• Yuu Baal: mezcal with notes of green vegetation and a mineral aroma

    Mezcal is to be sipped. It is savored so as to enjoy all the everything that comes with the fermentation of the agave cactus, in all its glorious varieties, into an elixir that shape-shifts in taste as it meanders from the hard palate to the soft, lazily through the throat and then even slower, with new flavors, down the gullet. That said, like all plant-based libations and elixirs, the taste is not necessarily acquired but, perhaps, coaxed and practiced.

    All too often, mezcal is treated like its mainstreamed-fructose-adjacent cousin tequila, peddled in bars and liquor stores. These mixto tequilas have at least 51% blue agave sugar, with the remaining replaced by corn-based high fructose sugars. To be very clear, that's not to knock tequila, just a warning about the feelings the day after as related to the fermentation process of the chosen libation. Check out this clearinghouse for scientific research on tequila and mezcal.

    Tequila is basically a type of mezcal, while using only blue agave, 100% or mixto. Mezcal is made from a variety of fermented agaves. Shooting mezcal like tequila deprives the drinker of something wonderful. As can shooting tequila like tequila. Fortunately, my first taste was in front of Church of Santo Domingo Guzmán, in Oaxaca City, Oaxaca, in the early 1990s. Friends introduced me with a brewed batch shared from a repurposed glass bottle.

    In the context of tequila markets recovering from the blight in the late 1990s that devastated the agave industry, mezcal is now big global business. Demand for both tequila and mezcal has attracted the eyes of the famous and wealthy. Yet my memory of crafted, small-batch casera (home-made) mezcal led me to Yuu Baal.

    From the website: "Grupo Yuu Baal, S.A. de C.V., a 100% Mexican company, a social enterprise that highlights the traditions of the native Oaxacan producers of mezcal, that of which the complete process of production is artesenal impregnating in each of its products the mystical, the exotic, and the absolutely delightful taste that makes this majestic drink. Grupo Yuu Baal is made up of producers in San Juan del Rio, San Luis del Rio Tlacolula and Miahuatlan, Oaxaca. The quality of the 'magueys' begins in the earth and looking after it as well, this means that the complete cycle of production as is the planting, cutting, and distillation are done manually, all with absolute respect for our environment."

    My favorite for sipping – for example, to help prepare the stomach for receiving a meal – is the Mezcal Jóven Espadín. Fragrant and capacious in the pepper and fruit terpenes and, if one's palate insists, smooth and clear in taste for a blackberry mezcal, or with fresh cucumber, mint leaves and lime juice, with organic agave nectar. The Añejo is also not only for special occasions, yet the versatility of the Jóven Espandín allows for experimenting. I am looking forward to trying the Mezcal Jóven "Madrecuixe," a mezcal that "offers an unmistakable herbal aroma and taste. On the smell it accentuates intense notes of green vegetation and wet earth, with a mineral smell that is unparalleled and unforgettable." Salud.

  • Cheese, Worms and Angels: Menocchio the Heretic

    Carlos Ginzburg first published The Cheese and the Worms [Amazon] in Italian in 1976, and then in English four years later. It has now been published in more that 100 languages, marking a reference for the writing of "microhistories". The main character of this wildly imaginative story, is the miller Domenico Scandella, known to neighbors as Menocchio, and his two Inquisition trials for heresy. We have access to Menocchio's cosmovision and spiritual imaginary because of these meticulous records of interrogation and torture held in the archives of the Curia Arcivescovile in Udine, Italy. Transcripts from two trials charging Menocchio with heresy reveal that he believed the origins of the world can be traced to when the "…earth, air, water, and fire were mixed together; and out of that bulk of mass formed—just as cheese is made out of milk—and worms appeared in it, and these were angels."

    Worms as angels, four elements and some churning. Microhistories were given new life, one of curds and curdled stories. Microhistory is a narrative and methodological form of writing history that focuses on a localized event, person or community. The printing revolution and the Reformation are the context of Menocchio's accumulation of knowledge and his theorizations about the origins of the earth. Access to the books and pamphlets circulating at this time, and the ideas and provocations contained within, introduced this miller to possibilities and imaginaries he might otherwise never encountered. These new ideas mixed and mashed with the oral traditions and folk knowledge that organized vernacular imaginaries at the time. Menocchio re-organized and re-interpreted the assumed and common-place meanings given to time and space, to change, and to relationships with spiritual traditions and origin stories.

    Loyal to his own principle and theories, as well as the way of living those principles and theories implied, Menocchio's fate was death. In 2018, the director Alberto Fasulobrought this phenomenal story to the big screen in Menocchio the Heretic. A trailer in Italian with English subtitles is available here.

  • Orlando Bosch and anti-Cuban terrorism

    How did Raoul Cantero III, a Harvard-trained lawyer and great-grandson of the US-backed Cuban dictator Fulgencia Batista, and who represented Orlando Bosch, the "unrepentant anti-Castro extremist who was labeled a terrorist by the U.S. government for his purported ties to bombing raids on Cuba," in a deportation hearing in 1989, end up becoming the first Hispanic Supreme Court Judge in the state of Florida? But first, who is Orlando Bosch?

    Born in 1926 in Potrerillo, Cuba, 270km South East of Havana, Orlando Bosch actively organized against the US-backed dictatorial regime of Fulgencio Batista in his student life in the 1950's, supporting the Cuban revolution in its early months as a pediatrician that provided clandestine support for Castro. His position changed significantly in 1960, however, when he moved to Miami, and joined and led anti-Castro groups supported by the CIA.

    His New York Times obituary reports, "In 1968, Mr. Bosch was convicted of using a makeshift bazooka to shell a Communist Polish freighter docked in Miami. He was sentenced to 10 years in prison. At the same time, he was convicted of sending bomb threats to the heads of state of Britain, Mexico and Spain, and received a concurrent eight-year sentence."

    One of the vehicles that Bosch used to organize counter-revolutionary campaigns in Cuba, Florida, and other parts of the world was the Coordination of United Revolutionary Organizations (CORU). Founded in 1976 by Bosch and Luis Posada Carriles, CORU was behind the bombing that same year of Cubana Flight 445 that killed all 73 people on board, including the Cuban Olympic fencing team. Though Bosch and Posada Carriles were accused of being the masterminds of the bombing, both were acquitted by a Venezuelan court.

    From the same Times obituary: "In a C.I.A. report that was later declassified, Mr. Posada was said to have been overheard saying, 'We are going to hit a Cuban airplane' and 'Orlando has the details.' And in 2006, the Federal Bureau of Investigation released a report quoting an informant in Caracas, Venezuela, as saying that one of the men who had planted the bomb called Mr. Bosch afterward with the message, 'A bus with 73 dogs went off a cliff and all got killed.'"

    In the late 1980s, one Raoul Cantero III, born in Spain to Cuban parents, represented Bosch at his 1989 hearings, where the Justice Department sought his deportation arguing he was a security threat. This UPI recovered article from 1989 quotes Cantero, "'It's certainly damaging in the sense that he was doing these things, [b]ut there was a war going on. They were fighting communism. Bosch has repudiated this type of violence.'" The article continues, "he [Cantero] said there is no evidence Bosch has been involved in any terrorist acts in the last 10 years. The CIA reports indicate he organized several air strikes over Cuba in the 1960s. One of them resulted in the accident that killed four."

    In 2002, Florida governor Jeb Bush appointed Cantero III to the Florida Supreme Court. Bush declared in a press release: "Today all Floridians can take pride in the appointment of the first Hispanic justice to serve on the Florida Supreme Court.  The significance of Raoul's achievement is important because it proves that service on our state's highest court is open to men and women of excellence from all backgrounds….Raoul has spent his entire career bringing honor to his family and community through his dedication to service. I know he will bring that same honor and dedication to service to the Florida Supreme Court."

    For more on the connections between domestic politics, scion families and ant-Castro formations in Miami, check out this Transnational Institute Report by the late journalist and filmmaker Saul Landau, who passed in 2013 at the age of 77. In 1974, Landau made film Cuba and Fidel. Interested in further research, consider consulting the Posada Carriles File from the National Security Archives for details on Posada's political activities and support from US politicians. This video with Bosch admitting to his actions is worth viewing for his unwavering support for using violence against civilians to achieve political ends. Voices from the Other Side: An Oral History of Terrorism Against Cuba, by Keith Bolender, details the impacts of the larger anti-Cuba terrorism organizations and campaigns on people living on the island: "With first-person interviews from more than 75 Cuban citizens who have been victims of these terrorist acts, or have had family members or close friends die from the attacks, this is a unique resource for activists, journalists and students interested in Cuba's tumultuous relationship with the US." Peter Kornbluh's books and articles offer the most in-depth study in English of US foreign policy toward Cuba, including The Bay of Pigs Declassified: The Secret CIA Report on the Invasion of Cuba and Back Channel to Cuba: The Hidden History of Negotiations between Washington and Havana, co-written with William M. LeoGrande. There is also the True Crime Series, "Omega 7: The Anti-Fidel Castro Bombings," on YouTube.

  • Books I'd sell my soul to read again for the first time.

    So, I don't know about the soul selling – the market conditions are a bit uncertain these days given the predatory nature of capitalism, the ongoing destruction of the planet in the name of progress and empire, and the sub-poverty minimum wage. Except for union organizing…oh, that's another post.

    This is the specific Instagram account, poppysreads, that inspired this post sharing book titles. Thank you, poppysreads. I'm sure there might be (that was just a little hedge) other accounts, posts, citations of people answering this question with their own suggestions, but this is "mine". Lists can be seen as an aggregate and accumulation of experiences and choices, as a well as an affective moment of documentation, i.e., this list might be different on a different day, or another geography. These are not in order of significance.

    1. In agreement with poppysreads, A Little Life by Hanya Yanagihara (I actually read this once, and listened to it twice in one Spring/Summer)
    2. The Temple of My Familiar by Alice Walker
    3. Bardo or Not Bardo, Antoine Volodine (Translated from the French by J. T. Mahany)
    4. Who Fears Death by Nnedi Okorafor
    5. And the Ass Saw the Angel by Nick Cave
    6. The Mixquiahuala Letters by Ana Castillo
  • In "The Other Shore", Thích Nhất Hạnh rewrote the patriarch's interpretation of the Heart Sutra

    One of the last projects of the late Thích Nhất Hạnh was to offer to the world a new translation of the Heart Sutra: The Other Shore. Completed in 2014, and published in 2017, the presentation of a new translation, new language, as well as new concepts and categories, implies a new interpretation, new understandings and new insights. "The Heart Sutra is recited daily in Mahayana temples and practice centres throughout the world. This new translation came about because Thích Nhất Hạnh believes that the patriarch who originally compiled the Heart Sutra was not sufficiently skillful with his use of language to capture the intention of the Buddha's teachings—and has resulted in fundamental misunderstandings of the central tenets of Buddhism for almost 2,000 years." Hahn has written over 100 books, including Anger, Fear, How to Fight, Being Peace, True Love and No Mud, No Lotus.

    The commentaries that accompany this new translation "makes clear what it means to transcend duality and pairs of opposites, such as birth and death, and to touch the ultimate reality and the wisdom of nondiscrimination. By helping to demystify the term "emptiness," the Heart Sutra is made more accessible and understandable." Click here to listen to the forward to The Other Shore read out loud. Zen master, poet, teacher, and a prolific and accessible author, Nhất Hạnh was exiled from Vietnam in 1968 after advocating for peace, for which Dr. MLK Jr. nominated him for the Nobel Peace Prize.

    While still in Vietnam Nhất Hạnh created "The Order for Interbeing". The stories goes: "On the full moon day of February 1966, Zen Master Nhất Hạnh ordained six members into the Order—three men and three women ranging in age from twenty-two to thirty-two. All were board members of the School of Youth for Social Service, which he had helped found the year before. During the ceremony, the six ordainees vowed to study, practice, and observe the Fourteen Precepts of the Order of Interbeing, a wonderful blend of traditional Buddhist morality and contemporary social concerns." In 1982, Nhất Hạnh founded Plum Village Monastery in France in 1982, as a continuation of the work of "engaged Buddhism" he had begun in Vietnam. Nhất Hạnh passed to another shore in January 22, 2022.

  • TV pick: Reservation Dogs and the wondrous life of Nathan Apodaca

    Nathan Apodaca, aka DoggFace, entered into the global collective imagination in 2020, while skateboarding home from work, sipping on Ocean Spray cranberry juice, and singing Fleetwood Mac's, "Dreams". The timing of the video embedded below (and the fact that Apodaca was skateboarding in Idaho Falls, Idaho, because his car had broken down) touched a thread in the fabric of a tattered society adapting to the onset of the still-ongoing-global-pandemic.

    Apodaca recently landed a guest appearance on the wildly popular, nuanced and genius Native American focused FX comedy series Reservation Dogs. Playing a roofer who offers comedic interrogations and advice to the young "Bear Smallhill", who is working his first construction job. Reservation Dogs has taken the critics and audiences by storm, centering indigenous life and issues facing young people in general:

    "From Co-Creators and Executive Producers Sterlin Harjo and Taika Waititi, Reservation Dogs is a half-hour comedy that follows the exploits of "Elora Danan" (Devery Jacobs), "Bear Smallhill" (D'Pharaoh Woon-A-Tai), "Willie Jack" (Paulina Alexis) and "Cheese" (Lane Factor), four Indigenous teenagers in rural Oklahoma. After the death of the fifth member of the Reservation Dogs, the crew took to stealing, scheming and saving in order to vicariously fulfill his dream of reaching the exotic, mysterious and faraway land of California. But after a promising start to their criminal endeavors, including the legendary heist of a Flaming Flamers chips truck, swiping some old lady's weed edibles and some low-grade grand theft auto, the plan went bust. The gang disbanded, with everyone trying to forge their own paths."

    Check out the series to see what paths are forged.

    Reservation Dogs [FX]

  • Architecture as a form of activism and resistance

    If you like documentaries and the creative and often unexpected use-value of design, check out Rebel Architecture from Al Jazeera: "A six-part documentary series profiling architects who are using design as a form of activism and resistance to tackle the world's urban, environmental, and social crises. The series follows architects from Vietnam, Nigeria, Spain, Pakistan, Israel/Occupied West Bank, and Brazil who believe architecture can be more than iconic towers and luxury flats—turning away from elite "starchitecture" to design for the majority."

    In episode 4, "Greening the City", award-winning Vietnamese designer Vo Trong Nghial who is known for his work with bamboo, explains the significance of intentional, climate-conscious design: "Green architecture helps people live harmoniously with nature and elevates human life by embracing the powers of the sun, wind, and water into living space. If the current way of thinking does not change, sooner or later citizens will actually live in concrete jungles. For a modern architect, the most important mission is to bring green spaces back to the earth."

    Experimenting with vertical urban gardens is one idea taking hold, a design Nghial calls a "vertical farming city". Others include open air spaces in lieu of air conditioning, and the use of bamboo and other local, accessible materials in a sustainable and non-invasive manner. These design choices, including low-cost rural eco-friendly housing plans, create a convivial ecology while cultivating a capacious imagination to solve problems that face all urban areas: density, accessible economic costs, and environmental sustainability.

  • When Copenhagen buses triggered ophidiophobia, the overwhelming fear of snakes

    This article from 2010 concerned the buses that snake through central Copenhagen, which were then covered in larger-than-life boa constrictors crushing the vehicles in its powerful digital grip. The giant snakes are smiling.

    An advertising campaign for a local zoo, Peder Schack of the Danish firm Bates Y&R designed the images to "make the illusion of something strange happening to something well known."

    There is nothing strange about ophidiophobia, nor its more well-known cousin arachnophobia. I don't think I would get into this bus, or the subway cars that, because of the popularity of the bus designs, were painted to include lions and monkey on the seats, and snakes slithering on the floor.

    Photo courtesy Bates Y&R

    Reminds me of an earlier version of current 3-D movie and game advertisements, like this one for Resident Evil. The Drum compiled images from the best 3D billboards.

  • Corporations, capitalism and conceptions of the self

    What is capitalism? What is a corporation? What is the relationship between one's desires for consumption, capitalist notions of the individual self, and the power of corporations? The following documentaries help answer these and other questions about how capitalism limits democracy, and how psychoanalysis has impacted consumption and the notion of the social.

    First released in 2003, and based on the book The Corporation: The Pathological Pursuit of Profit and Power by Joel Bacon, the documentary by the same first name has won 26 awards."Taking its status as a legal 'person' to the logical conclusion, the film puts the corporation on the psychiatrist's couch to ask 'What kind of person is it?' The Corporation includes interviews with 40 corporate insiders and critics—including Noam Chomsky, Naomi Klein, Milton Friedman, Howard Zinn, Vandana Shiva, and Michael Moore—plus true confessions, case studies and strategies for change."

    The Corporation, in turn, contextualizes Inside Job by Charles Ferguson which won the 2010 Oscar for best documentary film. Inside Job explains the intricacies of classic economic theory, the politics of capitalism with regards to policies and laws, and the impact of deceptive credit agencies, greedy investment bankers, and hedge fund managers on the lives of everyday people. The crux of the story is that the economic crisis of 2008 negatively impacted tens of millions of people, while a handful of wealthy individuals and corporate entities made out like…well, capitalists.

    After your anger subsides from learning about the manipulation of markets and predatory lending practices targeting working-class and communities of color, you might be ready for the three part series, Century of the Selfby British Filmmaker Adam Curtis. First broadcast as a TV series in 2002 and now available in its entirety, Century of the Self examines the impact of the ideas of Sigmund Freud on politics, economics, and foreign and domestic policies in Great Britain and the United States throughout the 20th Century. The episodes, "Happiness Machines," "The Engineering of Consent," "There is a Policeman Inside All Our Heads; He Must Be Destroyed," and "Eight People Sipping Wine in Kettering", specifically focus on Edward Bernays, Freud's nephew and the inventor of the "profession" of public relations. These episodes ask us to consider our relationship to capitalist consumption, the uncritical acceptance of the corporation as having legal personhood, as well as whose imaginary animates your/our desires for consumption.

  • Nigeria, BLO and the origins of Afro-Psychodelic Funk

    I was first introduced to BLO in the late 1990s by my friend the multi-instrumental gardener named Jake. These were the last days of Napster, when grow-houses were not yet legal, and music circulated "freely" across time zones and geopolitical borders. Named for band members, Berkely "Ike" Jones on guitar, Laolu "Akins" Akintobi on drums and percussion, and Mike "Gbenga" Odumosu on bass), BLO was new orientation of Afro-Beat and psychedelic rock-and-roll that came to be known as afro-psychedelic funk.

    During the early 70s, British drummer Ginger Baker, who had formed Cream with Eric Clapton and Jack Bruce, had lived and travelled in Africa, primarily Nigeria. Working with Fela Kuti, Baker also collaborated with BLO members on the project Salt. Check out Phases: 1972-1982 here. Or the album Chapter One from 1973, recently re-issued by Mr. Bongo (no relation to Mr. Boing Boing) here. Jones and Laolu, the B and L of BLOW can be seen performing with Baker in the travel/music documentary, Ginger Baker in Africa DVD.

  • Why are America's elites so needy?

    What does a multi-millionaire professional football quarterback, a former professional wrestler, a horse farm and a volleyball complex have in common? Well, in Mississippi, the poorest state in the U.S., where the capital city is experiencing a water crisi, all of these entities received money from the Temporary Assistance for Needy Families (TANF) fund. How much? For Bret Favre, the payment was for $ 1.1 million in 2017 and 2018 for motivational speeches to young people. None of the speeches were ever given. Neither did the other $68.9 million go to needy families. According to the NBC news report, "Favre hasn't been accused of a crime or charged, and he declined an interview. His lawyer, Bud Holmes, said he did nothing wrong and never understood he was paid with money intended to help poor children. Holmes acknowledged that the FBI had questioned Favre in the case, a fact that hasn't previously been reported."

    Speaking of community money and elite graft, with regards to Covid relief funds, of the $800 billion given out, "70% of it—or nearly $370 billion—went into the pockets of business owners and shareholders in the richest 20% of the population," according to this Quartz article. For more on elite capture of public resources, check out this recent study from the National Bureau of Economic Research detailing the audits done for Paycheck Protection Program (PPP) given out the first year of the pandemic.

  • Eel farm tees and other "conger-inspired merch"

    On June 15, 2022, Nick Tobler, owner of Reel Life Aquatics, a reptile and fish store in Crescent Springs, Kentucky, after much fanfare and anxious waiting from TikTok viewers, released a video of actual eels living in his actual basement eel pit. Eel pit man's twitter handle is @cowturtle, where you can find videos of the preparation of the basement eel sanctuary, which is really just a wonderful underground aquarium with gold fish, coy fish and a shrimp named Siracha. Other videos include various conversations Nick has with his eel friends, as they grow and get friendlier, with names like "crunch wrap supreme", Shaquille, Neal and Mealanie. Cowturtle recently opened an online Redbubble shop, where you can get a sticker or T-shirt declaring, "The Government Fears the Indoor Eel Farmer", and other slick electric conger-inspired merch.

  • "Too Hot to Handle" is too fun to miss

    You might consider the Netflix reality show Too Hot to Handle a guilty pleasure, something you wouldn't want to admit to anyone, a prism of cringe entertainment. You might deny knowledge of it to someone who hasn't even asked. And you would be right.

    The premise of the show is that unreasonably good-looking people have come to a beach resort expecting to flirt, hook up, and win a ton of money. Once there, though, they learn they will be on a sex ban for the entire trip, with their every move monitored by a faux-Alexa bot with a soothing female British voice encouraging them to form deeper connections with each other. To motivate them in this lofty goal, they lose several thousand dollars from their fat prize pot for every breach of the ban. Sound wonderfully terrible? Yes, it is.

    What makes this ridiculous premise properly entertaining is neither the participants, who all sort of blur together, nor their shaky ascent to spiritual enlightenment, but the narrator's voice-over commentary of these newly post-teen antics.

    Desiree Burch makes this show sing. She's sharp sarcastic, sex-positive, and talks like she's sitting on your couch with you making you feel better about spending 44 minutes of your life on this show.

    Burch is an American comedian who lives in England and is a fixture of the British panel-show circuit, enriching the analysis on political satire shows like Frankie Boyle's New World Order and Late Night Mash, and taking pratfalls on the delightfully ridiculous contest show Taskmaster. Check out her wonderful series Profiles in Fatness on YouTube.

  • Floods create new lake in Pakistan

    The Indus river has overflowed to such an extent that a huge in-land lake has formed measuring 62 miles (100 kilometres) across where there used to be homes and agricultural fields. Satellite photos featured on CNN show the drastic difference in the landscape before and after these ongoing and unrelenting monsoon floods. Have a look at the nifty before-and-after comparisons showing what the area looked like just a four months ago compared to now.

    This is not the first time Pakistan's rivers have altered geography in recent memory. In June of 2010, a landslide on the Hunza River upstream from then-Attabad village created the Attabad Lake in Gilgit-Baltistan, drowning the village, killing 20 people and displacing six thousand. The Attabad lake now measures nearly 19 miles across (30 kilometres).

    The Hunza River flows through Gilgit-Baltistan, joining the Gilgit and Natlar Rivers to eventually flow into Indus.

  • The Art of Solidarity: Molly Crabapple and Political Collaboration with Everyday People

    "Do we have a right to be hopeful? With political and ecological fires raging all around, is it irresponsible to imagine a future world radically better than our own? A world without prisons? Of beautiful, green public housing? Of buried border walls? Of healed ecosystems? A world where governments fear the people instead of the other way around?" These are the questions that Molly Crabapple asks in A Message from the Future II: The Years of Repair, an illustrated and narrated water-color film.

    Perhaps you have seen Molly Crabapple's images at any number of racial justice and feminist street marches, struggles in Palestine or Syria, or Occupy Wall Street protests during the last decade. Circulating struggles and ideas, Crabapples art is printed by activist and displayed during these public engagements. Maybe you have seen Crabapple's award-winning water-color animation films exploring contemporary social issues. Or, just maybe you have read her auto-biography Drawing Blood, or seen her illustrations in Brothers of the Gun: A Memoir of the Syrian War. Perhaps you have never heard of Molly Crabapple – a now unforgettable name.

    Crabapple writes, paints, illustrates, and make films – among other projects. Her work in all genres highlights the contradictions of structural violence by focusing on everyday life, the beauty and pain of everyday people surviving policies of organized abandonment.

    The consummate artist-activist, prolific, disciplined, and down to collaborate, Crabapple had been illustrating comics and workshopping techniques when she cut her teeth in journalism during the Occupy Wall Street movement in New York City. Living near Zucotti Park, where the first movement emerged, her participation opened-up a new avenue of political engagement, while her apartment was a way-station and studio for artist and journalist from across the globe. "Before Occupy I felt like using my art for activist causes was exploitive of activist causes," she told the Village Voice. "I think what Occupy let me do was it allowed me to instead of just donating money to politics or just going to marches, it allowed me to engage my art in politics." Before Occupy, along with A.V.Phibes, Crabapple had founded Dr. Sketchy's Anti-Art School, a burlesque-drawing class. Occupy impacted her political stance, engagement and artistic stylizations.

    In all her published and printed images, book covers and films, Crabapple emphasizes scenes from everyday normal life, portraits of everyday people living in dignity and with hope, struggling to survive and thrive. Her reporting has been published in The New York Times, New York Review of Books, The Paris Review, Vanity Fair, The Guardian, Rolling Stone, and The New Yorker.

    My favorite creations by Crabapple are the video illustrations accompanying a narration of current political or social issues. Topics include: "stop-and-frisk", The Green New Deal, COVID stories from the frontlines, "Nurse Power," solitary confinement, abortion, the money-bail industry, and a recent collaboration with Maria Carey on a music video. Crabapple's illustrations and collaborations have earned her three Emmy nominations, and she is the recipient of an Edward R. Murrow Award.

    Defiant, prolific, gracious and brilliantly talented, Crabapple is fire and magic. Hear Crabapple in her own voice in this NPR interview.

  • "When you are done, press the octothorpe key". What do you call the # glyph?

    Touching the keypad number sign (#), also known as the pound key or the hash symbol, to confirm inputting credit card numbers or Social Security numbers or pin numbers or really the termination of any phone transaction, is a ubiquitous experience in the world of digital transaction. But we may not know that # was an abbreviation of lb, "pound by weight" in Latin, or this symbol's name is also octothorpe. In purely analog times, the pound key was not the number sign but a word re-invented to describe and 8-pointed image. In the 1960s, engineers at Bell Labs added the number sign to the telephone key pad as a way to send instructions to the central telephone operating system.

    If you want to go down the octothorpe hole, check out Chris Messina's Medium article, "The Real Source of The Word 'Octothorpe'" from 2019.

  • The Harriet Tubman Space Telescope and the Lavender Scare at NASA: What happens when a telescope zooms in on the politics of Earth?

    As we gaze near and über far, either at the 174 Megapixel images of the moon, or through the new telescope named after NASA bureaucrat James Webb, take note of this new documentary Behind the Name. As reported by Wired, JustSpace Alliance released the documentary on YouTube in July. "The movie explores Webb's history, NASA's opaque naming process, and growing pressure from the astronomical community to rename the telescope to alternatives like the Harriet Tubman Space Telescope, the Just Wonderful Space Telescope, or simply its acronym: JWST. 'The goal is to get the name changed and for NASA to have an honest and open conversation about the naming process,' says Jackson, a video producer working part-time at the NASA Goddard Space Flight Center in Greenbelt, Maryland, and other organizations."

    The documentary The Lavender Scare further explores the Cold War context of Webb's tenure at NASA, telling "the little-known story of an unrelenting campaign by the federal government to identify and fire all employees suspected of being homosexual."

    Theoretical physicist Chanda Prescod-Weinstein released a video statement explaining why the telescope should be renamed for the astronomer Harriet Tubman. In Ms. Magazine Prescod-Weinstein emphasized, "I believe that Harriet Tubman, as a conductor on the Underground Railroad and general expert on the social technology of liberation, understood and used this cosmos that includes Black people and freedom. This knowledge makes her one of the greatest astronomers in American history. For this reason, last year I argued with colleagues, including fellow Black astronomer and physicist Brian Nord, that the next generation NASA space observatory—named for a Kennedy-era leader who is implicated in the Lavender Scare—should be renamed the "Harriet Tubman Space Telescope."

    Prescod-Weinstein is the author of The Disordered Cosmos: A Journey into Dark Matter, Spacetime, and Dreams Deferred, and is assistant professor of Physics and Core Faculty Member in Women's and Gender Studies at the University of New Hampshire.

  • The blowback of embargoes, cigars and capitalist wars

    JFK's addiction to imperialism was a strong as his need for H. Upmann Petit Coronas, the cream of the crop of Cuban Cigars. On February 6, 1962, the day before the United States imposed a total embargo on Cuban goods, expanding the 1960 embargo on exports to Cuba—except for food and medicine–Kennedy told his press secretary Pierre Salinger to get "1,000 Petit Upmanns." Salinger did not disappoint and Kennedy got his fix.

    The embargo—then and now—is a violation of international law, and was used alongside a host of policies that tried to "fix" the Cuban Revolution. This year marks 30 years of the United Nations General Assembly attempting to pass a resolution demanding the end to the blockade, and 30 years of the U.S. and Israel blocking the resolution.

    Stories of subterfuge, assassination attempts, collusion with organized crime, and outright terror through the covert and overt support of counter-revolutionary groups on US soil are the subjects in Season 2 of the podcast Blowback.

    "America's Cold War crusade brings the world to a nuclear-tipped showdown between the Kennedy brothers, Fidel Castro, the Soviet Union, the CIA, and the Mafia. Co-hosted by Brendan James and Noah Kulwin, season two is a 10-part account of how the United States tried and failed to thwart the creation of a socialist government less than a hundred miles to its south."

    Check out Season 1 on the Iraq War, which "examines the decades of policies that culminated in America's attack on Saddam Hussein's government and the aftermath of the invasion." And the recently released Season 3 focuses on the Korean War. You can check out the video teaser for Season 3.

    You will find familiar names in US politics in all three episodes, from Donald Rumsfeld and his famous quote about "unkown unknowns" as the new raison d'être of post 9-11 wars, to JFK, Paul Wolfowitz, and various members of the Bush family. You will also hear interviews and stories of the impact of these wars on the lives of everyday people in Korea, Iraq, and Cuba.

    James and Kulwin demonstrate diligent and expansive research, compiling audio interviews and newspaper reports from that time, consulting existing historical monographs, as well as contemporary interviews with participants that shed light on new information as well as complicating the inherited narratives about these wars. Each episode has extra content, with extended interviews, musical soundtracks, and other fascinating details about the impact of these wars today.

  • The Decolonial Atlas

    Did you grow up learning that the world looked like this?

    Though not a map of a "flat earth" even as the map was flat, it also not in any way accurate. If you are interested in checking out other ways of mapping, imagining, viewing and understanding the earth and the relationship of maps to power, mapmaker, and the map-viewer (you/us) check out The Decolonial Atlas.

    "The Decolonial Atlas is a growing collection of maps which, in some way, help us to challenge our relationships with the land, people, and state. It's based on the premise that cartography is not as objective as we're made to believe. The orientation of a map, its projection, the presence of political borders, which features are included or excluded, and the language used to label a map are all subject to the map-maker's bias – whether deliberate or not."

    A project peopled by volunteers and updated often they make all their content free through the Decolonial Media License 0.1. A brief list of recent maps: Origins of Lithium-ion Batteries; Residential School Graves; Music of the African Diaspora; Street Trees of NYC, London, and Melbourne; Bus Routes to Abortion Providers in the South; The World's Biggest Landlords; and Land Back: Returning U.S. Federal Lands to Tribal Sovereignty
    What map would you (re)make?

  • Twitter recommendation: Visuals of Earth

    Visuals of Earth (@EaRT_VisuaL) will reorient your entire internal map of this planet—or create one anew for you on this rock we share, hurtling through time/space toward disaster and extinction. Or toward solidarity and care?

    Flora, fauna, fantastical visions, architecture and landscapes, views that inspire, images that you won't have to revisit to remember, but will do so because memory loves company. The view from the drone, the underwater photographer, the inside of a cave – and you. Some of the many reminders of what is at stake in saving the earth.

    This handle is scaled with the local wrapped in the global. From humans at the edge of massive cliffs and skim-boarding across fountains and down hills, landscapes that bring out the green eyes in CGI, to the animals we learn to love and learn about – like albino peacocks and extra-terrestrial looking moths, and the mysterious and colorful nudibranch.

    Maybe you live in these places? Visited? What is outside your window? What visual of earth do you see? What visuals of earth do you want to see?