|Is Google Too Big to Trust?
||[Apr. 24th, 2014|11:45 am]
Interesting essay about how Google's lack of transparency is hurting their trust:
The reality is that Google's business is and has always been about mining as much data as possible to be able to present information to users. After all, it can't display what it doesn't know. Google Search has always been an ad-supported service, so it needs a way to sell those users to advertisers -- that's how the industry works. Its Google Now voice-based service is simply a form of Google Search, so it too serves advertisers' needs.
In the digital world, advertisers want to know more than the 100,000 people who might be interested in buying a new car. They now want to know who those people are, so they can reach out to them with custom messages that are more likely to be effective. They may not know you personally, but they know your digital persona -- basically, you. Google needs to know about you to satisfy its advertisers' demands.
Once you understand that, you understand why Google does what it does. That's simply its business. Nothing is free, so if you won't pay cash, you'll have to pay with personal information. That business model has been around for decades; Google didn't invent that business model, but Google did figure out how to make it work globally, pervasively, appealingly, and nearly instantaneously.
I don't blame Google for doing that, but I blame it for being nontransparent. Putting unmarked sponsored ads in the "regular" search results section is misleading, because people have been trained by Google to see that section of the search results as neutral. They are in fact not. Once you know that, you never quite trust Google search results again. (Yes, Bing's results are similarly tainted. But Microsoft never promised to do no evil, and most people use Google.)
||[Apr. 23rd, 2014|07:33 pm]
Surveillance is getting cheaper and easier:
Two artists have revealed Conversnitch, a device they built for less than $100 that resembles a lightbulb or lamp and surreptitiously listens in on nearby conversations and posts snippets of transcribed audio to Twitter. Kyle McDonald and Brian House say they hope to raise questions about the nature of public and private spaces in an era when anything can be broadcast by ubiquitous, Internet-connected listening devices.
This is meant as an art project to raise awareness, but the technology is getting cheaper all the time.
The surveillance gadget they unveiled Wednesday is constructed from little more than a Raspberry Pi miniature computer, a microphone, an LED and a plastic flower pot. It screws into and draws power from any standard bulb socket. Then it uploads captured audio via the nearest open Wi-Fi network to Amazon's Mechanical Turk crowdsourcing platform, which McDonald and House pay small fees to transcribe the audio and post lines of conversation to Conversnitch's Twitter account.
Consumer spy devices are now affordable by the masses. For $54, you can buy a camera hidden in a smoke detector. For $80, you can buy one hidden in an alarm clock. There are many more options.
|Soujourner Truth: I sell the Shadow to support the Substance
||[Apr. 23rd, 2014|05:32 am]
I was listening to a Nell Painter video that Ta Nehisi Coates linked to, talking about, among other things, her book The History of White People. I just finished the book, and it’s fascinating.
She mentioned on the video that Sojourner Truth, the abolitionist and suffragist, (whose biography she’s written) had used photography. Of course, that immediately registered with me and I had to find out more.
Sojourner Truth was perhaps the most famous African-American woman in 19th century America. For over forty years she traveled the country as a forceful and passionate advocate for the dispossessed, using her quick wit and fearless tongue to fight for human rights.
Nell Painter says: No other woman who had gone through the ordeal of slavery managed to survive with sufficient strength, poise and self-confidence to become a public presence over the long term.
One of the ways Truth supported herself was by selling portraits.
… Many former slaves depicted themselves in these photos with whip-scarred backs and clad in the rags of slavery. But Sojourner Truth — who sold the cartes-de-visite to support herself — chose to represent herself as a respectable middle- class matron, sometimes wearing glasses, knitting, or holding a book. “I think we can see Truth becoming strong enough to refuse to define herself as a slave,” (Quotes are from a The Chronicle of Higher Education review of the book)
Looking at the contemporary photos of Truth on the web there is a clear self presentation. Syreeta, in a review of the movie Lincoln on Feministing discusses this brilliantly.
Sojourner Truth, according to the Willis/Krauthamer book Envisioning Emancipation: Black Americans And the End of Slavery, understood the power of photography, and actively distributed photographs of herself:
“Those pictures were meant to affirm her status as a sophisticated and respectable “free woman and as a woman in control of her image.” The public’s fascination with small and collectible card-mounted photographs, allowed her to advance her abolitionist cause to a huge audience and earn a living through their sale. “I Sell the Shadow to Support the Substance,” proclaimed the famous slogan for these pictures.
Truth was not alone in her understanding of the power of photography. A host of other African-Americans, both eminent and ordinary, employed the medium as an instrument of political engagement and inspiration. “Envisioning Emancipation” argues that photography was not incidental but central to the war against slavery, racism and segregation in the antebellum period of the 1850s through the New Deal era of the 1930s.”
… Truth understood the power of images was just as powerful a weapon as any. Even the composition of the photograph of Truth (noted above) has a subliminal power, appropriating classic European portraiture in her seated posture, her resolute gaze, showing a black body as American. Human.
The truth-telling photography and empathy that photography conjures isn’t new but understanding it as a mode of cultural and social activism during the Civil War era is and certainly worthy of a look back.
Truth-telling photography and empathy are what my work always aspires to. I need to learn a lot more about this history.
(Photo from Syreeta’s post on Feministing)
|Dan Geer on Heartbleed and Software Monocultures
||[Apr. 22nd, 2014|12:52 pm]
To repeat, Heartbleed is a common mode failure. We would not know about it were it not open source (Good). That it is open source has been shown to be no talisman against error (Sad). Because errors are statistical while exploitation is not, either errors must be stamped out (which can only result in dampening the rate of innovation and rewarding corporate bigness) or that which is relied upon must be field upgradable (Real Politik). If the device is field upgradable, then it pays to regularly exercise that upgradability both to keep in fighting trim and to make the opponent suffer from the rapidity with which you change his target.
The whole thing is worth reading.
|Please, please, please don’t drive while intoxicated.
||[Apr. 21st, 2014|08:32 pm]
I saw this on our local news last night, and it broke my heart. Here’s today’s LA Times:
The Los Angeles County coroner has identified a Palmdale teen who authorities said was killed when a suspected drunk driver crashed into her home and hit her while she slept.
Giselle Mendoza, 16, was pronounced dead at her home early Sunday after Los Angeles County Sheriff’s Department deputies said Roberto Rodriguez, 20, crashed his SUV into a Palmdale apartment building.
Mendoza was sleeping in her first-floor bedroom when a 2007 Nissan Pathfinder slammed into the complex in the 1000 block of East Avenue R before 4 a.m. Sunday, officials said.
Please let me be your Internet dad for a quick moment: at some point in your life (maybe at several points in your life) you will be confronted with the decision to drive after drinking or using recreational drugs. You may think, “it’s only a mile” or “I’ll be very careful” or “I probably shouldn’t drive, but I think I’ll be okay” or “I don’t have money for a cab”.
But here’s the thing about that: you may convince yourself that it’s okay to drive, and you may even get where you’re going safely. You may do that more than once, and start to think that you’re never going to have a problem if you drive while intoxicated (even a little bit).
But what if you don’t? What if you lose your focus or judgement for one second, and you end up hitting a person who’s crossing a dark street in front of you? What if you end up missing a light, and crashing into another car?
What will you do when you, an otherwise good person who would never intentionally hurt another person, make the decision to get behind the wheel when you shouldn’t, and you end up killing someone?
Just think about that for a moment, okay? If this kid, Robert Rodriguez, is found guilty, he’s likely going to spend most of his life in prison. He’s 20 years-old. He’s probably not a criminal, and he’s probably going to spend what should be the best years of his life in a prison, because he made the decision to drive while intoxicated.
Now think about the family of Giselle Mendoza. She was sixteen years-old. SIXTEEN. Her life hadn’t even started yet, and now she’s gone. Forever. Because a suspected drunk driver — just four years older than her — decided that he’d get behind the wheel of a car when he shouldn’t have.
Look, I get it: figuring out how to get home can be a hassle. Taxis and Uber are expensive, and public transit can be inconvenient.
But take a moment and think about Giselle Mendoza’s friends and family, and Robert Rodriguez’s friends and family, and ask yourself how much cab fare they think would have been too much.
Okay, thanks for listening and letting me be your Internet dad for a minute.
|Info on Russian Bulk Surveillance
||[Apr. 21st, 2014|10:55 am]
Russian law gives Russia’s security service, the FSB, the authority to use SORM (“System for Operative Investigative Activities”) to collect, analyze and store all data that transmitted or received on Russian networks, including calls, email, website visits and credit card transactions. SORM has been in use since 1990 and collects both metadata and content. SORM-1 collects mobile and landline telephone calls. SORM-2 collects internet traffic. SORM-3 collects from all media (including Wi-Fi and social networks) and stores data for three years. Russian law requires all internet service providers to install an FSB monitoring device (called “Punkt Upravlenia”) on their networks that allows the direct collection of traffic without the knowledge or cooperation of the service provider. The providers must pay for the device and the cost of installation.
Collection requires a court order, but these are secret and not shown to the service provider. According to the data published by Russia’s Supreme Court, almost 540,000 intercepts of phone and internet traffic were authorized in 2012. While the FSB is the principle agency responsible for communications surveillance, seven other Russian security agencies can have access to SORM data on demand. SORM is routinely used against political opponents and human rights activists to monitor them and to collect information to use against them in “dirty tricks” campaigns. Russian courts have upheld the FSB’s authority to surveil political opponents even if they have committed no crime. Russia used SORM during the Olympics to monitor athletes, coaches, journalists, spectators, and the Olympic Committee, publicly explaining this was necessary to protect against terrorism. The system was an improved version of SORM that can combine video surveillance with communications intercepts.
EDITED TO ADD (4/23): This article from World Policy Journal is excellent.
|Wit beyond measure is man’s greatest treasure.
||[Apr. 19th, 2014|08:44 pm]
When our kids were little, they loved Harry Potter, especially Ryan, who has the exact same birthday at Harry.
I never read the books because of reasons, and I only saw the first couple of movies, also because of reasons.
Recently, Anne and I decided that we would finally read the books, and we’re about halfway through the first one (I’m a couple chapters ahead of Anne, because I had some time on an airplane that I spent … wisely).
Yesterday at Wondercon, while we were walking to our panel, I told Felicia that we were reading the books, and trying to describe to her how much I love them.
“I just … I really want to go to Hogwarts,” I said.
“They’re building one at Universal Studios,” she said.
We passed through a curtain and approached a set of large, closed doors.
“No, I don’t want to go to an amusement park recreation of Hogwarts,” I said, “I want to go to Hogwarts. I want to go to a train station, run though a wall to platform 9 3/4, and take a train to Hogwarts, where I will learn how to be a wizard. I want Hogwarts to be real.”
I noticed that she’d taken a subtle step away from me, which was probably a good idea. I was getting excited.
“What house are you?” She said. Our escort opened the doors and led us into an enormous corridor that was over twenty feet high, equally as wide, and a few hundred feet long. Chairs were stacked along one wall, and the other wall had doors in it that granted access to the various meeting rooms where the panels were held.
“I’m pretty sure I’m Ravenclaw,” I said.
“No way, dude. You’re totally a Slytherin.”
“I am not a Slytherin!”
“Yeah, you totally are a Slytherin.” Felicia crunched up her nose and grinned at me. “My brother’s a Slytherin.”
“Dude, I’m going to be Ravenclaw … or maybe Gryffindor. But I really think I’m Ravenclaw.” Our footsteps and voices echoed off the cement floor and walls. I imagined that we were in a castle.
“I’m Ravenclaw,” Felicia said.
“When I get home, I’m taking the test at Pottermore, and I’m going to be Ravenclaw, too.” We arrived at the door for our panel, and waited while the panel before us finished up. We talked a little bit about what we’d make sure to cover on the panel, and I realized that the corridor we’d just walked down was perfect for riding a longboard skateboard.
The previous panel walked out, the room filled up with people who were there to see us, and after a quick Tabletop trailer, we went inside for our panel. It was great.
When I got home last night, I was too tired for taking the sorting hat test at Pottermore, so I took it this morning. I was honest in all of my answers, and spent a fair amount of time thinking about some of the questions. I wasn’t trying to get the house I wanted (and I don’t know enough about Harry Potter to manipulate the results, anyway), so I was incredibly happy (and a little relieved) when I found out that, yes, I was in Ravenclaw.
I know it’s a silly thing, and I know I’m a little too old to really care about it, but reading Harry Potter makes me feel like I’m part of something that’s special, that means a lot to a lot of people.
And I know it’s silly to care about what house I’m in … but I’m really glad to be in Ravenclaw, because I have a lot of books I need to read.
|My Work in US/Chinese Feminist Exhibition
||[Apr. 19th, 2014|12:18 am]
I wrote a few days ago about the US/Chinese feminist exhibition Half The Sky: Intersections of Social Practice Art in Shenyang, China at the Luxun Academy of Fine Arts. It runs from April 15th to the 30th.
As I said, I’m delighted to be in the exhibition. The catlogue is beautiful and the reproduction of my photograph of Fumiko Nakmura is excellent. And my photo is also one of the art works featured on the back cover.
The post last week focused on the work of three of the Chinese women. See these two previous posts for far more about the story of the exhibition.
Today I want to focus on work by three US women, including my own. There are a number of installation works, so you may want to check the Women’s Caucus of the Arts gallery page and explore it.
I met Fumiko Nakamura through Okinawa Women Act Against [US} Military Violence, who sponsored me there when I was working on my Women of Japan project. In my Women of Japan work, I combine my artistic sensibility with my commitment to capture the person in the photograph: cultural, personal, environmental, and physical cues, what is and is not said or communicated. Centrally, I collaborate with the person in the photograph, who makes many aesthetic choices. Combined with extensive community work, this approach encourages communication across cultural boundaries.
Fumiko Nakamura, filmmaker and peace activist, retired after 40 years as a school teacher to found non-profit Ichi Feet to document the horrors of the battle of Okinawa and the subsequent suffering.
How can we women hold up our half the sky if we are busy worrying about the numbers on a scale? “Dieting is the most potent political sedative in women’s history.” – Naomi Wolff. There is so much hysteria about fat that women today in the United States obsess about their bodies and what they eat to the tune of 66 billion dollars a year. Dieting is not only counterproductive, making a dieter’s body better at storing fat, but it also dulls the mind so that we have little energy to do more than count calories. How can we hold up our half of the sky when we are busy worrying about the numbers on a scale? Scales are for fish!”
In my India series of paintings, I used information from pictures I took in Pune and Bangalore, India. I have scenes of homeless people in makeshift shelters by the side of the road, along with Rotarian supported schools where I took pictures of enthusiastic students. I believe education is the hope for the many poor in India. I plan to show this hope with the school children in juxtaposition to the street scenes.
The conjunction of the US and the Chinese work should be fascinating. I wish I could be there.
|Friday Squid Blogging: Squid Jigging
||[Apr. 18th, 2014|09:16 pm]
Good news from Malaysia:
The Terengganu International Squid Jigging Festival (TISJF) will be continued and become an annual event as one of the state's main tourism products, said Menteri Besar Datuk Seri Ahmad Said.
He said TISJF will become a signature event intended to enhance the branding of Terengganu as a leading tourism destination in the region.
"Beside introducing squid jigging as a leisure activity, the event also highlights the state's beautiful beaches, lakes and islands and also our arts, culture and heritage," he said.
I assume that Malaysian squid jigging is the same as American squid jigging. But I don't really know.
As usual, you can also use this squid post to talk about the security stories in the news that I haven't covered.
|Metaphors of Surveillance
||[Apr. 18th, 2014|07:21 pm]
There's a new study looking at the metaphors we use to describe surveillance.
Over 62 days between December and February, we combed through 133 articles by 105 different authors and over 60 news outlets. We found that 91 percent of the articles contained metaphors about surveillance. There is rich thematic diversity in the types of metaphors that are used, but there is also a failure of imagination in using literature to describe surveillance.
Over 9 percent of the articles in our study contained metaphors related to the act of collection; 8 percent to literature (more on that later); about 6 percent to nautical themes; and more than 3 percent to authoritarian regimes.
On the one hand, journalists and bloggers have been extremely creative in attempting to describe government surveillance, for example, by using a variety of metaphors related to the act of collection: sweep, harvest, gather, scoop, glean, pluck, trap. These also include nautical metaphors, such as trawling, tentacles, harbor, net, and inundation. These metaphors seem to fit with data and information flows.
The only literature metaphor used is the book 1984.
This is sad. I agree with Daniel Solove that Kafka's The Trial is a much better literary metaphor. This article suggests some other literary metaphors, most notably Philip K. Dick. And this one suggests the Eye of Sauron.
|Overreacting to Risk
||[Apr. 18th, 2014|11:26 am]
This is a crazy overreaction:
A 19-year-old man was caught on camera urinating in a reservoir that holds Portland's drinking water Wednesday, according to city officials.
Now the city must drain 38 million gallons of water from Reservoir 5 at Mount Tabor Park in southeast Portland.
I understand the natural human disgust reaction, but do these people actually think that their normal drinking water is any more pure? That a single human is that much worse than all the normal birds and other animals? A few ounces distributed amongst 38 million gallons is negligible.
|tabletop season three
||[Apr. 17th, 2014|07:45 pm]
How busy have I been? So busy that I forgot to write a blog about TableTop Season 3, and how you can help make it happen.
tl;dr: We’re crowdfunding Tabletop’s 3rd season. We’ve raised $500,000, so we can afford to do 15 episodes. If we get to $750,000, we’ll have enough to do 20 episodes (like seasons one and two), and if we get to one million dollars, we can afford to do the RPG spin off that I’ve wanted to do for years (a season-long campaign, cut into about 20 or so 40-minute-ish episodes with the same players, characters, and GM).
Here’s a spiffy video I made about it:
(Don’t read the comments; they will make you mad. Or, if you’re me, they’ll make you sad, because a lot of people don’t understand television production, and how much shows cost, so they yell at you a lot, based on presumptions that turn out to be wrong.)
Because we’re going completely independent , we can do some things we’ve always wanted to do, like an episode that’s me, Anne, and our kids. We’re also going to do a special episode that’s just a game or two for children, played with children, because thousands of people have asked me what I recommend they play with their kids.
We’re also going to do the SUPER DIRTY and PROFOUNDLY INAPPROPRIATE “TableTop After Dark” episode, where we play Cards Against Humanity. There may be beer and a couple of dirty comedians involved. This will be the episode that likely makes the world hate me forever.
We have a bunch of perks for people who choose to contribute various amounts to our effort, but I want to be really clear that we’re making Tabletop for everyone who loves it, whether they can give us zero or infinity dollars.
I’m not entirely positive when we’ll be filming the first 10 episodes, but I know we’re going to try to get them done soon, so we can release them later this summer. A lot of that schedule is going to be determined by how busy I am with The Wil Wheaton Project.
There have been a lot of FAQs about this campaign, so we did our best to answer them in the standard way:
Why are you going Independent?
Felicia: Geek and Sundry (and Tabletop) up until now was funded by YouTube’s original channel initiative, which is not continuing to go forward anymore. We have been talking to a bunch of partners and are excited about some of our options to continue G&S as a company, but Wil (and we) were passionate about being able to keep Tabletop on schedule to release more episodes this year, and stay independent of influence to change the show for sponsor/commercial reasons. That is why we are fundraising like this.
Wil: We want to make the same TableTop that we’ve made for two seasons, and give our audience something that we’re proud of, and we wanted to do that without compromising our vision for the show. The quickest and most reliable way to make that happen was to go directly to the people who love TableTop as much as we do, and ask them to help us make our third season as awesome as our first two.
Why are you asking for so much money?
Felicia: This show is a standout for a reason: We pay professional people to make it. It’s polished and stands next to TV show quality because we wanted to make something long-lasting, and impact in a big way, like a TV show when we conceived it. To put it in perspective: The average 30 second commercial you see on TV? Costs 1-3 million dollars. EACH. The average 1/2 hour comedy? 2-3 million dollars. Shows like Game of Thrones? 7-9 million dollars. PER EPISODE.
We are doing a minimum of fifteen, 30 minute shows for a fraction of ONE TV SHOW. If you put it in that perspective, we are definitely not paying people professional rates to work on it. I do a lot of low budget web videos (to help do shows like TableTop, actually), and I think the ones that last beyond that moment of consumption are the ones that have budgets, that people tend to enjoy over and over. My goal always has been to show the established TV world that people can work outside the system and compete with their business, Tabletop is our best example of that, just like The Guild before us. We are doing this show for the minimum we can do it and keep up what we have established before us.
Wil: This is a question that I wasn’t expecting, and I feel really stupid for not explaining this more in advance. I’ve lived in the film and television industry my whole life, and I’ve been an active producer on TableTop for 40 episodes, so I know how much it costs to make an average show, and how much it costs to make our show. Let me be clear right away: we’re not getting rich off TableTop. In fact, if TableTop was my only job, I wouldn’t be able to support my family for even one year. That said, to anyone who does not live in the film and television world, i completely understand a sense of ‘sticker shock’ upon hearing that this YouTube show needs half a million dollars to produce fifteen episodes.
This week, I’m doing an episode of The Big Bang Theory, When it’s all finished and cut together, it’ll be about 22 minutes (approximately the same length as the average episode of TableTop), and it’ll cost several million dollars to produce. If you do a strict math problem, you’ll see that we do fifteen (or 20 if/when we get there) episodes of TableTop – 33 minutes, at least, that’s 660 minutes of TableTop – for less than the cost of a single 22 minute episode of network television.
We put everything we have into TableTop, because we love it, and we push our budget to its maximum limited so the show that we put out on YouTube can stand next to anything you see on Broadcast or Cable, and I’ll keep doing that as long as we can. I also want to make one thing really clear: we’re incredibly grateful – I am personally – incredibly grateful and honored by the contributions we’ve been given by the TableTop community. I know that you’re trusting us to keep doing what we’ve been doing, and I’m going to honor that trust by making the very best show we can possibly make.
Will TableTop still be free to watch? Do I have to donate to see it?
Wil: It will absolutely be free to watch. And now that we are completely independent, we aren’t limited to broadcasting on YouTube, so we’ll be able to make Tabletop available to even more people in even more ways, as we release season three.
Felicia: You do not have to donate, we appreciate it so much if you choose to do so, and understand if you don’t. It will still be free and watchable by you if we make our fundraising goal.
So there you have it. Tabletop Season Three is guaranteed at least 15 episodes, and we’re feeling pretty optimistic that we’ll get to 20. I think it’s a longer shot that we make it to the RPG show, but Tabletop fans keep surprising me, so maybe I’m more uncertain than I should be.
Thank you to everyone who has supported us, and PLAY MORE GAMES!
||[Apr. 16th, 2014|02:32 pm]
I previously posted that I am writing a book on security and power. Here are some title suggestions:
- Permanent Record: The Hidden Battles to Capture Your Data and Control Your World
- Hunt and Gather: The Hidden Battles to Capture Your Data and Control Your World
- They Already Know: The Hidden Battles to Capture Your Data and Control Your World
- We Already Know: The Hidden Battles to Capture Your Data and Control Your World
- Data and Goliath: The Hidden Battles to Capture Your Data and Control Your World
- All About You: The Hidden Battles to Capture Your Data and Control Your World
- Tracked: The Hidden Battles to Capture Your Data and Control Your World
- Tracking You: The Forces that Capture Your Data and Control Your World
- Data: The New Currency of Power
My absolute favorite is Data and Goliath, but there's a problem. Malcolm Gladwell recently published a book with the title of David and Goliath. Normally I wouldn't care, but I published my Liars and Outliers soon after Gladwell published Outliers. Both similarities are coincidences, but aping him twice feels like a bit much.
Anyway, comments on the above titles -- and suggestions for new ones -- are appreciated.
The book is still scheduled for February publication. I hope to have a first draft done by the end of June, and a final manuscript by the end of October. If anyone is willing to read and comment on a draft manuscript between those two months, please let me know in e-mail.
|Natural Hair vs. Military Regulations
||[Apr. 16th, 2014|04:05 am]
Laurie and Debbie say:
Since the forthcoming military regulations on hairstyle and grooming were leaked in March, we’ve seen a lot of discussion of the hairstyle limitations for women, and especially how those limitations affect African-American women. The regulations in general are much more specific and more limiting than previous regulations. For example, according to Army Times, “Soldiers will likely face punishment under the Uniform Code of Military Justice … Hair grooming standards will become more restrictive and better defined. …”
The regulations for men are, as military regulations about men’s hair traditionally are, homogeneous and designed to suppress difference. Military regulations have always been super-precise; it’s one way “military discipline” is enforced.
All of the regulations, for men and women, are focused on being “professional.” Outside of the military, “professional” is a profoundly racist and classist word; inside the military, says our friend the military historian, it’s not much different: “professional” is code for looking white and middle-class, and especially for not having any hairstyle or grooming choices that show up as outside the middle-class norm.
The new regulations for black women, however, take everything steps further in the wrong direction. Sesali Bowen at Feministing lays it out in no uncertain terms:
Cultural sensitivity has to come from some sort of understanding. This is where these regulations — and even some of the criticisms of them — are truly lacking. Reading up on this story, there are several things that I would like to clarify.
- The rule requiring the “bulk of hair” to not exceed 2″ clearly does not take into account shrinkage, which can take 10″ hair to 3″ with just a few spritzes of water. Most black girls also have these things called “edges” which account for a variation in hair length.
- “Dreadlocks” is a historically offensive term to many people who wear them.
- While it’s cute that folks are thinking of the potential damage that braids and weaves can cause, black women who wear and prepared these styles know that wearing weave can actually be a great protective style and help grow your hair.
- And the most important point about weave: it isn’t cheap. (Well, some weave is cheap but that kind of weave certainly wouldn’t survive a long tour of duty or even basic training.) If wearing weave is the only way to meet these regulations for many black women, that represents a significant additional expense. Unless you can do it yourself or have some kind of hook up on salon services, you will also have to pay for the installation of said weave. Weave has to be maintained. Weave has to be removed (so that you can treat your real hair) and re-installed. It simply isn’t a viable option for many of us.
While we knew some of this, we didn’t know all of it. And no one ever knows the consequences like the women whose hair is being regulated.
The bright spot in this culturally blind and insensitive story is the amount and range of pushback that black women in the Army, and their allies, are mounting. Coverage of the issue has ranged from Time to Fox News and many other major media outlets, and often includes quotations like this one.
“I think that it primarily targets black women, and I’m not in agreement with it,” said Patricia Jackson-Kelley of the National Association of Black Military Women. “I don’t see how a woman wearing three braids in her hair, how that affects her ability to perform her duty in the military.”
It’s great to see widespread, determined opposition to the Army’s racist and culturally insensitive policies, and we wish these women luck in making change before the regulations are implemented.
|two pictures from portland
||[Apr. 15th, 2014|06:39 pm]
I spent the weekend in Portland, visiting my sister and her family. I also saw some friends, and recorded an episode of Livewire Radio. It was a gorgeous weekend, with perfect weather, so we got to walk even more than we usually do when we visit.
We were walking downtown with my sister and her son when I spotted this in the street next to the crosswalk:
I got really excited, because it’s the first Toynbee tile I’ve ever seen that wasn’t just a picture on the Internet. While I was taking this picture, Anne was counting down the seconds on the crosswalk. Hearing “…4…3…2…1″ while I was taking the picture made the whole stupid thing a little more thrilling than it should have been, but I’m easily entertained.
One more picture (as promised in the title) before I get ready to go to the set:
Steel Bridge is one of my favorite bridges in the country, and this weekend was the first time we walked across it and up the opposite bank of the river. When we were about a quarter mile from it, heading toward a different bridge to cross back to downtown, a boat came up the river toward Steel Bridge. “Dude! If we hurry, we can get up to the bridge and stand right there when it goes up!” I said to Anne.
“You think we can make it?” She said.
“Yes. I know we can.”
“Are you sure it’s going to go past the bridge?”
“Unless it makes a U-turn in the middle of the river, it has to go past the bridge,” I said. “Come on! It’ll be cool!”
We turned around and walked quickly back toward Steel Bridge, the boat slowly gaining on us. When we were about 500 yards from the bridge, the boat blew its horn, presumably to alert the bridge person that it needed to go up … but when I looked at the boat to see how far it was from the bridge, I saw that it had blown its horn to alert nearby vessels that it was making a U-turn in the middle of the river.
“Oh, for fuck’s sake,” I said, laughing, as we walked onto the bridge and began to walk back across it. “Well, it would have been cool.”
Anne laughed with me, and held my hand.
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