Category Archives: Media

Boston Marathon Tributes

I was hoping to post something on Wednesday with my thoughts on the marathon a year out, but Tuesday night’s events left me exhausted in more ways than one.  I’m glad no one got hurt and that there was no actual potential for violence, and I hope he finds the help that he needs.  I also hope his family gets some privacy and the support that they surely need as well.  There’s a lot out there on the marathon, some better than others.  Here’s a round-up of some of my favorite marathon-related things hanging around the internet.

Jeff Bauman, seen by many as the face (along with Carlos Arredondo, he of the cowboy hat) of the Boston Marathon survivors wrote a great piece at the Guardian explaining how he feels about the famous wheelchair photo, and how he hopes we’ll view it.  I think it’s incredibly powerful for him to take charge of his own narrative and of this devastating thing that was inflicted upon him.  It’s also fascinating from the standpoint of photography and journalism to think about whether taking this photo was a good idea, and to hear Jeff’s thoughts about the image and the man responsible.  If you didn’t see the coverage at the time, you’ll also note that most people who weren’t on twitter at the time or actively seeking it out haven’t seen the complete image, in a self-imposed censorship similar to the images of people jumping from the twin towers.  The images are seen as too much, and too damaging a way for  a loved one to get bad news (as Jeff’s parents did) and too inescapable to be fair to those who suffered.  If you enjoy Jeff’s perspective, check out his book Stronger, out now.

I’m a big fan of charity that harnesses the consumerism of the US.  It’s not going away, so at least let’s harness it for good.  These bracelets, made of last year’s marathon street banners benefit the One Fund and can also lend a sense of solidarity.  A shout out to John Hancock for covering the administrative and production costs of the bracelets, so 100% of the cost goes to the fund.  Over $30,000 has been raised so far, but you can only get the bracelets until Sunday at 6 pm.

I have to mention that the Boston Globe won a Pulitzer for their coverage last year.  There was a lot of terrible coverage (“It’s almost as if a bomb went off…”–someone on CNN) so I’m glad they were recognized for not falling for conspiracy theories (what’s up, Anonymous’s completely inaccurate reporting, say hi to your mother for me), racism, or just blaming random people.  Congratulations, and thank you.

If you liked their coverage, you’ll probably also enjoy their One Year, One City interactive story, as well as the behind the scenes footage.

The great image at the top of this post was designed by Northeastern alums and good friends of mine Jack and Kate of Union Jack Creative.  You can support local art and a local small business by purchasing the poster online, and charity runners get a discount, in honor of Kate’s two years as a Boston Marathon charity runner for the Boston Debate League, a great organization teaching inner city kids about debate and inspiring confidence and academic improvement everywhere they go.

Fellow NU grad, traveler, and partner in crime Kade Krichko was able to interview fellow Reading resident Mark Fucarile, survivor, about his experience getting back to skiing after he lost his right leg above the knee.  I love stories showing people with hindered physical or mental abilities living full lives, not being held back.  You may recognize Fucarile from the stories about his fantastic all-expenses paid Fenway Park wedding to his long-time girlfriend.  They arrived via blue and yellow duckboats, because Boston.

If you have the time, check out WBUR’s Oral History Project on the Marathon.  It’s a mix of famous and not so famous storytellers sharing their experience.  In a similar and somewhat-connected, Northeastern University is collecting a digital archive, including some of my images from NUPR’s special online edition.  It’s called “Our Marathon” and can be seen in part through May 2nd in International Village, which is behind Ruggles and next to the police station.  You can contribute to Our Marathon or the Oral History Project online.

The afternoon memorial was lovely, and I think Patrick Downes had the best speech of the day.  It must be hard on a bunch o regular people, who did not lead public lives, to suddenly be thrust in the spotlight.  People suddenly want them to make speeches, write books, even comfort them, regardless of the fact that they don’t necessarily have any training in any of these areas.  Patrick makes what must have been a very emotional day look grateful and easy.

If you’re looking to contribute to a charity runner, I personally know 3 who are running for great causes, with amazing stories.  Jordyn Parsons is my former roommate and a Northeastern student, and she’s running for the Melanoma Foundation of New England.  She currently needs a little less than $2,000 to reach her goal of $7,500.

Elizabeth Shea, who is from my home town went to Mass General’s Pediatric Oncology Center with hystiocytosis.  Someone ran the marathon in her honor as part of the patient-partner program.  It meant so much to her that once she was healthy, she wanted to pay it forward.   Her dad was also inspired, and ran four Boston Marathons in her name, raising thousands of dollars for childhood cancer research.   She ran the marathon last year with her father but was stopped at mile 25.5, and is looking to complete the journey on Monday.   Donate to her efforts here.

Laura Williams went to high school and college with me, as did her older brother Chris, who passed away from Cystic Fibrosis three years ago.  She is running in his honor for the Cystic Fibrosis Foundation, and she needs to raise just under $1,000 to meet her goal of $10,000.   You can also buy a shirt to benefit her efforts.

What’s your favorite coverage of the one year anniversary?  Feel free to share links, images, or your own stories and experiences in the comments.

See you on race day.

Does Voting Even Matter?

Okay, so full closure: for the last month, I’ve been a one-woman Get Out The Vote campaign.  I helped my UK/US dual citizen intern register for her first ever Presidential election.  I made sure my ex-expat coworker was properly registered.  It has gotten to the point where people have blocked me on facebook, and people have told me to stop speaking and have walked away from me mid-sentence.  I’ve even stooped to rewarding friends and family with food for their political participation.  And it all started with my near-nervous breakdown when a friend told me he had never voted.

So yeah, this matters to me.  But is that a surprise?  I watched the entirety of West Wing in real time (if you know my age, you know that’s a little strange) and many times since then.  My dad and I made a tradition of watching election returns together.  I signed my first petition and wrote my first letter to a member of congress before I could drive.  I’ve been to political rallies on three continents.  I worked for Amnesty International.  I’ve devoted thousands of hours to Model-Whatever, AKA a very elaborate game of political pretend.  I have spent years studying this stuff formally, and I spend my leisure time reading what other people would consider textbooks.

So yes, when you tell me, “It’s just politics,” I do take it a bit personally.  Not just because of my years invested thus far, but also because of what is at stake.  No matter what side of the issues you fall on, the two mainstream candidates have (or have had) differing opinions on gay marriage, reproductive health (including rape and sexual assault), the economy, the tragic deaths in Libya, how to handle the crisis in Syria, the automotive bailout, unemployment benefits, and healthcare.  These are all major issues, regardless of what you believe about them.  My physical body (and that of all women) is quite literally up for debate.  People’s rights, whether they be to have less government intrusion or to have government validate their partnerships, are at stake.  So yeah, this matters.

When I read an article like Alice Chen’s, I think it ignores these facts.  Whether we “give permission,” by voting or not, the federal government still has the ability to make it much harder for me to receive medical treatment that I need or may need, at a price I can afford and at an availability that is reasonable to my time and budget.  Moreso than her ignorance of this, or her belief that Social Security is a program for “poor people,”  I feel like her broad strokes of the anti-vote attitude does a disservice to my intelligent, kind, intentional, politically active friends who feel that this presidential election is not inclusive to their needs.

Legitimate arguments against voting in the Presidential election:

  • 3rd party candidates aren’t included in the televised debates, or most mainstream media coverage, despite being on so many ballots
  • Campaign finance makes things a mess, and especially affects 3rd party candidates and many people who could more realistically represent America
  • Electoral college
  • Pursuant to that, living in a Red State or Blue State is pretty disenfranchising
  • Voter ID laws in some states have disenfranchised some voters
  • Gerrymandering has disenfranchised some voters (to be clear: both sides do this.  It is despicable either way.)
  • For many impoverished or elderly Americans, getting to their polling place is not realistic.  Reliable, affordable transportation can be a problem, and while it is illegal, many jobs will find a way to punish a worker who misses time to vote.  This is also despicable.  Can we have elections on Saturdays?

These are all legitimate grievances.  As someone who cares about politics, yes, this pisses me off.  I am of the belief that we should all have easy access to polls and accurate information, and it should be incredibly easy for us all to vote.  We should all have a voice, and every voice should matter.  (Incidentally, that’s part of why dismantling the electoral college is more complicated than it first appears–but that’s for another post.)

That being said, here’s a list of ways you can make your voice heard in American politics and American political thought if you feel like the Presidential Election isn’t serving you well:

  • Vote for local ballot questions
  • Vote for state and local political races
  • Vote in mid-term and local elections
  • Write to your state and local politicians about issues that matter to you
  • Visit your state and local politicians to discuss issues that matter to you
  • Get as educated as you can about the issues
  • Educate others about the issues
  • Write op-ed pieces for local and national publications
  • Donate money to a reputable organization that will represent your voice (not all lobbyists are bad!)
  • Become a local politician
  • Attend political rallies and carry out actions
  • Volunteer with an organization that represents your values
  • Sign a petition that represents your values

I realize that many people do not have time for these commitments, such as the people working three jobs to feed their family, just trying to scrape by.  To them I say, god bless you for doing your best.  I hope it gets better for you.  To all of us with enough time to be able to read what I’m writing, to have enough time to comment and be on facebook and twitter and go out to bars, I say step it up.  Because if you have enough time for those things, but not enough time for these things, then you’re not politically disenfranchised.  You’re just not prioritizing politics.  And that’s your choice.  I disagree with it, but it’s not my life.  But not prioritizing politics is not that same as feeling disenfranchised by the Presidential Election.  So please stop pretending it’s someone else’s fault that you’re not involved.

When I think about the people I’ve met, the people with no right to citizenship in any country, or the people risking their lives to vote, or the people who have suffered physical violence because they attempted to make their voice heard, I just think how despicable and how privileged it is for someone to choose not to be involved in any way.

Why should you prioritize this?  Well, if you’re in Massachusetts, we are voting on medical marijuana and the issue of physician-assisted suicide.  Those are super controversial.  Very few people have a “whatevs,” sort of attitude toward those.  I think if you really took the time to look, you would see that so many of the issues at stake in this, and every election, are personal and controversial.  If, when and how anyone has a child is so personal and such a huge commitment, that it deserves a lot of thought.  What we do about this wretched economy of ours will affect everyone in this country, much as it already has.

I hate the dismissive sound of someone telling me, “it’s just politics.”  The sound of someone telling me not to cause a problem, not to stir the pot.  I suppose if you’re someone whose rights have never been threatened, someone who can afford to weather every storm, someone who doesn’t have a target on their back right now, someone who isn’t bothered to care about how we treat other countries, or the prisoners in our own, then yes, you have every right to not care.  To tell me to sit down, shut up, go along with the status quo, and just let everyone have a good time.  But not everyone is having a good time right now.  Not everyone in America, or the world, of even in our little state of Massachusetts.  And whether I’m that person whose rights and whose livelihood is at stake or not, I will always be that person who cares.  I will always be that person who speaks up.  And regardless of whether I choose to vote in the presidential race or not, you can bet your ass I’ll be that person finding a way to affect whatever change I can, no matter how minuscule.

So go ahead.  Tell me to shut up.  Let’s see what happens.

Happy Election Day.  Happy Democracy.  Make your voice heard, whatever that means to you.

 

Cover Up

Say it’s for respect, say it’s because of religion, say it’s just a rule and don’t ask questions, say it’s arbitrary and sexist.  Just don’t say we need to wear high necklines and low hems so that we are not sexually harassed.  Don’t do it.  Don’t victim blame, don’t lie.  In harassment-heavy countries like Cuba and Egypt, I have seen anecdotally that the amount of clothing is irrelevant.  Cuban guys say piropos to all women, regardless of clothing and almost regardless of age.  White women get slightly more commentary, but no amount of clothing will make me less of a gringa.

In Egypt, it has been found that women believe they get harassed less when they cover up more (more being even more than we do in the West, since it includes the abaya, the hijab and the niqab.)  However, these same women actually self-report higher levels of harassment when they are more covered.  It’s just an instance of intense cognitive dissonance, egged on by years of messaging from men, women, harassers and victims alike claiming, as if in some desperate plea for relief, that if only we could wear the right amount and combination of clothing, they would just leave us the hell alone.  But they don’t.  Women in full abaya and hijab get raped in public.  Women in jeans and modest shirts are assaulted all the time.

To say that I can stop (or even stem) harassment by changing my clothes is an indictment of women and men alike.  It says men cannot control themselves and thus need to be prevented from seeing that which entices them so.  It says women who get harassed must not have dressed properly, it must be their fault somehow.

It still boggles me that otherwise-progressive people fall into this trap.

What Relaxed Restrictions on Cuba Really Mean

January 14th, President Obama signed an executive order, and on the 28th of January it went into effect.  It was thrown out with the trash on a Friday afternoon, a safe time after the mid-term elections, in order to protect various members of congress from voter backlash.  It has received little to no publicity, and on NYT it couldn’t be found by searching for “Cuba” until a week or so after the fact.  Every piece I’ve read on it has reported few facts and even less analysis.  So what does it really change?

  • All airports in the US can apply to send direct flights to Cuba.  The direct flights will still land where they always do (Jose Marti airport outside of Habana), but now Miami is not one of the only options.
  • There is no time limit.  Before, it was a 12 week minimum stay for undergrads, making short-term faculty-led programs impossible, which have greatly grown in popularity in recent years in the world of American university-level study abroad.  3 months for a semester abroad doesn’t seem unreasonable, but for many college students, that’s a big commitment.  And once you’ve spent three months using Cuban showers, eating Cuban food and sleeping on Cuban beds, you will seriously value what a 4 week program could do for Cuba.
  • Pursuant to the above point, Northeastern University is sending a Dialogue to Cuba this Summer 1.  Apply! 
  • Speaking of faculty, previous restrictions meant that students had to have a full-time, benefits-eligible university rep with them throughout the duration.  That means you need a professor willing to spend 12 weeks in Cuba every year or semester, or have multiple and have them rotate, or do it like NU and ship a rotating cast down there.  That also meant paying all of those people and buying out their courseloads, an expensive business.  Now, you still need someone down there, but they no longer have to be a full-time staff member, opening up the door to TAs.  Are you reading this, OISP and Profe?  That means you can send a qualified, experienced upperclassman or recent grad down there.  One you can trust and who speaks pretty good Cubañol.  I’ll wait by the phone.
  • Non-Cuban-Americans can send remittances of up to $500/fiscal quarter.  Before, people like me could send nothing.  Now, as long as I’m not sending it to Raúl and other party higher-ups, I can send $500 every 3 months, in case I hit the lottery or something.
  • Also, the same rule applies to Cuban-Americans, which means the legal limit for remittances is up by $200 and remittances are no longer limited to family members.

Don’t listen to the bunk about students and church groups “now” being allowed to travel–that has always been the case, under a license.  That license will just have fewer rules attached to it, as outlined above.

For those of you who have been keeping tabs on US-Cuba politics, this is basically reverting back to the old Clinton days of the “People to People” program, and fully un-does everything G.W. Bush did.  It isn’t everything, but Obama is basically doing all that he can.  I think it’s worth noting, yet again, that Obama cannot lift the economic sanctions (commonly known as the embargo or “el bloqueo”) and that only Congress can.  And of course, this is a friendly reminded that he signed an executive order to close Guantanamo that is now three years overdue, but congress has done a neat little job of blocking any and all funds to do that, effectively knocking the President’s legs out from under him.

So, yes, I do think Obama is keeping his promises about Cuba.  Now let’s see if congress can work up the guts to do anything other than slow him down.

I Love Egypt’s Revolution

How can you not love a Revolution wherein a human chain forms to protect its museums and priceless antiquities?  A mob that thinks to maintain its history and culture, even in their anger and confusion?

How do you not love revolutionaries who form a citizen police force, because they don’t want looters or violence and their government has abandoned them and their safety?

How is it possible for your heart not to ache for the Christians who are human shields to protect their Muslim countrymen while in prayer, repaying a favor from Christmas Eve of this past year?

I think this revolution is beautiful.  People keep asking me, who are the good guys?  Isn’t Mubarak better than the Muslim Brotherhood?  Is it safe over there?  These people are the good guys; the people who protect their countrymen, their history and their homes.  These people who want real democracy because their “president” has not left office in 30 years.

Mubarak isn’t better than the Ikhwan, or Muslim Brotherhood.  But that’s irrelevant, because MB didn’t organize this, and they don’t want to come to power.  This was organized in what was once a small facebook group, by students on twitter, by men smoking hookah in cafes, and by women bringing their children to school.

This isn’t about religion or extremism or fundamentalism or Islamism or hating America or being lazy or getting violent.  This is about food shortages and housing shortages and high unemployment and constantly being watched and martial law and slaughtering the pigs and a guy with an AK on every street corner.  This is about opposing to all of that peacefully and in great unity, about tahrir fee Tahrir: Liberation in Liberation Square.

This is quite possibly the most graceful and glorious revolution of our time, and we have the privilege to watch it on tv, hear the cries of the people on the radio, and read about it across all forms of the internet.  And I don’t just think it’s a privilege, I think it is an obligation.  I feel obligated to spread anything I learn, and to pay even more attention every time the internet is turned off.

I hope you will join me.

WebLove Wednesday

Here’s a great list of 100 awesome signs from the Sanity/Fear rally.  I particularly love the Dr. Horrible, the moderate muslims arrow sign, and all the people repping bears.  Via WorldHum.

TSA, always terrible and rarely useful (by its own admission!) is now going to grope you, or threaten to, to make you get in the big, naked body scanner.  Well, you don’t go in naked.  But there’s suspicion that they may as well know you in the biblical sense by the time they get through with you.  Fun times.  Funnier story

This lion is awesome.  And I want one.

I wish I were good enough at packing to bring only check-in luggage on a long trip, or even better, to do the No-Baggage Challenge!

And my perennial favorite: women’s clothing.  This time, from the perspective of a reporter covering the Middle East extensively and spending a lot of time in Saudi Arabia.  Well worth the read, and such a great perspective.

Finally, in light of the litteral bell-ringing last night at Model NATO, a typographic animation of a poem that champions speaking with conviction.  I will say, we are more aggresively inarticulate than he knows: at conference as in real life, people become uncomfortable with a certain level of certainty.  I find it is best and easiest to gain their trust and seem “normal” or “likabley unapprised of anything in particular” by adding likes, ums, uhs, justs, and ya knows.  This window dressing is even more important in instant messenging and emails.  The same people who tell me I sound smarter without “like” in my speech also feel I am angry whenever I email without such verbal static.  And that’s coming from the smart kids. Via Open Your Eyes and the Rest Will Follow

What Democrats Can Learn From Don Draper

Let’s face it, politics is all about advertising: yourself, your candidate, your party and your ideas.  people buy the product with a vote, campaign contributions and participation.  so what can Deval, Barack, Barney and John learn from Don, Peggy, Pete, Joan and the Rodge?  Turns out, quite a bit. 

“If you don’t like what’s being said, change the conversation”

Re-frame the issue.  This reminds me of getting people in kansas to use alternative energy.  The reason the republicans are so succesful is how they fram the issue, and which values the make it synonymous with.  If you change it to an issue about (in this case) thrift and patriotism, instead of small government and god, you’ve at least got a fighting chance.  Way too often, the democrats are willing to argue their side in the republican conversation, rather than starting a new one within a favorable frame work. 

Tap into emotions and you’ll win

facts are hard to escape, but they’re also easy to forget.  people will stick with an emotional narrative more closely than a logical one.  nostaliga, especially, is popular for don draper.  Clinton is great for this, and Barack is learning how as well.  I remember at the 2008 DNC, that great feeling when bill came out.  “Oh! I forgot what a great speaker he is,” my grandmother nearly cooed, while we all reminiesced about his good fiscal policy and attempts at peace in the Middle East.  Barack, on the other hand, is doing his best to conjure up that great feeling of hope, change and inclusion from 2008, while shooing away the feelings of betrayal and dissapointment.  As Don teaches us: “nostalgia literally means ‘the pain of an old wound.’ It’s a twinge in your heart, far more powerful than memory alone.”

If it’s not working, change the name. 

No one will feed their dog horsemeat.  People don’t eat rat, it’s grass-cutter.  And to bring it back to season 1 episode three again, “It’s not called the wheel. It’s called the carousel.”  Global Warming became climate change.  The war on terror?  We don’t even use those words anymore.  And people are (finally) starting to call Park 51 a cultural center (akin to a YMCA) instead of a mosque, which it is not.  We need to pick good names, get them out early and often, and remain unified in terminology.  That is, until the terms don’t work.  Then we pick better ones.