truth into the world. Sixteen years later, that very same friend called me while I was out of town on vacation. 
'Uptal!' he screamed. 'Uptal! Turn on the TV! Your son is on the TV! He's just like Lord Rama!'
'What channel?' I asked.
'Any channel!' he screamed. So I turned on the television. And there he was. I hadn't known it, but while I was gone, he had started a petition on the internet. He was only sixteen years old at the time, and he had started an online petition calling for the government to reopen an old rape case. The case was nearly ten years old, and it involved the son of a very powerful government official. The son had raped and murdered a girl, and even though the evidence was overwhelming, he was only given three years in prison because of his family's connections. So Aditya started this petition to reopen the case. And soon it had millions of signatures! A sixteen year old boy! I couldn't believe it! I called his mother, and she was very scared. The men he was challenging were very powerful, and had many powerful friends. 
Soon Aditya was on the cover of every newspaper: ‘Young Boy Challenges Mafia,” the newspapers said. TV cameras were lining up in front of our house. His mother and I were very scared for him, and wanted him to lay low, but he insisted on doing every interview. He went on all the TV shows. Soon he started a protest right here at India Gate. He announced: ‘I am going to sit here until the case is reopened.’ Thousands of people joined him. All the famous musicians and Bollywood stars came to join him. The largest magazine in India called him ‘the country’s youngest icon.’ Soon after the protest began, the chief judge of the Supreme Court announced he was reopening the case. When the new trial was finished, the man had been given a life sentence!”

(New Delhi, India)

10 Sep 21:20

Final Chapter of Cash Seizure Series a Repulsive Accounting of Police Misbehavior

by Scott Shackford

"I sense a 50 percent increase in overtime claims coming."On Monday I noted The Washington Post had put together a series of stories offering a deep look at the abuse by law enforcement agencies across the country of civil asset forfeiture laws and how they’ve been able to line their pockets with citizens’ money without ever actually proving said citizens had committed any crime.

The final chapter is, as teased, a collection of terrible stories of American citizens who happen to be transporting cash being stopped by law enforcement officers for relatively minor reasons and conclude with these people having said cash taken away from them. Here’s just one of several stories highlighted:

Matt Lee of Clare, Mich., got snared in an interdiction net in 2011 on Interstate 80 in Humboldt County, Nev. Lee was a 31-year-old college graduate who had struggled to find work and had moved back in with his parents to save money. When a friend promised him an entry-level job as a sales rep at a photo studio in California, Lee’s father, a postal employee, loaned him $2,500 in cash and Lee drove west in a decade-old Pontiac Bonneville.

On his third day, Lee was passing through the Nevada desert, wearing aviator sunglasses. A sheriff’s deputy raced up alongside the Bonneville, stared at Lee and then pulled him over.

Humboldt County Sheriff’s Deputy L.A. Dove, a member of the K-9 drug interdiction unit, has received instruction from the 4:20 Group, a contractor for the DEA and one of the leading interdiction trainers in the country.

Dove asked whether Lee was carrying any currency and summoned a K-9 officer. Dove told Lee, who is white, to get out of the car and stand at the edge of the desert, while a dog sniffed for drugs. The deputy told Lee that he didn’t believe his story that he was moving to California, because he was carrying so little baggage, Lee told The Post. Lee has no criminal record.

When a search turned up Lee’s remaining $2,400 in cash, Dove and his colleague exchanged high-fives, Lee said. Dove said he was taking the money under state law because he was convinced that Lee was involved in a drug run. Lee was left with only the $151 in his pocket.

Lee got an attorney and eventually they agreed to give him his money back. But his attorney ended up taking half in fees.

For other cases, when challenged, officials offer to give the citizen half the money they’ve taken back if their victim will shut up and go away. Another victim, despite winning his battle and getting all his money back (and forcing the government to pay his legal fees) still ended up screwed over. The seized cash was to be used for costs of operating his small Virginia restaurant. Without the money, he ended up having to shut it down during the course of fighting for his property back.

Read the full story here. That at least nobody got beaten or shot is about the best you can say about the tales.

10 Sep 06:37


by Greg Ross

“The greatest deception men suffer is from their own opinions.” — Leonardo

“Convictions are more dangerous enemies of truth than lies.” — Nietzsche

“Opinions have caused more ills than the plague or earthquakes on this little globe of ours.” — Voltaire

“The most difficult subjects can be explained to the most slow-witted man if he has not formed any idea of them already; but the simplest thing cannot be made clear to the most intelligent man if he is firmly persuaded that he knows already, without a shadow of doubt, what is laid before him.” — Tolstoy

“Nothing is so firmly believed as that which we least know.” — Montaigne

“Opinions are made to be changed, or how is truth to be got at?” — Lord Byron

“Nothing is more conducive to peace of mind than not having any opinions at all.” — G.C. Lichtenberg

10 Sep 05:14

Sept 9 (Day 252) - Eugene birding, year bird #548, back to the coast, use things twice!

by Dorian Anderson
With yesterday's report of Pacific golden-plover at Fern Ridge reservoir as motivation, I pedaled to this well-known birding spot just west of Eugene, OR early this morning. As soon as I arrived, I was able to find the Ruff that had been reported the day before. In fact, it was so close that I was basically able to bare eye the ID! The light was terrible, but a quick break in the clouds an hour later gave me the chance to grab a serviceable photograph. I have seen this species on several occasions now (including earlier this year in Texas), but this was by far the best look I have ever had at a Ruff!

This was one time I really missed my big camera.
I would have nailed this bird with it!

The rest of the morning was spent chasing the plover that had apparently moved on. Neither I nor any of the other dozen birders who scoured the location this morning were able to relocate it (as far as I know). In additional to Ruff, I did have Western sandpiper, Least sandpiper, Red-necked phalarope, Black-necked stilt, Long-billed dowitcher, American avocet, Wilson's snipe, Marbled godwit, both yellowlegs, Bald eagle, Peregrine falcon, Franklin's gull, and a few others. I also spent some time hanging with local birder Barry McKenzie. He proved to be a thoroughly enjoyable birding companion. It was nice to have company this morning after a lot of solo birding yesterday. I forgot to get a photo of us! Oh, the other fun thing about this place was all the crawdads crawling around in the mud between the shorebirds. They were maybe 5-7 inches in length, and there sure were lot of them!

The big news of the day came on my last pass of the east dike. I was debating leaving when I talked myself into one last down-and-back traverse of this stretch. In scanning for shorebirds, I noticed two distant Greater white-fronted geese for year bird #548! I figured I would run into these at some point (probably flying overhead somewhere), but it was nice to tack on a year bird to the Ruff this morning. I tried to digiscope a shot, but the heat shimmer at midday made this challenging to say the least.

One GWFG at the left hand end of the image,
Other GWFG is facing us on the right end. 
Middle bird/blob is something else.

In the afternoon I rode west towards Florence, OR where I am spending the night at the Best Western Pier Point Inn. Starting afternoon rides after morning birding is always challenging. I stayed at Fern Ridge until noon, then had lunch, then hit the road for the 55-mile ride to the coast. The sun was out for a good part of the morning, and I was low on energy for the entire ride today. It was a real struggle, especially the last ~20 miles which were into a moderately stiff west headwind. I paralleled the Siuslaw River for this entire stretch. It was quite scenic but I got into a good rhythm and did not want to stop to take photos. My Best Western actually overlooks the river and town of Florence. I did grab a quick snap though the screen when I arrived this evening.

69 miles to reach 11,999 for the year!

Tomorrow I am going to head down the coast to Coos Bay and perhaps Bandon. The second spot is supposed to be the best shore birding in the state, so I would like to spend at least a day culling through what shorebirds may be present in hopes of finding something different!

OK, its been a while since I brought up anything environmental, but I have the time and the energy to do so tonight. I have been saying all year that small changes implemented by many people can actually make a difference. I am doing 3 things on a daily basis that I think help minimize my footprint. I want to share these with you.

1) I carry a bar of soap with me from motel to motel (or Best Western!) and reuse it at each stop. This way I don't unwrap the soap in the room. Anytime you unwrap the soap, use it once, and leave it in the shower, it's just going to get thrown out by the cleaners the next day. You may as well take it with you and reuse it. I actually use the bar soap to wash my hair as well so I don't use those plastic, wasteful shampoo one-hitter things.

2) I carry a plastic knife, fork, and spoon with me at all times. I have reused them dozens of times. This means much less single use crap going into the landfill each day.

3) I don't flush the toilet after I pee. Sound gross? Get over it. Every flush is 2 gallons down the drain. I drink a lot of water, and as I result I pee at least 5 times each evening/night. Assuming at absolute minimum 2 gallons per flush, I am saving 10 gallons of water by flushing the toilet once the following morning. California has 38 million people and a water shortage. Assuming the average person pees half as much as me (and subtracting a few million babies who pee in diapers), my method would save over 150,000,000 (that's 150 MILLION) gallons of water a day!

The point is that single use things are really wasteful. Imagine if we could use every single use thing we use twice. We'd instantly cut what we use in half! We need to consolidate our use of single use products into multiple uses. One of these days I'll tackle the K-Cups disaster. These are the most wasteful things EVER! The general rule is the easier it is for a human, the worse it is for the planet. We all need to think about this and make adjustments, even if it means a bit more work on our parts.
09 Sep 22:04


by Greg Ross

We had a dark grey cat (Norfolk bred, very Norfolk in character) called Tom. He was reserved, domineering, voluptuous — much as I imagine Tiber to be. When he was middle-aged he gave up nocturnal prowlings and slept on my bed, against my feet. One evening I was reading in bed when I became aware that Tom was staring at me. I put down my book, said nothing, watched. Slowly, with a look of intense concentration, he got up and advanced on me, like Tarquin with ravishing strides, poised himself, put out a front paw, and stroked my cheek as I used to stroke his chops. A human caress from a cat. I felt very meagre and ill-educated that I could not purr. It had never occurred to me that their furry love develops from what was shown them as kittens.

— Sylvia Townsend Warner, letter to David Garnett, June 18, 1973, quoted in The Oxford Book of Friendship

09 Sep 13:28

steel man

steel man
n. The strongest version of an opponent’s argument, particularly when this version improves upon the opponent’s original argument. Also: iron man. [cf. straw man]
steelmanning pp.
Example Citations:
You know when someone makes an argument, and you know you can get away with making it seem like they made a much worse one, so you attack that argument for points? That’s strawmanning. Lots of us have done it, even though we shouldn’t. But what if we went one step beyond just not doing that? What if we went one better? Then we would be steelmanning, the art of addressing the best form of the other person’s argument, even if it’s not the one they presented.
—Chana Messinger, “Knocking Down a Steel Man: How to Argue Better,” The Merely Real, December 7, 2012

Sometimes the term “steel man” is used to refer to a position’s or argument’s improved form. A straw man is a misrepresentation of someone’s position or argument that is easy to defeat: a “steel man” is an improvement of someone’s position or argument that is harder to defeat than their originally stated position or argument.
—lukeprog, “Better Disagreement,” LessWrong, October 24, 2011

Earliest Citation:
You know, this straw man is so big and so strong that he’ll soon morph into a steel man.
—Paul C. Anagnostopoulos, “Pam Reynolds Near-Death Experience” (reply), James Randi Educational Foundation Forum, August 8, 2003

According to the OED, the earliest use of straw man dates to 1896, when the political theorist Leonard Trelawny (L. T.) Hobhouse, in his book Theory of Knowledge, wrote "The straw man was easily enough knocked over by the critic who set him up."

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Posted on September 9, 2014 


09 Sep 00:54

Saw this this AM at the Atlanta airport. In case you need...

Saw this this AM at the Atlanta airport. In case you need somewhere to lie down sleeplessly and wonder how you’ve wasted your life.

08 Sep 14:00

When Wild Animals Use Human Technology… and the End of Times

by Lisa Wade, PhD

Forgive me, because this is probably better left to Cyborgology, but something amazing is happening here. In the video below, nesting swallows become trapped in a building when they add doors. The birds soon learn, though, that they can get the doors to automatically open by triggering the motion sensors. This is a story, obviously, of how smart birds are, but here’s what struck me: we often think about human technology as for humans. In this case, however, birds adapted the technology for their own very similar needs (to get in and out).

If the workers had installed an older human technology — plain old doors — the birds would have been out of luck because they don’t have thumbs and the strength to manipulate an environment built for humans. But motion activated doors make both thumbs and strength irrelevant, so now birds are our functional equals.

This is fascinating, yeah? Our technology has advanced to the point where we’re potentially undermining our own evolutionary advantages. I’m not putting a moral judgment on it. I think morality is firmly on the side of non-fitness based decisions (eh em, social Darwinism). If one wants to theorize the relationship between animals, technology, and what it means to be human, however, this looks like gold to me.

Okay Cyborgology, your turn.

Thanks to Reuben S. for the tip!

Lisa Wade is a professor of sociology at Occidental College and the co-author of Gender: Ideas, Interactions, Institutions. You can follow her on Twitter and Facebook.

(View original at

08 Sep 11:40

livelymorgue: Jan. 23, 1975: A program to calm tensions in the...


Jan. 23, 1975: A program to calm tensions in the Bedford-Stuyvesant neighborhood of Brooklyn involved block-by-block visits to residents’ homes by police officers for “a few minutes of friendly talk.” The project seemed to bode well for the neighborhood, which roiled with racial tension: “Most of the policemen are white,” The Times reported, “and most of the residents black and they say the visits have brought some startling revelations. ‘You find out these people are the same as other people,’ said Detective Joseph Cunningham.” Photo: Barton Silverman/The New York Times

05 Sep 21:30

"When he first came to us, he wasn’t talking. He was about...

"When he first came to us, he wasn’t talking. He was about four years old, but we knew nothing else about him. Occasionally, he’d imitate the other children, but he’d express no thoughts of his own. He couldn’t tell us anything about his home, his family, or where he came from. To make matters worse, aid workers had further confused him by suggesting hometowns to him— which he had readily agreed to. So we started with a completely blank slate. We drew a house on a piece of paper, and we said: ‘Is this your home?’ And he said: ‘No! You forgot the gate!’ So we drew a gate. And he said: ‘But you forgot the tree!’ So we drew a tree.
Piece by piece, day by day, we filled in a picture of his home. He was still very reserved and traumatized, so the process took over a month. But we met in the safety of my office every day, and we figured it out. It was like putting together a puzzle. The saddest moment was when we drew his father. ‘You have to draw him laying down,’ the boy said. ‘I tried to get him to come with me, but he wouldn’t.’
When we eventually used the drawings to identify the boy’s hometown and find his mother, she confirmed our fears. The boy had disappeared after seeing his father get shot.”

(Juba, South Sudan)

04 Sep 14:42

"It’s tough to be a journalist in this country. I’ve...

"It’s tough to be a journalist in this country. I’ve been arrested four times. It’s very difficult to get information. Government institutions are forbidden to talk to you. Ordinary people are extremely suspicious, because they think you might be security services. But it’s very important work. People need to know where the oil money is going, who’s benefiting from the contract, where the proceeds are being used. The ordinary person doesn’t know, and has never before needed to know. For decades, people have been conditioned to the idea that only government officials can make decisions on their behalf. It will take some time for the country to learn individual responsibility. It will take time and education to teach ourselves. But I believe that education is like cleaning yourself. And I think if you come back in fifteen or twenty years, this will be a very different country. With education, the spirit of being hostile will vanish.”

(Juba, South Sudan)

03 Sep 20:37

"What’s your largest goal in life?""To find my children....

"What’s your largest goal in life?"
"To find my children. They are five and seven. I told them I was taking a short trip to Juba, and I’d be back in a couple days, but then I got stranded by the fighting. They were crying so loud about my leaving, I had to sneak away while one was playing and one was sleeping. That was almost a year ago. I haven’t even been able to hear how they are doing."

(Tongping Internally Displaced Persons Site, Juba, South Sudan)

03 Sep 14:00

The Average White American’s Social Network is 1% Black

by Lisa Wade, PhD

American divisions over the state of our country’s race relations were brought to the forefront in the aftermath of Mike Brown’s shooting by a Ferguson, MO police officer named Darren Wilson. Black Americans are more than twice as likely as whites or Hispanics to say that the killing was part of a broader pattern (source).  And blacks are twice as likely as whites to say that race played an important role in Wilson’s decision to shoot (source).

At The Atlantic, Robert Jones argues that these disparate opinions may be caused, in part, by the different life experiences of the typical white and black American. He shows data, from the American Values Survey, indicating that black people are much more likely than whites to report living in communities rife with problems, from a lack of jobs and inadequate school funding to crime and racial tension.

In the meantime, whites may be genuinely naive about what it’s like to be black in America because many of them don’t know any black people.  According to the survey, the average white American’s social network is only 1% black.  Three-quarters of white Americans haven’t had a meaningful conversation with a single non-white person in the last six months.


In contrast, the social network of the average black American is 65% black and, among Hispanic Americans, 46% Hispanic.

The average white person’s failure to engage meaningfully with people of color isn’t solely a matter of personal choice, though that is certainly part of it.  Nor is it simply a function of the country being majority white, non-Hispanic (but not for long).  White insularity is caused, too, by occupational and residential segregation which, in turn, is the result of both individual choices and institutionalized mechanisms that keep black people in poverty and prison.

If we want the people of America to embrace justice, we must make our institutions just.

Cross-posted at Pacific Standard.

Lisa Wade is a professor of sociology at Occidental College and the co-author of Gender: Ideas, Interactions, Institutions. You can follow her on Twitter and Facebook.

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01 Sep 02:41

mynaturalsistas: But are you paying attention to what’s going...


But are you paying attention to what’s going on??? My heart is so heavy….. so heavy…

An attorney for the family of John Crawford III, the man fatally shot by police in an Ohio Walmart store, says surveillance video contradicts the police department’s version of events. Officers say Crawford refused to drop the pellet gun he was holding, but the video allegedly shows them gunning him down “on sight.”

Crawford, 22, was shopping at the Beavercreek, Ohio store on Aug. 5 whenpolice responded to another customer’s report that Crawford was carrying an AR-15 rifle. He was actually holding a pellet air rifle he had just picked up from a shelf in the store’s toy department.

Attorney Michael Wright says he viewed surveillance video that shows Crawford was facing away from the cops and talking to his girlfriend on the phone when police spotted him, and didn’t have the toy gun raised. Hetold WDTN Crawford probably didn’t see or hear the officers before he was shot.

"John was doing nothing wrong in Walmart, nothing more, nothing less than shopping,"Wright said, according to Reuters.

#johncrawford #rip #justice #dontshoot

02 Sep 14:59

Wild, wacky, and outré book titles; is fashion "spinach"?

by JP Mullaney
"To be or not to be..."
Goblinproofing One's Chicken Coop: And Other Practical Advice In Our Campaign Against The Fairy Kingdom by Reginald Bakeley. How Tea Cosies Changed the World by Loani Prior. Raising Witches; Knitting Historical Figures; How to Make Love While Conscious; A Popular History of British Seaweeds. If none of these titles tickle your fancy, then perhaps one of the tomes illustrated below will. They're from the ongoing "Weird Book Room" feature at Abe Books. And if you really want to delve into the arcane, have a look at The Toast's '100 Actual Titles of Real Eighteenth-Century Novels.' Among the offerings: The Book!! Or, Procrastinated Memoirs. Atrocities Of A Convent. He’s Always In The Way. Horrible Revenge, Or, The Monster Of Italy!! How It Happened That I Was Born. It Was Me, A Tale By Me, One Who Cares For Nothing Or Nobody. The Male-Coquette; Or, The History Of The Hon. Edward Astell. Memoirs Of An Old Wig. A Modern Anecdote Of The Ancient Family Of The Kinkvervankotsdarsprakengotchderns. The Peaceful Villa, An Eventful Tale. Read, And Give It A Name.
Actually, Elizabeth Hawes' book title Fashion Is Spinach as featured in the Weird Book Room is not as silly as it sounds. Taken from a New Yorker cartoon, it epitomizes this great American designer's practical yet classy approach to creating clothes for women (Katharine Hepburn was a big fan). New York Times writer Alice Gregory recently wrote a blog on Hawes, and you can read more about her in Bettina Berch's Radical by Design: The Life and Style of Elizabeth Hawes, which I highly recommend. (Used copies are very pricey online; perhaps a new edition is called for?)
Browse our many discounted, illustrated books on fashion here!
02 Sep 14:00

Reading the Camouflage: “You are Now Enemy Combatants”

by Lisa Wade, PhD

Much has been said — and much more should follow — about the militarization of the police in American cities.  The images coming out of Ferguson, MO these past weeks testify to the distribution of military-grade hardware, gear, guns, and vehicles to your everyday police officer.

Here I’d like to focus on just one small part of this distribution of military-grade equipment: the uniform.  It’s not, by a long shot, the most straightforwardly dangerous, but it is a powerful symbol.  It’s a “dead giveaway,” writes a political scientist at Gin & Tacos, that there is something amiss with the “mindset of law enforcement.”  He’s referring to the swapping of blue or tan in favor of camouflage, like in this photo by Whitney Curtis for The New York Times:


From Gin & Tacos:

Of what conceivable practical use could green or desert camouflage be in a suburban environment? Gonna help you blend in with the Taco Bell or the liquor store? Even if they did wear something that helped conceal them, that would be counterproductive to the entire purpose of policing in a situation like that; law enforcement wants to be visible to act as a deterrent to violent or property crimes in a public disturbance.

He concludes that “[t]here is only one reason those cops would wear camo” and, if I can put words in his mouth, it’s to be frightening and intimidating.  And, perhaps, to enjoy being so.

This is clear when we think about the role that camo plays in everyday fashion. For women, it’s a fun appropriation of masculinity.  For men, it’s a way to signal “I’m tough” by reference to hunting or soldiering. What irony, after all, that black men in Ferguson were also photographed wearing camo during the unrest that followed Brown’s death.


On their bodies, of course, the camouflage is much more benign.  In contrast, alongside kevlar, automatic rifles, and riot shields on cops, it’s terrifying. It sends a clear message to the people of Ferguson: you are now enemy combatants.

Lisa Wade is a professor of sociology at Occidental College and the co-author of Gender: Ideas, Interactions, Institutions. You can follow her on Twitter and Facebook.

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29 Aug 14:14

"What’s the most important thing your dad has ever taught...

"What’s the most important thing your dad has ever taught you?"
"If someone hurts your feelings, don’t worry, because that person will also have a turn to get their feelings hurt. And also, you should never undermine people or make them feel unimportant. And also, if you drop out of school, he won’t deal with you anymore."

(Kampala, Uganda

28 Aug 19:59

Hark, A Vagrant: Ida B Wells

buy this print!

Ida! If she's not your hero, she should be. She's mine.

I gave an interview for the Appendix Journal, and cited her as a figure I'd like to make a comic about, but found it a hard thing, so that it never happened. The reason is easy - if you read about the things Ida Wells fought against, you won't laugh. You'll cry, I guarantee. And I thought, well I can't touch that woman with my dumb internet jokes, she's serious business. And she is.

But then, people use my comics as a launching device to learn history, and I would hope that part of what I do is to celebrate history, not just poke fun at the easy targets.

Anyway, I first saw a picture of Ida B. Wells at the Chicago History Museum. She was protesting the lack of African American representation at the Chicago World's Fair. And I am not sure what it was, but the image stuck with me. You could feel a power in the presence of the lady with the pamphlets. I found out later that she was also handing out information on the terrible truths of lynching in America, a crusade that she is best known for, and rightly so. Her writing on the topic is readily available on the internet, and if you read it, well you'll spend a good deal of time wondering at the terribleness of humanity, but you'll also note that she knew how to handle a volatile topic like that with an audience who didn't want to hear it. But, Ida fought against injustice wherever she saw it. You'll be happy to know, that at the 1913 Suffragist Parade in Washington, she was told to go to the back, but joined in the middle anyway.

I'll leave you with this, a review of Paula J. Giddings' Ida: A Sword Among Lions, from the Washington Post. Go forth, marvel at this woman, who was the best. Did I mention she was one of the first women in the country to keep her name when she married? A founding member of the NAACP? Ida! Just pioneer everything.
28 Aug 14:35

The once and future goddess

by Mark Liberman

Geeta Pandey, "An 'English goddess' for India's down-trodden", BBC News 2/15/2011:

The Dalit (formerly untouchable) community is building a temple in Banka village in the northern Indian state of Uttar Pradesh to worship the Goddess of the English language, which they believe will help them climb up the social and economic ladder.

About two feet tall, the bronze statue of the goddess is modelled after the Statue of Liberty.

"She is the symbol of Dalit renaissance," says Chandra Bhan Prasad, a Dalit writer who came up with the idea of the Goddess of English.

"She holds a pen in her right hand which shows she is literate. She is dressed well and sports a huge hat – it's a symbol of defiance that she is rejecting the old traditional dress code.

"In her left hand, she holds a book which is the constitution of India which gave Dalits equal rights. She stands on top of a computer which means we will use English to rise up the ladder and become free for ever."

Chinki Sinha, "The English Goddess Who Went Away", Open 9/14/2013:

There could have been a black temple here. The entrance might have said ‘Paradise Lost’ after John Milton’s poem about man’s disobedience and ouster from the Garden of Eden. Milton intended the poem to justify the ways of God to men. There was no justification intended here. The temple was meant to celebrate the outcastes, the fallen—Paradise Lost would be a refuge. Within its walls, Dalits would chant ‘ABCD’ and solve mathematical equations. They would denounce other gods and goddesses who perpetuate caste barriers.

The goddess wore a hat, a gown, and had gold hair. She looked like a Statue of Liberty knock-off. Chandra Bhan Prasad, the man who created her, says there were modifications made to give the new goddess her own mythology. The Goddess of English held a keyboard and a pen. She was atop a computer on the screen of which was the chakra of the Buddhist faith. She also held the Constitution of India to cement her bond with the Dalit community because Dr BR Ambedkar, the Dalit scholar and leader, was its founding father.

Why was the temple to be black? Because people would have found it strange. It would provoke reaction and this goddess was all about reactions. Black is seen as evil. The goddess would redefine black, give it sanction, says Bhan. This was Paradise Lost. They would regain it. But nothing happened. The English goddess went as suddenly as she came.

Why? Well,

The goddess came but only just. After the first day, she was stacked away in the office of the headmaster and for a few days, remained there in hiding. The district administration shut the temple down because, it was rumoured, Mayawati, then Chief Minister, had said there could only be one Dalit goddess in the state. Bhan wrote to the administration asking for a reason and was told there was a Supreme Court directive that no temple should be built on public land without permission from the administration.

“We said this was private land, and they still said you can’t build it,” says Bhan. “They kept sending police officials. When we started building the roof, they came and stopped us.”

The goddess was transported to the house of the school owner in a nearby town. There she remains, hidden away till she can be installed once again. The expensive black granite that was bought for construction of the temple lies around unused. Rain pours down, washing away the dirt, and the stones glisten again. A dog seeks shelter in the old office from the rain. This is where the goddess had been moved after the police came to Banka and ordered that construction be stopped.

28 Aug 14:00

New Orleans after Katrina: An Uneven Recovery

by Lisa Wade, PhD

To mourn, commemorate, and celebrate the city of New Orleans after Hurricane Katrina.  Photographer Ted Jackson returned to the site of some of his most powerful photographs, re-taking them to reveal the progress, or lack of progress, of the past nine years.

You can see them all at; I’ve pulled out three that speak to the uneven recovery that I see when I visit.

In this first photo, residents struggle to keep their heads above water by balancing on the porch railing of a home in the Lower 9th Ward, what was once a vibrant working class, almost entirely African American neighborhood. Today, the home remains dilapidated, as did one-in-four homes in New Orleans as of 2010.


In the first photo of this second set, a man delivers fresh water to people stranded in the BW Cooper Housing Development, better known as the Calliope Projects.  Today, the housing development is awaiting demolition, having been mostly empty since 2005.  Some suspect that closing these buildings was an excuse to make it difficult or impossible for some poor, black residents to return.


This set of homes is  located in an upper-income part of the city.  The neighborhood, called Lakeview, suffered some of the worst flooding, 8 to 10 feet and more; it has recovered very well.

5 6

Lisa Wade is a professor of sociology at Occidental College and the co-author of Gender: Ideas, Interactions, Institutions. You can follow her on Twitter and Facebook.

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27 Aug 09:37

"A few years ago, I got a call on my cell phone from a twelve...

"A few years ago, I got a call on my cell phone from a twelve year old child from my village. He was calling me from a bus stop. He’d taken a bus into the city alone, and he was calling me to ask if I could help him find a way to go to school. Both of his parents had died of AIDS, and he had no money for tuition. I told him to stay where he was, and left work immediately to pick him up. At first I was very mad at him. He should not have travelled alone. But then I looked at him and I saw myself. I’d also been desperate to go to school after my father was killed, but we had no money. So even though I was suffering myself, I told him I would try to help him. My salary was not enough, so I tried many things to get the money. After work, I went to the landfill to hunt for recyclables. But after I paid to have them cleaned, there was no money left. Now I’m trying to make bricks. I have a small operation in the village to make bricks, and I sell them in the city. It doesn’t make much money, but it’s enough to pay tuition for the boy and three of his siblings.” 

(Kampala, Uganda)

27 Aug 09:30

"I was seven years old when it happened. It was about 9 pm...

"I was seven years old when it happened. It was about 9 pm at night. We heard the neighbors screaming so we knew that the rebels were in the village. There were many people visiting in my house at the time, so all the men gathered in the main room. We had no guns, only knives. Soon the dog started barking, then we heard footsteps, and then we heard a knock on the door. They started calling for my father to come out. We didn’t answer, so they started shooting into the house. Everyone pushed against the door to try to keep it closed, but they knocked it down. My father saw that he couldn’t run, so he gave himself up. They took him away. Then they gathered all the men and boys, and marched us out of the back of the house. My brother tried to jump and climb up on the roof, but they saw him and shot him. I knew I had to try something different, so I waited until we were rounding a corner, and I jumped into a bush, and I kept crawling until I reached the other side, then I got up and ran. I ran all the way to the neighbor’s house, but they turned me away and locked the door. So I hid all night in the graveyard. The next day I returned to my house. They’d taken everything. They dumped my sick mother onto the floor and took her mattress. I found my father’s body in the barn. They’d cut off his arms and his legs.”

(Kampala, Uganda)