• P-Rod celebrates 20 years as a pro skater

    Paul Rodriquez announced the importance of October on social media, "This month marks 20 years of being a professional skater. Thank you to everyone who supported me along the way. I Love you more than you know."

    Check out the retrospective video, "20 Years and Forever." Twenty years of footage, from contests, videos, and cameos, zig-zagging back and forth across and between years, with Rodriguez narrating key moments and turning points.

    A story of serendipity and poetic talent, a relationship with gravity of precision, respect and grace, and an economic success story, Rodriguez enthusiastically shares details of his experiences, with happiness and joy, and a giddy humility. He sounds like discovering fun for the first time, over and over again.

    From Status/DNA skateboards, professional for Girl Skateboards, and then Plan B, to starring in feature films and starting his own brand, Primitive, Rodriguez's story inspires; his skating is epically switched, his precision seamless like deep breaths.

    "Now, as an adult, I get really emotional if I think back about it, in a good way, a happy way, literally, it couldn't be more of a perfect story. Every dream sponsor that I wanted, I got to ride for them…travel the world with my heroes, my literal heroes."

    "So the fact that twenty years later I'm still here, I'm healthy, I still got a lot left in the tank, there is still more I want to do…this is still my job, it's still my job…that's tight."

  • Social Justice Board Games

    Rise-Up, Monopoly, and Co-opoly: What did you learn playing board games?

    Games are pedagogical. They teach us lessons. These lessons are intentional. Fun is not always neutral. There are board games that teach us about capitalism, private property, and the myth of meritocracy. For example, Parker Brothers Monopoly, which was appropriated from Lizzie Magie's The Landlord Game, or Hasbro's The Game of Life. Hasbro purchased Parker Brothers in 1991.

    Normalizing empire, domination, and violence are three lessons Cold War weapon that was the board game Risk. The Hungry Hippo, well, that might just have been about a hungry hippo. Yet, all are based on the notion of competition – for urban property, food, land, and other resources.

    These games reinforce the idea of scarcity and that it is a dog eats-dog world. The well-worn phrase is a negation or reversal of the proverb, "a dog does not eat the flesh of a dog." Let's reverse it back. Canine cannibalism is not a metaphor for survival. Perhaps inter-species cooperation might serve humanity better.

    In honor of the actual origins of the game Monopoly, in Elizabeth Magie's invention in 1903 of the Landlord Game, check out these two social justice-themed board games: "Rise-Up" and "Co-opoly: The Game of Co-operatives."Both are the Toolbox for Education and Social Action (TESA) collective projects, with themes that offer other forms of play based on cooperation and solidarity rather than competition and supremacy.

    As reported in this interview with Radixmedia, TESA "is loosely based in Western Massachusetts, with members also in Chicago and elsewhere. They specialize in creating tools and educational programs for social justice organizations and other people fighting for a better future."

    "Rise Up is a board game about building people's power and winning together to create social justice—even when the cards are stacked against us. All players are on the same team, collaborating to build a movement and fight an opponent that is trying to crush your efforts. You'll have to strategize creatively about your movement's actions to win. Get inspired about the social change possible to make the world you want to live in, and learn tactical skills for how we can get there."

    Co-opoly might be the vaccine to Monopoly's lessons of greed. "A game of skill and solidarity, where everyone wins – or everyone loses!

    • All players are on the same team and work together to start a cooperative business or organization and compete against the Point Bank.
    • Learn and practice skills needed to run a cooperative
    • Make tough choices and put your teamwork to the test

    Designed for families and friends who want to play together instead of competing against each other, and groups thinking about starting a cooperative or improving skills as collaborators."

    After the election of Donald J. Trump, the TESA collective decided to engage the growing momentum of right-wing extremism in the US. They created "Space Cats Fight Fascism."

    "We wanted to address the rise of proto-fascism, right-wing extremism, and white nationalism in this country. But a game about that sounded… overwhelming. So, we started to discuss setting it in a fun, allegorical setting. Until finally, I said in a meeting sarcastically, "What, so like cats, in space, fighting fascism?" And everyone else was like, "Yes! That!" And so Space Cats Fight Fascism was born."

    TESA has also "worked with other organizations like The Nature Conservancy to build games for their causes, as well as the International Rescue Committee to build training and curriculum for their vitally important work."

    Creating a world of cooperation, respect and mutuality must be learned. The TESA games "encourage people to engage with topics in low-stakes settings while building lasting memories and connections to important subjects."

  • Looking back at the Black Panther Party's community-based "survival programs"

    The Black Panther Party's Franklin Lynch Peoples' Free Health Center in Boston, ca. 1970

    Men with guns. Armed community self-defense. Confrontations with predatory police departments. For many people, until you know differently, these are the dominant ideas associated with the Black Panther Party for Self-Defense. Founded in Oakland, California, in October of 1966 by Huey P. Newton and Bobby Seale, the Party existed in more than 13 official chapters across the country and abroad until 1982.

    Less known is the targeting of the BBP by the FBI's COINTELPRO (Counter Intelligence Program) operations to "discredit, disrupt, and destroy" the organization. COINTELPRO targeted every progressive organization in the United States at one time or another. Since J. Edgar Hoover was placed in charge of domestic surveillance since 1924, the infiltration, sabotage, and surveillance operations against progressive movements continued across the better part of the century.

    Less well known are the Black Panther Party "survival programs," community-based social justice programs to respond to the organized abandonment by civic leaders of Black and Brown neighborhoods. Organized and run primarily by women, the projects included free breakfast programs for children, grocery cooperatives, free ambulance services, neighborhood escorts for the elderly, education initiatives, and the People's Free Medical Clinics. The Great Society's social programs were inadequate, so communities took matters into their own hands. The Black Panther Party survival programs served anyone and everyone and inspired other political formations to create their versions, like the Brown Berets and the American Indian Movement.

    From the 1972 Black Panther Party Platform, "WE WANT COMPLETELY FREE HEALTH CARE FOR ALL BLACK AND OPPRESSED PEOPLE. We believe that the government must provide, free of charge, for the people, health facilities which will not only treat our illnesses, most of which have come about as a result of our oppression, but which will also develop preventive medical programs to guarantee our future survival. We believe that mass health education and research programs must be developed to give all Black and oppressed people access to advanced scientific and medical information, so we may provide ourselves with proper medical attention and care."

    The Panthers were ahead of their time. Or rather, they were part of a long genealogy of struggle for freedom and self-determination.

    Check out this short video, "What You Don't Know About The Black Panthers." For the full BPP and health justice story, see Alondra Nelson's Body and Soul: The Black Panther Party and the Fight against Medical Discrimination. For a discussion of the local chapters of the BPP, see Judson Jeffries, Comrades;and Liberated Territoryby Yohuru Williams and Jana Lazerow. These two titles examine gender, power, women, and the survival programs: Robyn C. Spencer, The Revolution Has Come, and Power Hungry: Women of the Black Panther Party and Freedom Summer and Their Fight to Feed a Movement, by Suzanne Cope.

  • How "Monopoly" took a monopoly on Lizzie Magie's Landlord Game

    The story of Monopoly—that it was developed during the Great Depression by Charles Darrow, an unemployed man who later sold the idea to Parker Brothers and became a millionaire—is a myth that misrepresents historical events. The real story is one of theft, greed, and opportunism, art imitating life. The story began in 1903 when Elizabeth Magie "filed a legal claim for her Landlord's game…more than three decades before Parker Brothers began manufacturing Monopoly. She designed the game to protest against the big monopolists of her time — people like Andrew Carnegie and John D. Rockefeller." Lizzie Magie, a former actress, a Quaker, a writer, and a progressive feminist, had been relegated to the proverbial dustbin of history.

    Mary Pilon wrote in the New York Times in 2015, "The seeds of the Monopoly game were planted when James Magie shared with his daughter a copy of Henry George's best-selling book, 'Progress and Poverty,' written in 1879." The Landlord Game was a teaching game to highlight the money-grubbing landlord. In 1906, Magie self-published her game.

    Magie created two sets of rules to propose questions about the immorality of monopolies and how community could be built through solidarity. The first rules were "an anti-monopolist set in which all were rewarded when wealth was created, and [the second] a monopolist set in which the goal was to create monopolies and crush opponents. Her dualistic approach was a teaching tool meant to demonstrate that the first set of rules was morally superior."

    Magie challenged Darrow publicly, demanding credit for her creation and bringing along her game board for photographers to demonstrate that she was the idea's originator.

    "It is a practical demonstration of the present system of land-grabbing with all its usual outcomes and consequences," Magie said of her game in a 1902 issue of The Single Tax Review. "It might well have been called the 'Game of Life,' as it contains all the elements of success and failure in the real world, and the object is the same as the human race, in general, seem to have, i.e., the accumulation of wealth." Hasbro would later produce a board game called "The Game of Life" in 1960.

    The Landlord Game went viral, "becoming a folk favorite among left-wing intellectuals, particularly in the Northeast. It was played at several college campuses, including what was then called the Wharton School of Finance and Economy, Harvard University, and Columbia University. Quakers who had established a community in Atlantic City embraced the game and added their neighborhood properties to the board." Bootlegged, handmade versions sprung up across the northeast, each using localized street names, depending on the version. As the game circulated, it was altered. Greed replaced the idea of economic justice.

    The version altered by the Quakers is how Darrow learned of the game. Once "Monopoly" was mass-produced, Magie's claims were harder to prove and easier to ignore. Why would Parker Brothers consider any other position than their (intellectual) property rights, non-ironically, with a game so titled and intended to reinforce the holy sanctity and social power of owning and selling property? A monopoly on "Monopoly" seems apt for toy companies and capitalism. The story of Magie's creation, Darrow's alterations, and the transformation from an anti-capitalist game to a pro-greed game is a giant metaphor for how capitalism is about theft, enclosing the property, resources, and livelihood of the earth, under the guise of progress, development, and opportunity.

    Check out this Smithsonian video on the topic. Check out the full story in Pilon's book, The Monopolists: Obsession, Fury, and the Scandal Behind the World's Favorite Board Game.

  • People Over Prime: TikTok Creators take on Amazon

    On Tuesday, August 16, 2022, seventy Tik Tok creators with a following of more than 51 million users, launched the pro-Union campaign, People Over Prime, to support the demands of the Amazon Labor Union. Organized by Gen Z for Change, the press release said: "Amazon's widespread mistreatment of their workers and blatant use of union-busting tactics will no longer be tolerated by the TikTok Community or TikTok Creators. Until the following demands — set by the Amazon Labor Union from JFK8 and LDJ5 warehouses — are met, we will refuse to monetize our platforms for Amazon, including all direct Amazon sponsorships and usage of Amazon's storefront."

    An influential new political formation, Gen Z for Change "is a nonprofit organization leveraging social media to promote civil discourse and political action among our generation. Partnering with influencers, activists, and celebrities, we produce multimedia content on a variety of topics, including COVID-19, climate change, systemic inequity, foreign policy, voting rights, and LGBTQIA+ issues."

    The People Over Prime pledge:

    "Until the following demands—set by the Amazon Labor Union and LDJ5 Amazon workers—are met, we will prevent Amazon from monetizing the largest social media platform in the world:

    • $30 an hour minimum wage
    • Better working conditions, including:
      • Two paid 30-minute breaks and an hour-long paid lunch break
      • Better medical leave
      • Additional paid time off and eliminating productivity rates that require workers to pick a certain number of items an hour
    • Complete halt of any and all union-busting tactics used by Amazon in the past, including:
      • Compulsory anti-union meetings
      • Promising better pay and benefits to employees if they voted against the union
      • Threatening with worse pay and benefits or termination to employees if they voted for the union
      • Addressing specific issues employees have if they promised to vote against the union"

    Technology is a tool for political organizing. Video cameras as self-defense weapons film the violence of the state and the police. During the Arab spring, Twitter became a vital communication and networking tool for organizing gatherings and protests. These communication technologies have been a central tool in amassing large amounts of people, putting pressure on corporations, and generally sharing the joy of political activity.

    It is worth noting that though these social media platforms were useful, they are not the only catalyzing technology, nor is their impact neutral. As reported by Al Jazeera, "Yet, Big Tech corporations have insidiously used the myth of social media as an 'Arab Spring platform' to their benefit to expand their user numbers, boost engagement, and provide a veneer of respectability to their flawed business models. They have also employed it to counter criticism and efforts to impose regulation on them and to disregard frequent demands and campaigns by Arab civil organizations and digital rights activists to protect online privacy and the right to free speech."

    As workers across industries — from rail transportation to baristas, to warehouse workers and cannabis workers, people are coming together to form new unions to defend their rights and dignity. Their supporters are using technology for creative forms of solidarity, learning from past movements and helping to imagine what might be coming next. In 2021, Gen Z for Change planned a similar campaign to support Starbucks and Kroger workers. People over profits seems to be the perspective Gen Z is asking be reconsidered.

  • Why is the Christian Right fascinated with children's books from the 19th Century?

    History repeats itself, so the saying goes. It seems more accurate to consider that people repeat history and make choices similar to those others have made in the past. The continuity of choice is also the endurance of what is not chosen. People are repeating history every day. In Italy, people have re-embraced fascism in the election of Giorgia Meloni, whose party, Brothers of Italy, was formed in the neo-fascist aftermath of World War II. People repeat history every day.

    Across the US, adherents to right-wing ideologies of intolerance, judgment, and punishment are censoring what young people are learning in school. Banning books, trolling adolescents, and creating conditions for intimidation and violence are now commonplace. Not only Florida, but Michigan, Texas, Pennsylvania, and Iowa are a few states where reactionary politics are putting people, their families, and communities in danger.

    Though published in 2014, History Repeats Itself: The Republication of Children's Historical Literature and the Christian Right by Gregory M. Pfitzer is profoundly relevant and worth a leaf-through at your local public library.

    "Recently, publishers on the Christian Right have been reprinting nineteenth-century children's history books and marketing them to parents as 'anchor texts' for homeschool instruction. Why, Gregory M. Pfitzer asks, would books written more than 150 years ago be presumed suitable for educating twenty-first-century children? The answer, he proposes, is that promoters of these recycled works believe that history as a discipline took a wrong turn in the early twentieth century, when progressive educators introduced social studies methodologies into public school history classrooms, foisting upon unsuspecting and vulnerable children ideologically distorted history books."

    For the religious right, revisionism seems more sacrosanct than tradition, even as they rail against difference. Or, put another way, perhaps revision is tradition.

  • Burning Bush and the early origins of Riot Grrrl

    Riot Genealogies and Manifesto Origin Stories

    In 1988, Burning Bush, the punk-rock power trio from Phoenix, AZ, released "Tales from the Bush."

    Denise Tanguay (bass and vocal), Thomascyne Ryther (vocals and guitar), and Andrey Creed (drums) were Riot Grrrl, rock-n-roll feminists of the Valley of the Sun in the late 1980s. According to Tanguay in a recent AZ Central article, "It was actually The Arizona Republic who coined that term for us when they interviewed us—I believe it was in 1992—for an article called 'Rockhard Feminism,' the bass-playing singer recalls. 'And at the time, we weren't even quite aware of the movement.'"

    As Lindsay Wrights writes in "Do-it-Yourself Girl Power," The Riot Grrrl subculture emerged from the punk rock scene during the third-wave feminist movement in the early 1990s, uniting women and girls against capitalist and patriarchal cultural ideologies. Creative forms of protest, including music, fanzines, and other do-it-yourself expressions, have allowed Riot Grrrls to counter the dominant ideological narrative in the United States. Despite the Riot Grrrl movement's commodification by mainstream culture, it has evolved and expanded to continue to influence the world today."

    In a Phoenix New Times article from 2015, when the band first played shows together again, Ryther recalls, "I don't think Burning Bush ever was particularly radical so much as community-oriented. While I admit to some lyrical finger pointing and kettle black calling, it was more fun-poking, as in everyone is fair game. As a group, we weren't the ones to break the law or support any sort of violent or even rude behavior to 'get our way.' Instead I'd say the mainstream has actually caught up with us. Indeed, now vegetarians and girl musicians abound."

    Though no longer living in Phoenix, Burning Bush has planned a short reunion tour in 2022 despite living as far apart as Oregon, New York, and California. From an Arizona Central article that is unfortunately behind a paywall (but offers three free articles): "'One of the reasons I got inspired to put this show together was the Bikini Kill reunion tour,' Tanguay says, noting that Burning Bush and Bikini Kill were once in the same issue of the legendary punk fanzine Maximum Rocknroll (February 1992)."

    Check out this vintage full concert live video from 1991 at Bohemia After Dark in Mesa, AZ. Or this video from a 1988 outdoor storefront show at Stinkweeds Records in Phoenix, AZ.

    The Riot Grrrl Manifesto was written in 1991 by Bikini Kill and its lead singer Kathleen Hanna and published in the BIKINI KILL ZINE 2. A few of the 13 reasons given for the "why" of the manifesto:

    "BECAUSE us girls crave records and books and fanzines that speak to US that WE feel included in and can understand in our own ways.

    BECAUSE we recognize fantasies of Instant Macho Gun Revolution as impractical lies meant to keep us simply dreaming instead of becoming our dreams AND THUS seek to create revolution in our own lives every single day by envisioning and creating alternatives to the bullshit christian capitalist way of doing things.

    BECAUSE we don't wanna assimilate to someone else's (boy) standards of what is or isn't.

    BECAUSE we are interested in creating non-hierarchical ways of being AND making music, friends, and scenes based on communication + understanding, instead of competition + good/bad categorizations.

    BECAUSE doing/reading/seeing/hearing cool things that validate and challenge us can help us gain the strength and sense of community that we need in order to figure out how bullshit like racism, able-bodieism, ageism, speciesism, classism, thinism, sexism, anti-semitism and heterosexism figures in our own lives.

    BECAUSE I believe with my wholeheartmindbody that girls constitute a revolutionary soul force that can, and will change the world for real."

    Community-oriented is radical. These are inspirations and blueprints.

  • The Originalism of White Supremacy and Judicial Review

    Two recent op-eds offer related views on the intentions of the "Framers of the Constitution."

    Erwin Chemerinsky, Dean of UC Berkeley Law School, is not simply concerned with originalism and the intent of judicial review, but how that intent was to be carried out and actualized, and how the law was related to practice. His focus is on the "incoherence problem." In "Even the Founders Didn't Believe in Originalism," recently published in The Atlantic, he asks, "Was Judicial review imagined by the Framers of the constitution as a role for the Supreme Court?"

    For Chemerinsky, the answer is "no". "Nothing indicates that the original meaning of the Constitution was to create judicial review or, if it was, that it was meant to create originalist judicial review. In fact, the evidence, including the Ninth Amendment, points to the contrary."

    What is originalism? "Adherents believe that the Constitution has a fixed meaning and that it should be interpreted as it would've been back in the 1700s. Critics have made many compelling arguments against originalism, noting that it lends itself to a selective reading of history and that determining the Founders' intent is nearly impossible."

    Chemerinsky argues further that courts could still "apply federal law, decide diversity cases, and resolve all of the other matters enumerated in Article III, Section 2," without necessarily ruling on the Constitutionality of a given law, or striking down laws or executive actions.

    Given the influence of the British judicial system, Chemerinsky notes, "One would think that if the Framers meant for the Constitution to deviate from English law and practice in such a fundamental way, they would have been explicit about it."

    For originalists, the Constitution itself ratified by "the people" is the ultimate argument for judicial review being a democratic mandate.

    Yet, as is often forgotten, ignored, and/or dismissed by the rabid proponents of "American Exceptionalism," is that it is "factually wrong to say that 'the people' consented to the Constitution because less than 5 percent of the population at the time participated in ratification. No women and no people of color participated, and only a small fraction of white men did [author's emphasis]… If originalists consider it undemocratic that our laws are subject to the approval of unelected judges—who at least die or retire someday and whose replacements are appointed by elected officials—how much more undemocratic is it if society is governed by past majorities who cannot be overruled and are never replaced?"

    For Chemerinsky, the conclusion is obvious, "Originalism would be justified under its own terms only if there was a basis for concluding that the original understanding of Article III was for judicial review to follow the original meaning of the Constitution. No support exists for such an assertion…following the original meaning of the Constitution, therefore, requires abandoning originalism as a method of constitutional interpretation." The Atlantic article is an excerpt from Chemerinsky's new book, Worse Than Nothing: The Dangerous Fallacy of Originalism, where he fully develops this line of argument.

    Claudia Garcia-Rojas, visiting assistant professor in Africana Studies at Davidson College, in an op-ed in Truthout, "The Supreme Court Won't Save Us — It Was Founded to Defend White Supremacy," addresses the 5% of "the people" that ratified the Constitution and what they trying to protect, maintain and reproduce.

    Garcia-Rojas argues that the Constitution has transformed the Supreme Court into a "national defense agency." Discussing religion, slavery, white Christian nationalism, patriarchy, and relations of power, Garcia-Rojas makes a powerful argument, "Instead of pushing merely to expand the Supreme Court by adding more justices, we should strip it of its authority by shrinking its jurisdiction and its outsized power over our lives. Better yet, we should be asking ourselves, what steps can we begin taking toward abolishing it?

    Judicial review set aside for a moment, consider this perspective on the Supreme Court, "The most influential pre-Civil War Supreme Court justices viewed opposition to slavery as a threat to the national economy and security." This view made it absolutely necessary to preserve the social, political, and economic relations of domination, and enshrine those power relations into law.

    Max Weber's study in Economy and Society on the transformation of institutions with the rise of global capitalist relations might be useful, "The result of contractual freedom, then, is in the first place the opening of the opportunity to use, by the clever utilization of property ownership in the market, these resources without legal restraints as a means for the achievement of power over others. The parties interested in the power in the market thus are also interested in such a legal order [my emphasis]." In other words, contracts are not (often or always) negotiated by parties that have the same position of power in society.

    This dynamic of powerful political and economic elites creating the conditions for the reproduction of society with laws that maintain the economic order and social tradition reveals that "Placing the Supreme Court in the context of this history reveals a pattern. Since its inception, the court has generally operated to enshrine whiteness as the normative baseline in constitutional law, and to strengthen this baseline by consistently favoring and reinforcing the superior status of whites in the U.S." Or as Weber argues, "Every highly privileged group develops a myth of its … superiority. Under the conditions of a stable distribution of power that myth is accepted by the negatively privileged strata."

    Perhaps the Constitution is actually a document of myth-making and counter-insurgency. Designed to justify the superiority of civilizational violence against the earth and earth's creatures, it functions to counter the insurgency of democratic living by kidnapped and enslaved peoples in Africa; Indigenous nations; and by women.

    Check out Gerald Horne's, The Counter-Revolution of 1776: Slave Resistance and the Origins of the United States of America, which further historicizes Garcia-Rojas's argument. "The so-called Revolutionary War, Horne writes, was in part a counter-revolution, a conservative movement that the founding fathers fought in order to preserve their right to enslave others. The Counter-Revolution of 1776 brings us to a radical new understanding of the traditional heroic creation myth of the United States."

    For perspectives on the US Constitution from Indigenous people, see Exiled in the Land of the Free: Democracy, Indian Nations and the US Constitution. "It is little known that the Revolutionary War and the writing of the United States Constitution and Bill of Rights were strongly influenced by Native American traditions. European philosophers of the Enlightenment such as Jean Jacques Rousseau had begun pressing for democratic reforms in Europe on the basis of glowing reports by early settlers about the New World and its native inhabitants… An aspect of American history that has been ignored and denied for centuries is the extent to which we are indebted to Native Americans for the principles and practices on which our democratic institutions are based. This is the first work to recognize that legacy and trace our model of participatory democracy to its Native American roots.

  • Algae nanorobots might soon deliver drugs inside our bodies

    Imagine a gaggle of little algae robots maneuvering around inside your body, carrying life-saving medication to target the chemical receptors directly at the point of need rather than an injected medication that has to circulate throughout the body first. Maybe little creepy-crawly feelings emerge. Don't worry, if and when this technology becomes available for humans, these are too small to feel.

    In a new scientific article in Nature Materials, "Nanoparticle-modified microrobots for in vivo antibiotic delivery to treat acute bacterial pneumonia," super-mini nanorobots made from algae cells are being used to deliver medicine to hard-to-reach places in the body.

    As reported in Eureka Alert, "Nanoengineers at the University of California San Diego have developed microscopic robots, called microrobots, that can swim around in the lungs, deliver medication, and be used to clear up life-threatening cases of bacterial pneumonia."

    The team is a collaboration between UC San Diego Jacobs School of Engineering professors, Joseph Wang and Liangfang Zhang. Wang is a world leader in the field of micro- and nanorobotics research, while Zhang is a world leader in developing cell-mimicking nanoparticles for treating infections and diseases."

    "The nanoparticles containing the antibiotics are made of tiny biodegradable polymer spheres that are coated with the cell membranes of neutrophils, which are a type of white blood cell. What's special about these cell membranes is that they absorb and neutralize inflammatory molecules produced by bacteria and the body's immune system. This gives the microrobots the ability to reduce harmful inflammation, which in turn makes them more effective at fighting lung infection."

    The first experiments were conducted on mice, where "researchers administered the microrobots to the lungs of the mice through a tube inserted in the windpipe. The infections fully cleared up after one week. All mice treated with the microrobots survived past 30 days, while untreated mice died within three days."

    The researchers conclude in the full article published in Nature Materials with these hopeful possibilities, "The biohybrid microrobot platform described in this work creates new opportunities for active drug delivery to the lungs of ventilated ICU patients… The algae can also be genetically engineered with functional proteins on their surface to introduce additional functionalities. Besides algae, other microorganisms with specific sensory or targeting capabilities could also be used in the development of autonomous drug delivery vehicles for treating pulmonary diseases."

  • The orgiastic decadence of these commercials from 1984

    Where's the Beef? Time to Make the Donuts.

    Rule #1 of marketing is brand allegiance. Ronald McDonald, though quite a scary character, had nothing to do with hamburgers and everything to do with children.

    Two commercial series that debuted in 1984 are seared into my brain. Yes, the series, images and words live on, cliché-like as an old McDonald's hamburger that never deteriorates.

    First, Wendy's "Where's the Beef" campaign. Featuring octogenarian Clara Peller, along with Mildred Lane and Elizabeth Shaw in supporting roles, the series basically makes fun of the size and composition of competitors hamburgers, particularly the Whopper and the Big Mac.

    To the dismay of Peller, the meat portion of these burgers was insultingly minimal, leading her to demand, "Where's the Beef?" Wendy's stock soared, with profits increasing some 31% in 1985. Click here to see the original commercial.

    As Yahoo Entertainment News reported, "Hitting the airwaves on January 10, 1984, 'Where's the Beef?' was an instant sensation, spawning a series of Peller-starring sequels along with a raft of merchandise, from T-shirts to bumper stickers to Frisbees to a board game. Peller even recorded a "Where's the Beef?" novelty single with Nashville disc jockey Coyote McCloud." You can listen to the song here. Peller became a media darling, making the talk show rounds, and even making a cameo on Saturday Night Live.

    The other commercial series glazed over my memory is Dunkin' Donuts "Time to Make the Donuts" campaign. Featuring 'Fred the Baker', played by Michael Vale, a middle-aged, married worker who is so dedicated to his job that neither snow, rain, nor time of day will keep him from making those yummy fried morning treats. It is as if he is "on call", like a donut doctor. Here is a compilation of all the commercials from the series.

    Though intentional, Fred the Baker was weary from the dough, sugar and hot oil routine, the service worker blues if you will. I wonder how Gen Z for Change, who is currently behind the Tik Tok campaign to support the Amazon Labor Union, might have been inspired to support Wendy's workers – in 1984. I know, time travel is not real, but subjunctive imagining is something tangible and useful.

    As Maria Scinto from Mashed reported in 2020, "Michael Vale kept on making those metaphorical donuts for 14 years. When Dunkin' decided it was time for a new ad campaign in 1997, they surveyed customers to find out how they'd react to the departure of everyone's favorite early riser. Fred fans asked that the baker be allowed to bow out with dignity, so the company staged an official retirement party for him complete with a parade in Boston and 6 million free donuts given away…. Fred, or Vale, was also awarded an emeritus position as 'Dunkin' Ambassador' in charge of repping the brand at charitable events."

    Perhaps the Luther Burger is the consequence of the consummation of these two commercial series. In 2017, Sandwich Tribunal, asked this spirited question, "As in ancient Rome, our donut culture may be reaching a point of orgiastic decadence, which sooner or later will implode from sheer excess. Can a civilization survive the Luther Burger, a cheeseburger served on a split Krispy Kreme?"

    It seems that the beef is between the donuts.

  • Check out Chicano Batman, the band with the best name ever

    Humble Superheroes for the Millennium

    Chicano Batman invents newly-imagined, guitar-heavy tunes that are smooth and cool, lounge-like, with a deep and capacious 1970s soul vibe. Theirs is a throwback psychedelic sound from a tomorrow that was dreamed of centuries ago.

    With five albums under their collective mariachi belts, their most recent production is Invisible People (2020). A quartet, their range in symphonic. Members include Bardo Martinez handling lead vocals, keyboards, and guitar; Eduardo Arenas on bass, guitar, and vocals; Gabriel Villa – who is from Cali, Colombia, on drums and percussion; and Carlos Arévalo playing guitars and keyboards.

    As reported in The Guardian, "Chicano Batman aren't your typical rock band. Four Latinos from the LA area and beyond (drummer Gabriel Villa is from Cali, Colombia), they've developed a cult following in the city with their "LA Tropicalia" blend of soulful music lifted from all over Central and South America. It's a tradition that beyond a few choice compilations is far less explored than its North American equivalent. That's something they want to change."

    Music is change while changing music is a conjuring, a congregation, a remembrance. The evolution of the band from 70's groove psychedelic jam-band to the multi-genre-bending formation that produced "Invisible People", CB has always engaged the social and political themes they experience as Latinos/Latinx living in the US.

    As the band explained for the release of Invisible People, "The album is both the band's most sonically-varied and cohesive. It is a statement of hope, a proclamation that we are all invisible people, and that despite race, class, or gender we can overcome our differences and stand together."

    In the title track, Bardo Martinez's vocals invite you to consider a possible shared social reality across apparent differences: "Invisible people, the truth is we're all the same/The concept of race was implanted inside your brain….Invisible people, the truth is we take the blame/Fuck the system, it created so much pain." Who and what attempts to render people invisible? If people are rendered invisible, or put another way, actively not seen, is it easier to not care about them?

    "Manuel's Story, as Mathew Ismael Ruiz writes in Pitchfork, is "a frantic jaunt of a song driven by a spacey synth melody that belies its bleak narrative, which tells of an uncle who fled cartel violence to live in the U.S. It's a vignette that distills the collateral damage of America's drug war and Mexican immigration, a reminder of the people rendered invisible by capitalist political forces."

    Grounded in the beauty of the survival politics of everyday life, composing lyrics that enchant with stories of struggle, love, and possibility, Chicano Batman invites a deep reflection through listening, while your body grooves to heartbeat rhythms and wah-wah sonic sounds.

    Listen to the 2017 interview with NPR here. Check out their Instagram page here. Or their Spotify account here. Chicano Batman is also playing some upcoming dates in California, Tijuana, Mexico City, and Arizona.

  • Day of the Dead Barbie gets a second edition

    Mattel offers a second signature Barbie for Día de Muertos. Javier Meabe is again behind the designs, the same creator behind the recently released Gloria Estefan Barbie.

    "I'm excited that we get to expand the world of Día De Muertos in the Barbie portfolio. We also get to see it come to life through the vision of Benito Santos, who also loves and celebrates the holiday," says Barbie Signature designer Javier Meabe.

    Three models were released, including an already sold-out Benito Santos x Barbie Doll – available only to the Barbie Signature Members. Benito Santos is a world-renowned Mexican designer. You can check out his fall collection in Vogue Magazine.

    As Meabe told the New York Times on the 2019 occasion of the release of the first Día de Muertos Barbie, "'I grew up going to Mexico and I pulled a lot of that inspiration and things that I remember growing up,' he said, adding that he fashioned the doll's dress after ones he saw his mother wear. 'That is something that is very dear to my heart,' Mr. Meabe said of the holiday. 'I know how important it is to honor and respect family and friends that are no longer with us.'"

    How to reconcile creative expression within a political climate that targets migrants -particularly from Latin America, but not exclusively – for incarceration and deportation?

    As was the case in 2019, the discussion of cultural appropriation in a capitalist society must be addressed. "I don't think Mattel has a genuine interest in Mexican culture," Gloria González-López, a sociology professor at the University of Texas at Austin and a Mexican immigrant, told CNN, summing up much of the criticism against the company. "It's more an interest in making money. Who is this doll going to? Is it the Mexican worker who cleans homes? Are they identifying themselves with Barbie?… It's fascinating to see how these standards of beauty are placed on girls, and now we have another layer on top."

    Mariluz Gonzalez, a co-host of the public radio program on KPFK in Los Angeles called "Travel Tips for Aztlan" similarly comments, "' It's obviously cultural appropriation, but — cómo te digo?' Ms. Gonzalez said. 'It's what our country loves to do. It's all about marketing. Is our culture benefiting economically because of that?' she continued. 'Is our government doing anything for us? And the raids, and all that, and we should be happy about a doll?'"

    In some sense, capitalism itself is an extractive logic of organizing society. Capitalist culture, not simply organizing a capitalist economy, encourages the monetization of life, and deference to privatization and "the market", while instrumentalizing social relations as a means to an end. Consider that capitalism is the appropriation – of culture, minerals, or ideas – for profit and power.

    Capitalism is legalized theft. This is not a new story. That Mattel is making money off of another culture is simply the American way of life, unfortunately. Think of the electronics companies that make tens of millions of dollars in profits off of the technology created by artists in the Bronx that invented "two turntables and a microphone." The invention of a new sound system with re-wired technologies transformed music on the planet. Did the inventors get any flow? Where is the intellectual property protection for these creative geniuses? Welcome to the Terrordome, only now the dome is adorned with cultural artifact to make you feel less – terror?

  • WaveSwell draws sustainable electricity from the sea's natural motion

    From "down under" comes an idea and technology that creates sustainable electricity, down under the ocean. Headquartered in Melbourne, Victoria, Australia, this innovative firm Wave Swell developed a proprietary "Uniwave" technology for creating electricity from water power.

    "The WSE technology produces clean, sustainable electricity without the use of any oil or other contaminants. There are no moving parts in the water. The devices can be re-floated and towed to another location. This is an exciting development as waves are predictable, reliable and a naturally occurring infinite resource."

    A naturally occurring infinite resource as a way to access clean renewable electricity in any waterway that has waves – seems like the most logical and optimistic approach to sustainability. Basically, it is a one-way pump valve re-structuring the oscillating water column (OWC) technology, the apparatus looks like a small boat.

    "The OWC is an artificial blowhole consisting of a chamber that is open underneath the waterline. As waves pass the OWC, the water rises and falls inside, forcing the air to pass by a turbine at the top of the chamber. This turbine generates electricity."

    With no moving parts underwater, the OWC is employed in a unidirectional manner, as opposed to bi-directional, making the technology simpler to use. Check out this short video demonstrating how the technology works.

    Tasmania's King Island is the sight of the first OWC machine. As reported by Cosmos Magazine, "The island was this month named the overall winner of the 2022 Australian Sustainable Communities Tidy Towns Award for its determination to 'make the community a more sustainable place for the future', with specific mention of the role of Wave Swell Energy."

    "From King Island's point of view, about 70% of our energy is renewable," according to King Island Mayor Julie Arnold. "This is a project that other islands around the world can learn from and become more sustainable. And the community is right behind it. The island is believed to be one of the only locations around the world combining three forms of renewable energy [wind, solar, water] to power the community." According to PV Magazine, the project "exceeded expectations with the test platform achieving conversion rates of up to 50% while supplying constant power to the island's hybrid microgrid for a full 12 months."

    Contrary to the assumptions of capitalist thought that always wants to immediately scale big, the initial goal of the project was not to produce large amounts of electricity, "Rather, it was to prove the capabilities of our technology in a variety of wave conditions. The results have met and at times exceeded our expectations." One metric worth noting: "WSE said under the right wave conditions the 200 kW test platform is capable of generating enough energy for 200 homes."

    Waves are predictable. This means that WSE technology can be part of an intentional sustainable approach to reversing the impacts of human-created climate change by creating new forms of energy production. Imagine wave electrical machines on the coastlines of the planet. Check out this 8-minute video about the project in general.

  • No Más Bebés: a documentary about forced sterilizations of women of color in California

    Forced sterilization. Racial discrimination. Coercion. Deception. Abuse. Violence. Bullying. Disdain. Gaslighting. Eugenics. These are just some of the words describing the experiences of women of color, particularly Spanish-speaking women, at the Los Angeles County-University of Southern California Medical Center. Women seeking medical treatment were coerced into caesarean sections, sterilized and released. Medical forms were not translated, and procedures and options were not explained. There was neither information nor consent.

    In 1975, ten Mexican American women who had been sterilized against their will organized the federal class-action lawsuit with the support of lawyer Antonia Hernández and Bernard L. Rosenfeld, a young resident at the hospital who decided to copy the medical records and report what was happening, in the case known as Madrigal v. Quilligan. Dr. E. James Quilligan was the lead county obstetrician at the time. The plaintiffs included Dolores Madrigal, Consuelo Hermosillo, Melvina Hernandez, Maria Figueroa, Jovita Rivera, Helena Orozco, Maria Hurtado, Guadalupe Acosta, Estella Benavides, and Georgia Hernández.

    A PBS Independent Lens production, "No Más Bebés, tells the story of a little-known but landmark event in reproductive justice, when a small group of Mexican immigrant women sued county doctors, the state, and the U.S. government after they were sterilized while giving birth at Los Angeles County-USC Medical Center during the late 1960s and early 1970s. Marginalized and fearful, many of these mothers spoke no English, and charged that they had been coerced by doctors into tubal ligation—having their tubes tied—during the late stages of labor. Often the procedure was performed after asking the mothers under duress."

    The Library of Congress webpage explains that Antonia Hernandez worked with Charles Navarette at the "Model Cities Center for Law and Justice. These activist lawyers "collaborated with Comisión Feminil, a feminist organization led by Gloria Molina, and argued their case on the basis of Roe v. Wade, claiming that women possessed the reproductive rights to procreate and to an abortion."

    First released in 2016, and produced by historian Virginia Espino and Academy-Award-nominated filmmaker Renee Tajima-Peña, "The film not only brings to light an embarrassing era for the United States but it also raises questions that are fitting for today, such as immigration policies and their effects on families, women's rights at the hands of politicians, access to health care and reproductive care, and the practice of sterilization without patient consent. The definition of reproductive justice is further examined and clarified in the film as the concept continues to evolve."

    This New York Times review explains, "Ms. Tajima-Peña and her subjects wrestle with the question of how and why it happened. Dr. Rosenfeld makes the obvious, and irrefutable, comparison to Nazi eugenics. No overarching conspiracy comes into sight, though—just a confluence of panic about overpopulation, a gusher of federal funds for population-control studies, and age-old prejudices about ethnicity, class, and poverty."

    Espino explains how it felt to become aware of these events: "I was appalled that it happened. It was something that was so shocking," said Espino. "And then I became angry that it was something I'd never learned about." For an interview with the director, Renee Tajima-Peña, click here. In 1976, Antonia Hernández wrote, "Chicanas and the Issue of Involuntary Sterilizations: Reforms Needed to Protect Informed Consent."

    Questions of informed consent, coercion, and intent were at the heart of the lawsuit. As reported in the New York Times, "When the suit came to trial in 1978, Judge Jesse W. Curtis ruled that 'This case is essentially the result of a breakdown in communications between the patients and the doctors.' 'Misunderstandings' occurred because the women were, primarily, Spanish-speakers…Their emotional distress at being sterilized, Curtis wrote, was caused by their 'cultural background' as immigrants from rural Mexico who believed that a woman's worth is tied to her ability to raise a large family—not by their sterilizations. Dr. E.J. Quilligan… told a reporter, 'We were practicing good medicine.'"

    The class action lawsuit was lost. In 2018, the Los Angeles County Board of Supervisors offered a formal apology. But there has been no talk of restoration, reparations, or justice for that matter.

    This is a devastating and sad film, revealing how doctors and health institutions treated people deemed less worthy. These decisions impacted thousands of women's lives, and the lives of their families and communities. This is also a film about brave people, and the community organizations and activists that supported them, taking on the Medical Industrial Complex in its early years of formation.

    For a history of race science, public policy, culture and social norms, see Alexandra Stern's, Eugenic Nation: Faults and Frontiers of Better Breeding in Modern America from University of California Press. For a bibliography on the forced sterilization of Puerto Rican women, click here. For history of Puerto Rican Women's struggle for reproductive rights, click here. See Jane Lawrence's, "The Little Known History of the Forced Sterilization of Native American Women here. For a thorough discussion of the forced sterilization of Black women, see Shatema Threadcraft, Intimate Justice: The Black Female Body and Body Politic.

    As The Smithsonian Magazine reports, "The legacy of these infringements on reproductive rights is still visible today. Recent incidents in Tennessee, California, and Oklahoma echo this past. In each case, people in contact with the criminal justice system—often people of color—were sterilized under coercive pressure from the state."

  • The Tasmanian Tiger's been extinct since 1936. Should we bring it back with science?

    The ethics of de-extinction tested

    As NPR reported in August 2022, Colossal Laboratories & Biosciences is working to de-extinctify the Tasmanian Tiger, gone to the world since 1936. Also known as the thylacine (Thylacinus cynocephalus) or the Tasmanian wolf, this animal had "trademark stripes and, rare in the animal world, abdominal pouches in both females and males. Australian researchers have called it "a dingo with a pouch" or "a dog with a pouch" — but its DNA also has a lot in common with the kangaroo." Colossal's perspective, "Prehistory has happened before. Bringing it back to life through bioscience hasn't," is neither new nor unique, and probably most familiar to the fans of the Jurassic Park franchise.

    Give a listen to the NPR report for answers to the following questions. "Is the thylacine capable of living again? How would the animals be created? How would the thylacine affect Tasmania's habitat? When might the first embryo be created? Would the Tasmanian tiger ever be brought to mainland Australia? Sure, they could — but should they?"

    This final question, the ethics of the science and the inquiry, has been asked about CRISPR cells, nanotechnology, and the use of genealogical data to solve crimes. Beth Shapiro of the University of California, Santa Cruz, offers these thoughts on the ethics of de-extinction, "Maybe we could use this technology to give those populations a little bit of a genetic booster shot and maybe a fighting a chance against the diseases that are killing them," she told NPR in 2017. "We're facing a crisis — a conservation, biodiversity crisis. This technology might be a powerful new weapon in our arsenal against what's happening today. I don't think we should dismiss it out of fear."

    For a short essay and video about the colorization of images of the Tasmanian Tiger, click here.

  • Jerry Hsu: skateboarder, photographer and entrepreneur

    Jerry Hsu is a professional skateboarder.

    It is lore that Taiwanese-American skater phenom Jerry Hsu is best-known for his part in Emerica's 2010 release Stay Gold, where he skates switch for the entire video. Skating switch essentially means leading with your non-dominant foot, while doing the same tricks. Changing your stance is not necessarily skating backward, but adjusting your weight and forward momentum to appear as if you are going "forward". Prior to filming, Hsu had sustained a serious injury to his knees and ankles, limiting his range and pop so, he switched it up, an almost mirror-image, a bit like a film negative printed backward.

    As reported recently in GQ Magazine, "Hsu's greatest contribution to skateboarding may be something a little more abstract: he made highly-technical street skating appear effortless. Style is everything in skateboarding, and Hsu proved that it didn't have to be sacrificed in order to do mind-bogglingly difficult stuff."

    Jerry Hsu is a professional photographer.

    He can both be that mind-boggling body doing the difficult stuff, and capture the styles of other people, animals, and stills of people doing their own, every day, mind-boggling stuff. As Hero Magazine explains, "Jerry Hsu began his blog, NAZI GOLD, in 2009. A curated feed of cell phone photos combined with classic photography and film to spotlight Hsu's sharp-wit and flair for capturing life's ironies and absurdities: from polemic religious slogans to fish guts and dogs hanging out of cars. Now, these images have been collated into a new book by Hsu titled, The Beautiful Flower Is the World—taken from a mistranslated tee he spotted in China." He recently shot the images for an Los Angeles Times Magazine food story, "Fly fishing for 'sewer salmon' in the LA River."

    Jerry Hsu is a business owner and designer.

    In 2019, unsponsored—by choice—for the first time since his early teens, Hsu created Sci-Fi Fantasy, his skater-owned artistic outlet. "I was interested in not being sponsored. I've been sponsored all my life, I've been a pro skater for like 20 years, since I was 16, so I got kinda burnt… That was hard because all my income—half by choice and half not by choice—just evaporated. But luckily I had started Sci-Fi already, so it was filling the gap that skating was providing income-wise. And now I'm just free to do all my creative stuff and I don't need to worry about skating. But I'm still skating. I just have more choices now. I get to do what I want."

    Sci-Fi Fantasy gear has been spotted on Zendaya, who plays Rue Bennett on the hit Netflix show, Euphoria. Kat Danabassis, to whom Hsu is married, came up with the name and finalized the logo. Danabassis works as assistant to Heidi Bevins, the designer behind Euphoria's style. Hsu explains his approach: "I am a huge fan of the sci-fi fi fantasy genre, but I don't want to make the company too on the nose and kinda of restricting. So, I base the designs on very clean, basic graphic design. I also dabble in corporate graphic design. My parents were computer engineers, so electronics catalogs would always come to the house, and I kinda grew up around that sort of Silicon Valley design. I use a lot of that as a source." Check out the first official skate team video here, featuring Ryan Lay and Arin.

    Skate style, photography, and streetwear collabs come together in Hsu's latest project with iconic 1980s brand Jimmy'z and London-based Palace Skateboards. Hsu brings his rad photographer skills shooting the images for the release of this un-anticipated but right-on collaboration.

    Jimmy'z was founded in 1984 by artist and surfer Jim Ganzer. This is around the same time that Sean Stussy was scribbling his name on T-shirts and hats, and selling them out of his trunk. A who's who of skateboarders rode for the brand, perhaps most well-known for the attached velcro belt that functioned as a closure for their pants and shorts. Ganzer was super connected with the Hollywood art scene. According to this interview, the phrase used by Jeff Bridges in The Big Labowski, "The Dude abides," was actually a saying Ganzer created. He and Bridges were friends.

    As a result, like SciFi Fantasy, Jimmy'z was worn not only by the gnarliest and most stylish skateboarders, but by Hollywood's biggest stars, including Jack Nicholson. The brand was sold to Aéropostale and was never the same. In 2011, the brand was purchased back and revived by Black Harrington. You can now order online. There is also an Instagram page with images of classic t-shirts and advertising. Take a ride back in time.

    As Hypebeast reports, "Lev Tanju is the founder of London-based Palace Skateboards. Born and raised in London, Tanju initially began designing skateboard graphics, before founding Palace Skateboards in 2010 primarily as a way to fund his skateboarding lifestyle. Bringing a decidedly British aesthetic to a culture dominated largely by the American West Coast, Tanju's label saw a meteoric rise within the skateboarding world…"

    Palace suggests synonymy with collabs. Since its founding, Palace has worked with Ralph Lauren, Adidas, Reebok, and Umbro. In the last few days, they released a collab with New Balance. As GQ Magazine states, "Palace has certainly had a hand in setting trends. Its mix of '90s sportswear with bench-made opulence is pervasive now; designer brands like Celine and Dior have been appealing to skaters with recent collections that might make you wonder if Palace was on their mood boards."

  • Meet the Texan billionaires buying up the state's political machinery

    Wilkes and Dunn are not a country duo (Brooks and Dunn are on tour) but rather three Texas billionaires: Farris and Dan Wilks from Cisco and Tim Dunn from Midland. Together, they comprise part of a mega-wealthy elite that's bought its way into local politics across the Lone Star State. In 2020, Jon Francis unsuccessfully ran for the state legislature, primarily with resources from the family political machine. His loss to Rep. Glen Rogers in the Republican run-off election was contentious, as the margin was only 678 votes.

    As Chris Tackett explains, "Tim Dunn, Chief Executive Officer of Crown Quest Operating, Vice-Chairman of Texas Public Policy Foundation. Dunn gave $5,420,320 to 8 Republicans and 2 PACs. $5,150,000 was to the Defend Texas Liberty PAC…. Farris Wilks, a billionaire from the sale of FracTec, he and his brother own more than 672,000 acres of land in six different states across the West, becoming America's 12th-largest landowners. Wilks gave $2,340,117 to 6 Republicans and 3 PACs ($2.1 mil to Defend Texas Liberty)."

    In Texas, there are no limitations on campaign donations to candidates. Tackett has been researching and compiling data from the Texas Ethics Commission. Using Data Studio, he has created powerful interactive data tools, with infographics, charts, and spreadsheets, designed in accessible and easily readable formats. This Tackett Twitter thread breaks down the graphic above into its specific parts. The details reveal the depth of the influence of a handful of people on the shift to the far-right at local, state, and national levels.

    CNN aired "Deep in the Pockets of Texas," in July of 2022. As Ed Lavandera, from CNN reports, "In a state known for its independence, Texas is usually at the forefront of legislation – and its conservative Republicans tell Lavandera that what's happening now goes beyond ideology…In addition to financing candidates, they fund political action committees and the scorecard by which legislators are ranked, maneuvering lawmakers to take positions espoused by the billionaires. Even by Texas' conservative standards, the state has adopted some of the most stringently conservative legislation ever seen in the state's modern history."

    The influence of these donors is well beyond the borders of Texas, as Lavandera also explores in the documentary.

    CNN also reports that other Republicans are critical of the brothers and their networks: "Kel Seliger, a longtime Republican state senator from Amarillo who has clashed with the billionaires, said their influence has made Austin feel a little like Moscow. 'It is a Russian-style oligarchy, pure and simple,' Seliger said. 'Really, really wealthy people who are willing to spend a lot of money to get policy made the way they want it — and they get it… That's the law of the jungle now in Texas. The majority of Republican Senate members just dance to whatever tune Tim Dunn wants to play.'"

    For a fascinating discussion of "cowboy conservatism," see the book The Conservative Sixties, by David Farber and Jeff Roche.

  • Byzantine-era mosaics in an olive farm in a refugee camp in the Gaza Strip

    Digging in their olive orchard in the Bureij refugee camp in the Gaza strip, Salman al-Nabahin and his son unearthed a Byzantine mosaic dating from the 5th to the 7th century CE. The mosaic floor was "unveiled," for the first time according to Aljazeera, on Friday, 16 September, "boasting 17 iconographies of beasts and birds," brightly colored and "well-preserved." Have a look at these wonderful pictures.

    The Gaza strip holds tremendous archeological treasures. The Gaza coastline, battered repeatedly by war like all of Gaza, has revealed a Roman-era fountain near the al-Shati refugee camp, as well as iron age and Hellenic sites and artifacts. However, in view of the continual threat of destruction from Israeli forces, Forensic Architecture has been conducting a digital record of the existing landscape and associated archeological treasures. Check out this fascinating 10-minute video from Forensic Architecture on the motivation for and the process of digital preservation.

  • The Native American roots of Texas Mexican food serve up tacos, feminism and cultural resistance

    A native of San Antonio, TX, and a non-traditional student at Culinary Institute of America (CIA) in San Antonio, Adán Medrano needed a name for the food he grew up eating, a name that was NOT Tex-Mex.

    Adán Medrano has a history of big projects. He started the then-Chicano, now Latino, Film Festival in 1977. "Medrano is a food author and chef, specializing in the indigenous foods of Texas and the Americas…He spent 23 years working throughout Latin America, Europe and Asia, and during his travels came to recognize the cultural importance of food. He returned to the US in 2010 to focus his attention on the culinary traditions of the Mexican American, Native American communities of Texas and the indigenous cooking of the Americas. He is currently President of 'The Texas Indigenous Food Project.'" As emphasized in the New York Times article from 2019 "Don't Call it Tex-Mex:"

    "Tex-Mex is a cuisine that should be respected and celebrated, he said. It's just that Tex-Mex standards like queso and combo fajitas piled high with chicken and shrimp don't speak of home to those whose Texas roots go back some 12,000 years."

    This may come as a surprise if you thought Tex-Mex was a historical term. And, of course, it is. But there are always different genealogies to shared historical narratives. Tex-Mex was Mexican food made, "by Anglos, for Anglos."

    Don't Count The Tortillas by Adan Medrano

  • Papa John's Pizza Bowls pose the important question "what is food?"

    Perhaps the phrase "curious culinary concoction" is both a bit redundant and over confident when discussing any new fast food menu item. This is not simply to invoke the Slow Food movement, but to consider the roles corn syrup and manufactured tastes play in the imaginations of stomachs across zip codes and time zones. Not to mention my browser's existential angst at having searched for the link to Slow Food after learning about Papa John's new crustless, oven-baked pizza bowl, "A New Twist on Pizza Night." For those who have trouble with gluten, this seems like a new option. To be clear, this post is not to critique fast food consumers. This is more an observation from a recovering teen-aged Taco Bell eater.

    So, perhaps obviously, the pizza bowl is not a pizza in the same way that Taco Bell's Mexican Pizza is well, neither a Pizza or Mexican, or an electoral system does not equate democracy. I am reminded of the discussion in Eric Schlosser's Fast Food Nation about the factory/laboratories off of the New Jersey Turnpike that produce most of the flavors, colors, tastes and aromas we associate with fast food and frozen food.

    But what is food? What is not food? Obviously, those are political and cultural questions. One could trace improved health outcomes when urban-zoned food deserts are eliminated or what crops get agricultural subsidies, as a couple of ways to answer? As Schlosser wrote, "Indeed 'flavor' is primarily the smell of gases being released by the chemicals you've just put in your mouth."

    Do chicken nuggets taste like deep fried chicken parts or do they taste like "chicken nuggets," now its own reference for an invented taste of "natural" and "artificial" flavors. What about hot dogs? Flavored tofu? What are the gases that give chicken nuggets, hot dogs and tofu their flavor?

    Consider this culinary nugget about strawberry flavor from an online excerpt of Fast Food Nation, "A typical artificial strawberry flavor, like the kind found in a Burger King strawberry milk shake, contains the following ingredients: amyl acetate, amyl butyrate, amyl valerate, anethol, anisyl formate, benzyl acetate, benzyl isobutyrate, butyric acid, cinnamyl isobutyrate, cinnamyl valerate, cognac essential oil, diacetyl, dipropyl ketone, ethyl acetate, ethyl amylketone, ethyl butyrate, ethyl cinnamate, ethyl heptanoate, ethyl heptylate, ethyl lactate, ethyl methylphenylglycidate, ethyl nitrate, ethyl propionate, ethyl valerate, heliotropin, hydroxyphenyl-2-butanone (10 percent solution in alcohol), α-ionone, isobutyl anthranilate, isobutyl butyrate, lemon essential oil, maltol, 4-methylacetophenone, methyl anthranilate, methyl benzoate, methyl cinnamate, methyl heptine carbonate, methyl naphthyl ketone, methyl salicylate, mint essential oil, neroli essential oil, nerolin, neryl isobutyrate, orris butter, phenethyl alcohol, rose, rum ether, γ-undecalactone, vanillin, and solvent."

    Anyway, the point is not to hate on Papa John's, artificial strawberry flavored gases, chicken nuggets, corn syrup, subsidies, or the choices made in the fast food nation, choices this author makes as well.

    The point is to share that Taco Bell has brought back the Mexican Pizza, permanently! Oh, and that Papa John's uses prison labor to provide mozzarella cheese "with a kiss of buffalo milk." Where does this milk come from – apart from the buffalo? What is the price? According to a new investigation by The Counter, "The answer to the first question, it turned out, may have been the Colorado prison system, where incarcerated people working for the state's correctional industries earn an average of $4.50 per day. Leprino was the only buyer of Colorado Correctional Industries' buffalo milk between 2017 and 2020, purchasing more than 600 tons at an average price of $1.19 per pound." The Counter investigation offers insight into the breadth and depth of the reliance on prison labor, by private and public industries, in states all across the US.

    It's not just water buffalo milk, but vegetables as well. "Papa John's Produce" contracts with the Arizona Corrections Industry for produce harvested by incarcerated people in Tolleson, AZ. For an in depth report, see "Captive Labor: Exploitation of Incarcerated Workers" by the ACLU and the Global Human Rights Clinic at the University of Chicago Law School. The University of California Press recently published Erin Hatten's, Coerced: Work Under Threat of Punishment. "Coerced explores this world of coerced labor through an unexpected and compelling comparison of these four groups of workers, for whom a different definition of "employment" reigns supreme—one where workplace protections do not apply and employers wield expansive punitive power, far beyond the ability to hire and fire. Because such arrangements are common across the economy, Hatton argues that coercion—as well as precarity—is a defining feature of work in America today."

    In other culinary news, Bloomberg news reported in August that after seven years, "Domino's Pizza Quits Italy after Locals Shun American Pies." According to company public statements, it was not the "smell of gases being released by the chemicals you just put in your mouth," or the other pizza options in Italy. Instead, "We attribute the issue to the significantly increased level of competition in the food delivery market with both organized chains and 'mom & pop' restaurants delivering food, to service and restaurants reopening post pandemic and consumers out and about with revenge spending," ePizza said in a report to investors accompanying its fourth-quarter 2021 results. 

    For a much more clever take on the problematics of culinary concoctions, bad translations of food, over the top gastronomic appropriations, and insightful commentary on cultural politics, check out Laura Martinez @miblogestublog on Twitter. Martinez also has monthly column, "Hisplaining."