Tag Archives: being a geek

Foto Friday: Propaganda

I know I’m a day late, but cut me some slack–there was an earthquake and now there are 15-25 mph winds, and the Malecón is flooded.  No one’s injured or worried or anything, it just means our internet is extra-slow.  So here it is, the second installment and already we have a Foto Saturday.

Outside of a gas station (“your friend, 24 hours a day,” “black gold”) there is a bust of Jose Marti so big I can see it from the bus.  The most basic, obvious form of propaganda here is the ubiquitous billboard.  They are used for no other purpose, and are actually quite compelling.  Some are just text, while others are giant, childlike drawings.

Here’s a sampling of some of my faves from around town.

My question: who are these aimed at?  Who are they actually convincing?

There are tons more, but I usually see them out of a bus window.  There will be plenty more in the future.  Unfortunately, I’m so used to it that upon further scrutiny I don’t actually have pictures of many of my favorite slogans.

A man sits across the street from an elementary school.
A typical storefront sign. Many of the decorations from the 50th anniversary last January 1 remain, however.
Brittan and Aliesha with a Che flag in the Hotel Nacional, which used to be owned by the mob
"For peace and friendship"
Hasta la victoria siempre!
Some campaneros stroll past a large version of a ubiquitous logo

There’s actually a conscious effort in Cuba not to deify the living, which surprises some.  Jose Martí is everywhere, usually in statue form.  Che figures heavily in the billboards and murals.  I’ve only found one mention of Raúl, and unfortunately it was pitch black and the picture came out terrible no matter what I tried.  Fidel is around, but not as much as you’d think.  There’s a ton more of the propaganda that’s great, but it’s hard to get good pictures.  I’m fairly fascinated by it, so there will definitely be more.  And some of the best pictures are being save for later, like the US Special Interests Section.  All you UNA, polisci kids would be all a-quiver to see it, so stay tuned.

The Final Countdown

You can miss a lot in three months.  While I am pumped to go, here are a few things I’ll miss while I’m gone.

  • Pat’s post-season and the Super Bowl.  I watch the Super Bowl every year
  • St. Patrick’s Day.  St. Patty’s is a big deal in my family, what with us being absurdly Irish and it being Kev’s birthday and all that.  I’ve also never been 21 for it before, and because of Southeast and UNA last year I pretty much missed it entirely.
  • Valentine’s Day.  For me, and any self-respecting UNA kid, V-Day means Harvard and all that that entails.
  • Chicken Lou’s TKO.  So delicious.
  • Husky Hockey.  The regular season, the Beanpot, etc.  I haven’t missed many games in my tenure at NU; it usually only happens when I’m out of state.
  • Harry Potter exhibit at the MOS.  I was hoping to get in there before I leave, but that didn’t happen.  I’m hoping they extend it beyond February.  Even if they do though, it probably won’t still be there in April.
  • Milk.  It’s only rationed for babies in Cuba, so I won’t get any for three months.  How weird is that?  And I’m a huge milk drinker so this may be an issue.
  • Dates with Meredith in Davis.  It’s a great little neighborhood with some of the best shopping.  Keep an eye out on Poor Little Rich Girl for me, k?
  • Alex, my partner in crime.  This will be the first significant amount of time that we’ll spend apart in over a year.  We survived the long hours of UNA, the Egypt trip, a broken ankle, a broken heart and a lot of fun.
  • The New England winter.  I know, easy for me to say.

If you were gone for the next three months, what would you miss?  Anything you totally wouldn’t miss?

Alan Khazei for US Senator

Monday night, Alan Khazei (rhymes with “hazy”) spoke at a women’s forum.  There are only 47 days left until the special election for Teddy’s seat, and Khazei is running against AG Martha Coakley, Rep Mike Capuano, and that guy from the Celtics

I am ever the delegate, so of course I analyze his speeches and q&a the way I would any member of my team. 


What he got right:

  • Political lineage, AKA passing the torch.  He framed himself as a natural heir to such politicians as Lincoln, Teddy Kennedy, Tip O’Neill, Mayor Kevin White, Obama, and even (the relevent) Clinton
  • The trappings.  He had a cute little black girl sing the national anthem.  He let his daughter interupt him (adorably, after raising her hand) whenever she wanted.  He praised his wife endlessly, and let her have the last word. 
  • “Ask me about Alan.”  The constant use of his first name simultaneously makes him sound more friendly/approachable and less foreign/Middle Eastern.  I really dislike that he has to tread lightly around his Iranian heritage, but it’s a political reality and he has done it well.  He has played up the “son of immigrants/American Dream” narrative, and emphasized that his mother is Italian.  Whenever he mentions his father, he brings up that he is a doctor (read: respected, non-terrorist citizen) and that he raised him to love America, “the only country that accepted him with open arms.” 
  • His resume.  Co-founder of City Year, inspiration and protector of/for Americorps, founder of Be the Change.  This guy’s made a name for himself in social entrepreneurship.  How do you argue with that?
  • His treatment of Obama.  He showed how they are similar, but noted that he is also his own man.  He frames himself as a valuable member of Obama’s team who can play the role of the loyal dissident when the team needs him to, when Obama has to tow the line but needs to hear another perspective.  Well played, sir. 
  • His response to his competetors.  Coakley’s doing a great job as AG, we can’t afford to lose Capuano’s strength in the House, and after the Sox’ early elimination, we can’t afford not to have that guy running the C’s.  Entertaining, fairly truthful and it makes him seem like a helluva guy.  Whoever came up with it first deserves a raise. 


What I didn’t like:

  • Afghanistan.  This went over great with the crowd, but I’m hesitant about maintaining or declining troop levels.  That position is a response to domestic political pressure, but does not reflect the needs of the situation on the ground in Afghanistan.  I want them to come home, too, and I didn’t really want them over there to begin with, but I think we are dangerously close to seriously mishandling the Afghanistan question yet again. 
  • The lack of foreign policy discussion.  Aside from the one Afghanistan question from the audience, there was nothing.  His website is similarly lacking.  I know people like to think about what the senator from Massachusetts will do for Mass, but let’s not forget that the senate has things to say about place outside of the 128 belt.  Outside of the 495 belt, even. 
  • What about Gen X/Y/the millenials/anyone under 40?  I mentioned to Marisa how odd it was that Khazei referred to himself as the “younger generation,” the “new generation,” who was accepting the torch from the likes of Kennedy.  This dude is old.  MY generation is new and young.  Sadly, in politics, 40 is like a teenager or something.  Which could be why he only adressed babies, young children, the elderly, and people my parents age.  Right, because from ages 12-39 people cease to exist.  It’s cool, Alan.  We’re an unimportant demographic anyway. 
  • The softball from the woman down front.  Of course, if this were a conference and he were my guy I would throw him meatballs too, but I like to think I do a better job of crafting a positive, worthwhile question than that woman did.  Also, this was a group of Khazei supporters.  They’re ALL meatballs.  


Bottom line: I’m voting for him.

After several weeks of silence, this is the best I can do

Currently, I am putting together a collection of the (worthwhile) plays I wrote in high school.  I’m also going to put together some of my better essays, but the plays have been a long time coming.  Ever since I realized in tenth grade that I could copywrite them as a collection, thereby getting myself in the Library of Congress as well as saving money by doing it in bulk, as it were, I’ve been meaning to get this done.  If I accomplish nothing else with writing, at least I’ll be in one library. 

And right now, it’s looking like I really will accomplish nothing else.  When home, I hesitate to visit my english teachers, who always look so disapointed to find I haven’t been writing, haven’t even taken a single english class in college.  I know I’m wasting my talent, but at least this way I can never fail at it. 

Let’s face it, I do best in a routine, when I’m forced with deadlines.  In middle school I truly became a writer because Mr. Blandini made us write for the first five to ten minutes of every class.  In high school, I took both English classes and playwrighting, both of which had solid deadlines.  Mrs. Burne made us write a Thoreau-esque journal every couple of weeks outside, and it was perhaps the best writing I’ll ever accomplish.  Now, with no english classes and a busy schedule, it’s easy to let the rejection-ridden pursuit of publication or performance fall by the wayside. 

Why haven’t I taken any english classes?  Well, i suppose it’s because if you can be anything besides a writer, you should be.  Which is essentially what i’m doing–finding ways to be successful without writing plays or poetry.  There’s also the bit where I outright reject the premise that one needs to major in english, journalism or literature to be a writer.  Writing is a core part of me, it’s who I am.  I simply am a writer, so it doesn’t much matter if i juggle knives for the rest of my life, because I’ll still write. 

Recently, though, I realized that one of my closest friends on campus had no clue that I’m a writer.  She reads this blog, but that’s about it.  It’s so strange to me that there are people who know me who have no idea that writing is such a big part of my life, especially given that up until college, I think everyone who knew me was aware of this. After a while you start to wonder, if everyone sees me differently, perhaps it’s because I am different. 

This scares me, because remember that since middle school, engineering was such a part of my identity.  I did a summer camp at MIT, I took advanced math and science classes, and I built robots on Science Team.  This was me for a long time, and it took a last-minute change to my NU application to see that it wasn’t anymore.  I think my uncle Paul is still not over it.  Freshman year of college, a close friend told me that international relations and medieval french literature were, “strange classes for an engineer.”  Strange indeed.  So if I can veer away from something as ingrained as engineering, why not writing?

It took a long, slow march of bad grades in algebra 2 and total disinterest in all classes required of engineers for me to see the writing on the wall.  How long can you be a writer if you simply don’t write?  How long does something stay a part of you if no one else can tell it’s there?

Southern Man

This past weekend I was down in South Carolina.  Having returned, I’ve noticed a stark difference in the way delegates handle themselves, especially with regard to gender, in the South as opposed to the North.

Oh the accent. The twang is gone now, but while I was there, and a few days after, my delightfully charming Boston accent was dulled and the twang came out.  I wasn’t really expecting this, as I’ve been to the South before, but this past weekend I spent all my time listening to southerners speak for hours on end, where the only other non-southerner in the room is from the blandly-accented land of Seattle.
Throughout the weekend, I was called Darlin’.  As in, “Don’t you worry bout a thang, darlin’, I didnt mean to fuss you up any!”  I was thoroughly confused by how often doors and chairs were held for me.  In fact, it rubbed off on my own team, a group of guys who generally sees me as a, uh, witch, nuisance or male.  Instead they were being downright chivalrous all weekend.  My natural tendency has been to open doors for myself, shake hands with male delegates, and to wear pants.  Part of my treatment was due to Vince and my success as a pair, and part was being female.  I started to get less annoyed by the politesse and actually enjoyed it.  Strangers always greeted me with “Mornin!” and even people who disagreed with me remained extraordinarily kind, a behavior quite foreign to the northern conferences.
The more time I spend as a delegate, the more I focus on every specific aspect of my behavior.  For example, I, like all Harringtons, stand with shoulders squared, feet hip-width apart, and my arms crossed in front of my chest.  If you look at pictures of the Harringtons, we all stand this way, and in person nod repeatedly.  This is our listening posture.  Unfortunately, this is considered an aggressive stance, especially for a woman, and especially for a younger woman in the south.  I have done my best to eliminate this from my conference behavior, just as I actively turn off my Boston accent when I’m using my intelligent conference voice and vocabulary.
It’s not that I endorse permanently changing myself for others, or doing what makes males comfortable for a prize, but I think it is important to realize that postures and mannerisms mean different things to different people.  Really, I only hesitate to change because it is males who are made uncomfortable.  If I were instructed to speak up so people could hear my good ideas, no one would be concerned in the least.  This is just another way of making it easier for everyone to hear my ideas, instead of focusing on everything else.
It was pointed out to me by my advisor and partner that the reason we got second and not first is my behavior.  I am an intelligent, straightforward human being, and I tend to be more agressive and blunt than most females.  This is offputting to the guys on my own team, and to many guys in my life in general.  Take this down south, and it doesn’t go so well.  Especially when the other teams expected my tall, muscular male marine partner with the booming voice to be telling me what to do, even though it was his first conference.  (For the record, he never once tried to tell me what to do, and I hope I didn’t order him around either.  Vince is pretty much the portrait of a gentleman, and I think our partnership worked really well.)
Reflecting on these ponderings and the discussions with my lovely UNA mentor and our advisor, the accent is actually kind of an advantage.  As my partner mentioned to me today, he will miss the sweet smiles of the southern ladies, as opposed to the hostile and frigid demeanor of their northern counterparts (his words, not mine.)  The female delegates I went up against were formidable.  Many had done more research than I, and several had more experience.  They wanted awards just as much, maybe more.  And yet, they never came across as masculine, dominating or terribly negative at all.  Perhaps the over-emphasis of the accent is just another one of their tools, one that allows them to be aggressive like I am, without losing any votes in the final tally.  In the end, the first place pair had one partner who was dead weight, and another who never controlled the room like I did, but neither of those two ladies pissed anyone off.
Originally posted Thursday, March 19, 2009 at 12:56 PM

Declaration of Intention

I had a blast writing this blog, and in egypt in general.  Originally, I started this one specifically for the trip, to be grandparent- and Bridgiebear-friendly as well as to calm the collective nerves of my family.  In the meantime though, I had lots to say (shocking) that had nothing to do with the trip, so I started a separate blog. 

At this point, the necessity of separating the two doesn’t really exist.  There’s nothing profane on either blog, and I don’t want this one to die.  Increasingly posts of one type are bleeding into the other, as the Egypt experience invairably colored everything I do.  I like wordpress far better (it shows me stats so I know how I’m doing; the other blog is on blogger) and I’ve already distributed this link to most of the people who matter in my life.  So I’m keeping this one and transferring the best of my other blog to here. 

So what will I write about now?  Well, I plan to continue travelling as well as learning about the Middle East, Arabic language and culture and international politics, so there will be some of that.  I’ve also assigned myself some homework (i’m on coop and miss school cuz i’m a nerd) and i’ll be keeping up with that here.  Basically, I don’t feel done with my research about women’s clothing.  I have started expanding the paper, and that will be reflected in various posts here. 

So I hope you keep reading–there will be plenty of stuff, new and old, coming down the pike!

Ana Sitt, Hear Me Roar!

The last dayof the AWO Arab-Western Youth Dialogue was far more productive.  I’m not sure if it was the added (and forbidden) social aspect that fired up the Americans, or maybe we were just pushed to the limit.  The ladies especially were all in, and it was great.  Nana made a rousing speech that garnered quite the round of applause.

I met a guy who overheard me say something in French.  Many of the Arab youth speak it, and for saudeeqee (my friend) Billel, it’s his first language.  Once he realized I’m decent at it, we hung out and jabbered away in French as fast as I could handle.  The next day, he came over to ask me a question about women’s wages in America.  He asked if I would answer in front of the group during his presentation, and I obliged.  All of this was in French of course, as was the question and answer in front of the entire group.  I answered in English first, but he wanted to know what I said so I explained it in French as well.  Apparently everyone, Arab and American alike, had underestimated my ability with French.  For the rest of the conference the Arabs knew me as the girl who can speak French, and many approached me at random to chat and test me a wee bit.  As for my own group, I guess they thought I was BSing, or that my version of “speaking french” means “I took it in high school and fell asleep a lot in class.”  My roommate Janine said she felt like it was a different person, hearing such foreign (but pretty) things coming out of my mouth.

It was great to practice my French a lot because it pushed me and also validated me.  It’s not quite as disheartening to stumble through Arabic when I have confidence in other languages.

Throughout the weekend we were so incredibly sheltered.  A quick google search of the Arab participants would tell you why–they were all chosen based on experience with America and connection to the government.  We’re already a target as 30 Americans, but when you add 30 affluent Arabs to the mix it means we are swarmed by security and kept in the most gorgeous playpen you could ever imagine.  Unfortunately, this resulted in the cancellation of most of our site visits :(.

PS if you didnt figure it out, the title is arabeezy (3raby and ingleezy)for I am woman, hear me roar

True Life, I’m a Geek

We went to the Arab League the other night, and it was wicked awesome.

The building is gorgeous, and we were treated with much greater hospitality than when the American Embassy received us.  The Assistant Secretary-General of the Arab League (aka a big deal) sat with us to have a discussion and answer our questions.  We went with the other group of NU kids who are here for journalism.  They were psyched when he said it would all be on the record unless specific questions necessitated that.

We sat around a huge table with microphones.  There wasn’t enough room for everybody to sit at the table, so everyone else sat in rows around it.  You can bet your ass I got a seat at the table.  Waiters came around and served us some shay (tea) while we listened to the ASG speak.   The ASG was very open with us, which was great.  I love watching diplomats work.  Some of the journalism students were upset that we didn’t get “real,” answers, but that seems silly to me.  He’s obviously a politician, diplomat and spokesperson–he’s not going to either say thins that aren’t in his best interest in order to be ultra-honest or accidentally slip up because some upstart kid thinks they’re the first one to have the gaul to ask a “tough” question on Palestine or Sudan.  I really appreciated the chance to talk to him and to hear his artful way of adressing the questions.  In fact, he was surprisingly critical of some of the League’s history.

I was a little miffed at how little everyone knew about the League of Arab States.  Like, say, that it exists.  The journalism teacher had no concept of it, even after it was explained that it functions like the UN, but is purely regional.  I can understand people not knowing about it—most don’t.  But it has been on our schedule since the beginning, so putting in a little time on Wikipedia wouldn’t have killed anybody.  Also, we have a weekly meeting where either of our group leaders could have given a summary.  A result of the lack of awareness was that many people did not know how to direct their questions.  Until our speaker mentioned it, most in the room didn’t think to ask about Sudan since most assumed it wasn’t in the League.  Ditto for Somalia.

Asha Pandya interviewed me for an article of hers, in which I sounds ridiculously geeky.  Every quote is about how excited I am to be in the building, to hold the SG gavel, to take pictures with countries I’ve represented, and so on.

And now I leave you with pictures of me bugging out.  I know, pictures, finally, and of course they’re all from the Arab League.  🙂

Sitting in the Secretary General's seat...with the gavel!
Sitting in the Secretary General's seat...with the gavel!
The Delegate from Iraq has the floor...
The Delegate from Iraq has the floor...

Oh yeah, and you must all watch this