Thursday, November 29, 2007
Wednesday, November 28, 2007
Santa Fe, known as “The City Different,” is just that. This fourth largest city in New Mexico expresses a unique attitude and architecture. In recognition of its status as the oldest U.S. capital city, an ordinance in 1912 mandated all structures be built in the historic Pueblo style. About 70 miles from the ski-town of Taos, the city is surrounded by mountainous views. There are more art galleries than ATMs. Amidst the myriad shops, galleries, cafes and saloons of the historic Plaza is the Five & Dime, the most famous of the Plaza’s landmarks. Located between a jewelry store and a Häagen-Dazs on San Francisco Street, the Five & Dime is home of toy wooden guns and slingshots, tacky Santa Fe t-shirts, and the most heartburning of all afternoon snacks: the Frito Pie.
The Challenge: A two-ounce bag of Frito corn chips cut gingerly along its side. A large ladle of spicy, meaty chili riddled with beans, poured directly into the bag. Topped with heap of shredded cheddar cheese. Eaten with a plastic spork.
The Rules: Don’t put it down. Finish before the chips lose their crisp. Grab plenty of napkins.
At $4.58 with tax, this is a meal not to miss. The “pie” is spicy, so don’t forget a beverage. Choose any member of the Coca-Cola family, available from the fountain -- even Nestea and Barq’s root beer. If soda doesn’t suit you, check the front of the Five & Dime for a cooler of bottled beverages from Perrier and Gatorade to Starbucks bottled Frappachino. You can sit along the counter’s six bar stools, at one of three small square tables or take your mobile lunch back out to a bench on the Plaza for some mighty fine people watchin’.
According to the apron-clad women dishing out the Frito-chili-goodness, there is debate about whether or not it was invented here. Some say it was invented in Houston and made popular in the Woolworth’s that once stood here in the 1960’s. Others stand defiantly that its creator is a Woolworth’s employee named Teresa. Either way, the Five & Dime is proud. Before it became a Five & Dime, the store’s history goes back to the beginning of the Plaza, pictured on its walls in black and white photos of the storefront surrounded by rugged men on horses in 1866, approximately 100 years before the Frito Pie appeared behind its Coca-Cola branded snack bar counter.
The sign above the snack bar brags about the 30,000 Frito Pies served annually, but these folks serve up more than the famous snack. Visitors can also find dehydrated looking hot dogs spinning on heated wires in a glass case, burritos born frozen and warmed by microwave, and of course classic buttery popcorn and dangling, salted pretzels with a side of nacho cheese. No price on the menu surpasses $5.00, and a single or double scoop of ice cream always awaits you for dessert.
Santa Fe has more to offer than messy, spicy eating. You’ll enjoy the clear and crisp mountain air while you shop, and visit nationally acclaimed galleries, or hiking trails, but when you start to feel hunger coming on, remember the Five & Dime. None of your other options are as unique and delicious as the heart-attack-in-a-bag Frito Pie, and in the American Southwest, visitors are divided into two categories: those who have eaten the fabled Frito Pie, and those who haven’t lived.
The United States postal service honored women long before other government agencies did. The first women Senator wasn't elected until 1932, but Martha Washington, wife of the First president of this great nation, graced a US postage stamp worth 1 1⁄2 cents in 1902, 100 years after her death. In fact, she was the second woman to have this honor—the first? Queen Isabella, the Sugar Mama who bought Chris Columbus’ three hour tour and subsequent discovery of America. She was featured on a stamp in the first year of commemorative stamps-1893.
Other women to be licked and sticked to envelopes in America's history? Clara Barton, Eleanor Roosevelt, Harriet Tubman, Susan B. Anthony, and Frida Kahlo.
Wait. Frida Kahlo? Who is that? Wasn’t there a movie about her?
Born of mixed European and Mexican parentage, Frida Kahlo was a 20th Century painter, born and raised in Mexico And really, she seems like kind of a strange character next to the other woman on these stamps. She isn't Martha Washington, and she certainly isn't Marilyn Monroe, who landed her face on a stamp in 1995. Without the Patriotic angle or the American Icon edge, how did Frida Kahlo get stamped?
The Citizens Stamp Advisory Committee (CSAC), who are the folks responsible for choosing what ends up on our nation’s postage are required to follow a certain set of rules. The 12 criteria were created in the early 1970's and are under a constant process of refinement. The criteria seemed to make sense, but a two items in specific gave me pause:
1. It is a general policy that U.S. postage stamps and stationery primarily will feature American or American-related subjects.
2. Only events, persons, and themes of widespread national appeal and significance will be considered for commemoration.
Not only was Frida not an American, but she didn't even like America or Americans. In some of her letters, now published, she told friends, “I don’t like Gringos much”, in reference to the people of San Francisco. She later depicted America as an industrial wasteland in her paintings. She definitely is does not have "widespread national appeal" considering how many people I spoke to had never even heard of her.
I can understand that perhaps the stamp was selected to honor Kahlo’s art, which is unusual and beautiful. However, it wasn't just her art that was pictured on the stamp, it was her self portrait. Her face. She in no way met American standards of anything, beauty or purity or loyalty: proudly unibrowed, bisexual, practically disabled and communist. Nevertheless, Frida was the first Hispanic woman to be featured on a US postage stamp.
In search of more information on the Kahlo stamp, I visited the National Postal Museum.
Lurking around the gift shop, intent on solving the Frida mystery, I was immediately drawn to a well-lit rotating silver cart on the checkout counter adorned in 1x2inch pins, replicating US Stamps. I searched through it, looking for Frida. I found Judy Garland, in her role as Dorothy Gale, Marian Anderson, representing Black Heritage, and Lucille Ball, the American film actress, selling for $4 each, but no Frida.
I find postcards depicting “Women on Stamps.” No Frida there.
I open a book of postcards called “Women Who Dared”, published by Pomegranate Books in San Francisco and find Frida on the second page looking down and off to the side—a far cry from her own self-depictions, aggressively and honestly addressing her audience. It was an actual photograph of Frida Kahlo—on the back Frida is described as a “Mexican Painter and international intellectual celebrity.” Really? Did she achieve this international intellectual celebrity before or after conservative Americans shunned her political and personal views?
Who can explain the Frida Phenomenon? Certainly not Mary Oldfather, the Volunteer Information Specialist, who was having some sinus trouble when she spoke to me, due to the influx of pollen from museum visitors. When I showed her Frida’s image she responded enthusiastically, through her phlegm, “Frida Kahlo! I saw a PBS special on her.” Hmmm, so it wasn’t Frida’s stampdom Mary knew, it was her PBS fame.
In the National Stamp Collection, I found Frida along side Leonard Bernstein and Enrico Fermi, who were also immortalized on stamps in 2001. In this collection the stamps are arranged inside glass panels which slide out vertically from a wall of numbered panels. The collection is international, approximately 20,000 in this small room in the museum, and only a small section of them US Stamps. A really small section, I notice. I count them, looking foolish among Philatelists admiring the printing and the “grills” of the aging stamps. 108. There are 108 US stamps in this collection of 20,000 international stamps. Obviously someone liked Frida enough to make her #81 . The only other women in the United States panels are Eleanor Roosevelt and Mary McLeod Bethune. Frida was one of two stamps depicting Hispanic culture.
How did Frida get here?
Cathy Yarosky, a spokesperson for the United States Postal Service, who has had to put up with a lot of public complaints and inquiries (like those that came in 10 days after a stamp honoring Muslims in America was released on Sept 1, 2001), summed up the release of the Kahlo stamp for me rather succinctly: “We select stamps that capture the American experience in all its diversity. At the end of the day, our stamps are always about America.”
But then again, “Cellular Phones” got their own stamp in 2000. So maybe I’m taking the issue of the stamp a little too seriously. Frida Kahlo and her art contributed to the diversity of the American landscape and played an important role in the feminist movement in America in the late 20th Century. Frida’s face on a stamp demonstrates that the US, or at least the USPS, isn’t always focused on mass appeal. As long as Paris Hilton doesn’t get a stamp, I’ll continue to trust the choices of United States Postal Service.
Monday, November 26, 2007
Wednesday, November 21, 2007
I spend a ridiculous amount of time to be in grad school to obtain a degree that wont mean anything on my resume. Don't take that to mean that I don't think the degree is worth anything--I don't mean that at all. To further explain: when you graduate with a college degree, for the most part, it doesn't matter if you spent four years sitting down by the Fox river smoking bowls with kids who exist only by nicknames like "B-Tags" or "Jugs". It doesn't really matter if you held down two jobs, joined all the honor societies and graduated Cum Laude. It just doesn't matter because B.A. Computer Science or B.A. Journalism or whatever on your resume is all that really matters.
This is true with graduate school. Having a Master's degree on your resume makes a difference, whether you really learned anything does not. Unfortunately, this is not true in programs like Writing. Obtaining a MA in Writing will most likely not help me get a better job BUT becoming a better writer will. In order to become a better writer I have to actually work on my writing. draft and redraft. walk away from a piece and come back to see it with a new perspective. workshop it with other writers. grow.
Because I am an American, and a grad student, and slightly anxious and obsessive, this time does not exist for me. Perhaps it does, in between rented movies or sleeping late on Saturdays. Maybe there is time somewhere...but I'm having a hard time finding it and thus, I've become kind of a crappy blogger...and in general a crappy writer. I'm working out a plan of action. I'll let you know how it goes.
Tuesday, November 6, 2007
Sure, there were a few weeks in college I missed classes to watch reruns of Real World New Orleans, and I may have been drawn into the sick train wreck that was Rock of Love, but if I woke up one day and there was no reality TV, it wouldn't phase me one bit.
Once in a while I read about some reality TV thing that really makes my skin crawl. I think originally it was Extreme Makeover (and i dont mean Home Edition) more recently is was the Lord of the Flies-ish Kid Nation. At the very beginning I questioned its morals, and other folks started asking questions too. I understand that parents give consent for the kids to participate in this program: the kids have to start a community in the New Mexico desert. No adults. No rules...blah blah blah. Since went is it fine for a parent to "give consent" for a child to be put in a dangerous situation? Is it really OK to make that decision for a child? Is it ok to give consent for a child to knife-fight with another kid, or two crawl into a lion cage at a zoo?
In Intervention, which had criticism right off the block, real life addicts are taped under the premise of filming in a show about addicts, are followed through their sad, out of control addictions and then blindsided with a five minute intervention from family, friends and a doctor at the end of the show. It does not surprise me that people love this show. Its all about people with problems which everyone likes to watch because they either A: can relate or B: like to feel that at least their problems arent THAT bad.
A New York Times article describes an episode when a "character" on Intervention had too much too drink, and the crew just taped her getting into a car and driving away. And thats perfectly legal. The production team is under no obligation to interfere with the actions of the addict. Officially they are just bystanders. I'm sure that attitude works out just fine until that drunk driver kills a family of four, right?
A recent article in the smarmiest, most sexist magazine out there, Esquire, called Tonight on Dateline This Man Will Die, was just one more fearful incident in the world of reality TV. The article focuses on Dateline's reoccurring, ratings-craving, reality segment "To Catch a Predator." The show sets up a sting to catch adult men who have been chatting online with young women or boys when they attempt to meet them for sexual relations. Ok, i kiiiinda like this show, but this article really shows the danger of these situations. In the article, Dateline finds out that the predator who is supposed to arrive at the sting house is actually a politition. Unfortunately, I think, the possibility of arresting a public figure on TV is more exciting to them than it is tragic. So rather than wait for him to arrive at their set up, they go to his home. Either way, the scene does not unfold pleasantly:
"Although the microphones outside of Bill Conradt’s house have no trouble picking up a mini schnauzer’s barks, none record Bill Conradt’s Browning .380 handgun, which he places muzzle-first against his own temple and discharges. "
Dateline gets their story, and Bill Conradt is dead. Do I feel like Conradt committed a crime? Yes. Should he have had to serve time? Yes. Should Dateline have pushed him to a point where he thought he should take his own life? I cant agree.
Reality TV can be creepy and devastating. It can show parts of the human condition (both those in front of and behind the camera) that I personally don't really need to see.To veer off the subject for a second to other reality shows, no matter how completely ridiculous they may be, there are a few honorable mentions: A Shot At Love stars a gal, Tila Tequila,whos pretty much just famous on the internet, hosting her own dating show. There are 16 guys and 16 gals lined up to try to win her heart...although they all signed up not knowing there would be competition of the other sex--since Tila just came out as bisexual-during the first episode. yeah. This is a messed up show. Reality TV is messed up. It all just kinda gives me the creeps.
Friday, November 2, 2007
Even as a bit of an Internet junkie, I am still surprised every day by the vast array of what is out there on the web. Today I learned about some conservative answers to what is apparently a liberally biased web. CNN.com today posted an article on "GodTube" the new competition for YouTube. The motto, based on YouTube's "Broadcast Yourself" is "Broadcast Him," which, in my opinion, is really creepy). GodTube reaches out to all those religious folks out there with video content just for them:
"GodTube videos includes music, comedy and heated theological debates. Two of the most viewed include a corny rap remix called "Baby Got Book" and a 4-year-old girl reciting Psalm 23 from memory."
Its existence alone is interesting, but the fact that the site had more than 4 million unique visitors during October and maintains more than 150,000 registered users with active profiles, blew my mind.
Also out there for those conservatives: Conservapedia.com, where you can find awesome posts about Evolution, Homosexuality and my man Barack Obama. For just a taste of what you'll get on Conservapedia.com, here's a bit from the Obama page:
"After a series of ill-advised foreign policy statements, Obama was openly criticized as a light-weight even by liberals, in much the same vein John Edwards and Dan Quayle had been depicted. First, Obama said he would openly embrace two of Florida's most fearful enemies, Fidel Castro and Hugo Chavez Florida is a key state to any presidential ambitions...The incidents all added up to a picture of a candidate ill-prepared and ill-advised, lacking in a basic understanding of the Office of the Presidency, and failing to surround himself with appointees able to make up for his deficiencies. "
Oh, Conservative bias at its best!
If you still haven't had your fill of conservatism on the web, check out MyChurch.org--the right's answer to MySpace. I didn't create a profile, because I was afraid of the churchfolks getting all up on my cookies, but I'm sure its a rockin' good time. If these sites don't keep you busy (i like them in the same way I like websites on Roswell, or Circus People) check out The Right Links, a place for all your conservative web needs.
Thursday, November 1, 2007
Just remember, there’s more to a love of pirates than owning the DVDs of Pirates of the Caribbean or a t-shirt with a skull on it. Its really a passion. A few things you should know about: International Talk Like a Pirate Day. You've already missed it this year, but every September 19th you and the rest of the Pirate Lovin' world can celebrate Pirattitude.
You also must remember that the pirates are not just a thing of the past (nor are they always very polite or fun)! The definition of piracy is as follows: Piracy is a robbery committed at sea, or sometimes on the shore, by an agent without a commission from a sovereign nation. If you are into plundering, and some other gruesome things check out the following articles detailing more recent pirate activities: This article from the Council on Foreign Relations estimates the total damages from pirates in loss of ships and cargo to be about 16 million bones a year (no pun intended. ARRG!). Additionally, it seems the number of Pirate attacks have increase world wide, and according to CNN, these pirates just wont stop.