Discussing healthcare in the US through graffiti

So you know Portland is the weird and quirky side of the western coast of the US for being alternative and out there. Well, it is for American standards, but… There are some things so ingrained in the American culture that even Portland can’t shy.

I’ve been visiting the Portland State University library for a while, getting some quiet time to write for hours.

I don’t get to talk to folks when here much. A new friend who studied linguistics mentioned she was considering a PhD study on the linguistics of indoor graffiti to research the public debates drawn out on loo doors, library spaces, lecture theatre desks, cantines and classes amongst others.

Reading the voices in public yet privately defined spaces gives you an idea of what people really want to say. That is usually expressed in a doodle, a few words, at the end of an emotion or thought.

I saw this one in the quiet study area of Portland State University.

dsc_40943787611335575273161.jpg

What shook me was that I was in a relatively trendy and well off part of the world where people are seen as Liberal and progressive. Without assuming the voices on this graffiti represent all American voices, they do sum it up in a nutshell.

Bernie Sanders can shout as much as he wants about healthcare for all. Some may know what universal income is too. How does a population within an economy as such get to the point of believing free healthcare is brainwash? Is that an indication the writer thinks it’s impossible? Or is it inappropriate?

Will the benefits that we have not had the opportunity to experience never materialize? How does fit it in the big American dream?

I now understand that we can’t rely on the young to fight for things they don’t understand. But what happened to them that got them to a place of not believing in the state’s capability of delivering on its social contract. Was it the Republicans, or Democrats before them, the Tories or Blair before them or the disconnected wababee socialist Corbyn? They are all part of the same system, right? Taking their quick and short chances (cause that’s all they’ll ever get nowadays) in power trips and little business for their buddies whilst citizens lose the will to live, and are devalued for their contribution to society and beyond their filling the gaps in the pockets of those near and dear.

Yet the broken system is showing that’s all around us. Segmentations of data that forgot how they came to be.

To be called brainwashed is to have a compliment. A recognition of the presence of a brain that’s been open to dialogue and will continue to do so.

Don’t tell me who I am, tell me who I want to be.

 

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Reno International Dance Expo 2019

Tim Weinzirl, June 2019


The Reno International Dance Expo made its inaugural debut at 
the Grand Sierra Resort in Reno, Nevada, USA over May 10-12.  
The event was hosted by the world-famous Rodney "Rodchata" 
Acquino (http://www.rodchata.com/).  
This was primarily a bachata festival, though salsa, kizomba, 
and zouk were also featured.

rdxposter

The weekend opened with a preparty on May 9.  
Early arrivals were able to mingle with each other and 
the instructors.

From Friday to Sunday, there were daily workshops taught 
by 40+ instructors from four continents. 
Attendees of the preparty met the instructors early and 
could better navigate the multiple parallel workshop tracks.

My favorite instructor was Marcela Cardenas of Sweden.  
Her Saturday class was about how to be a better leader in bachata.  
She likened the hand-hold connection between the leader and 
follower to a joystick in a video game; the position of 
the arm tells the follower what to do.  
This is useful for steering the follower forward or backward, 
as shown in the figure below.

marcela-forward-backmarcela-forward-back

Marcela also emphasized the importance of the leader's 
firm connection with the follower's shoulder blade, 
such as in circular movements.

marcela-around

One of the most popular classes was the Saturday bachata session 
by Alex and Desiree. Below is a photo from the class.

classes-alex-des

The pool party happened on Saturday afternoon at the Grand Sierra's 
large outdoor pool. Below are some pool party photos.

pool-montage

On Friday and Saturday night were performances by amateur 
and world-renowned professionals. 
Below are snapshots from my favorite performances.

perf-montage

Photo above: In clockwise order, the performers are Anthony & Carla of Spain(dancing bachata), Alex & Desiree of New York (dancing bachata), Alejandro & Erica of Los Angeles (dancing bachata), Marcela Cardenas of Sweden (dancing bachata), Alex & Kim of San Francisco (dancing salsa).

Finally, and most importantly, social dancing took place in
four separate rooms (salsa, bachata, kizomba, zouk) until 6am.
The guest instructors did a great job dancing and interacting
the social dancers throughout the night. social-montage

Photo above: A sample of the social dancing.
Bottom left: Alex and Desiree leading a late night line dance.
Bottom middle: Alejandro and Erica dancing.
Bottom right: Marcela Cardenas is dancing with a lucky guy.

 

Based on crowd reaction, this event was a huge success.
The party resumes next year, May 15-18, 2020.
Passes are already on sale at http://www.RenoDanceExpo.com.
Within 48 hours of passes for next year going on sale,
over 20% of the attendees rebooked for next year.

Seattle, chief Seattle

So I will not start from the beginning, why should I, after all, I will start from the point writing this blog post, became urgent. And that wasn’t until I got inspired.
So you know how much I love Camden Town, right? I suppose in many ways it’s the alternativeness I have come to love for decades, even if it is being polished gradually, the edginess is still here.
So what’s up Seattle?
Up University Way and I got blown away. Now this is a quiet Camden, clothes’ exchanges galore, vintage shops with vintage clothes you can actually wear i.e. check out Red Light Vintage http://www.redlightvintage.com/, Korean food that smells beyond tasting good, unintrusive cafes like Cafe Solstice https://www.cafesolsticeseattle.com/ and a second-hand multi-lingo book shop check out Magus Books https://www.magusbooksseattle.com/, all packed on and off a high street where people don’t need to prove they are cool – they kind of are and don’t know it. I loved the dress down punk 90s understated fashion on the street.
Elaborative discussions on how the homeless are better looked after in Seattle than in Portland are complimentary. 90’s vibes. A time before all that uber-conservative shit in politics took off. Where Blur and Bjork are cool to mix with all sorts and cafes don’t mind shitloads of unpretentious laptops.
Now rewind a few days.
The airport; you land in Seattle, you be sure to listen to grunge and rock on the airport speakers. Telling what the city is made off. Even the light rail is called ‘sound’.
Then off to Highline, you could call it a disgruntled neighborhood on the margins, one that will certainly change, because the people may be poorer than average, but have tolerance and are friendly. For Londoners, think of Hackney before the money moved in. In Highline, money is not here yet but I think it won’t show in the same ugly British ways, because the money in the US goes to more affluent areas, whereas money into poorer areas in Seattle means it came from poorer people yet. So you get the picture.
Next off; Gasworks Park, or rewind a few blocks up the hill behind down Sunnyside Avenue North. Probably one of the most beautiful areas in Seattle. Streets manicured pretty green and friendly unpretentious, just the houses are bigger on well thought designed picturesque bliss, but no grandeur here either please, just simply gorgeous. So back down the hill to the Gasworks park and by the Lake Union waterfront – oh my days. My waterways days chucked into the bin, deep deep into the trash bin. The chaos of sup paddleboarding, rowing, kayaking, commercial traffic, houseboats, sailing boats, and water airplanes all using the same water was like watching carnival for the first time. All it felt like, was kind of Greek chaos, only with the confidence. It was fun to watch – put a big smile on my face and gave me another good reason to add to the reasons why I am in this part of the world: it doesn’t make much sense, but it works fine.
A little later, into Fremont, oh my days you have to go, it is so cool and pretty, like an understated really green lightly academic bohemian neighborhood that reminds me of somewhere I would have loved to go before.
So yeah, go Pike Street Market, Alki Beach, the Space Needle (if you must), Westlake Shopping, check out the Fremont Troll and the gum wall (I didn’t – couldn’t bear the thought), look out the wheel from the seafront and maybe jump on the ferry to Bremerton for more really cool views. Pop in at the University of Washington grounds – huge trees bigger spaces to feel academically inspired ;-p and if you are a Harry Potter fan the Library Suzzalo and Allen Libraries is the kind of grandeur that Oxbridge would love to have (I thought my School of Oriental and African Studies university library was big haha). Out of the library look out to the incredible view of the snow-capped Mount Rainier. Whatever you do though, if you are my sort of gang, go up University Way, go down Sunnyside Avenue.

 

Back in education

I am back at the university studying full time twenty years after the last time I was in formal education.

There are some things that have changed since. I’m not lacking of confidence. And I have work experience on the subject. Did I think I would be an alien, at least a decade older than the majority of the students? Yes. And I can see some twenty years old students talk the theory but weak in joining the dots. Then there are exceptions, the smart ones. That put the hours in and build coherence across perspectives and layers. And the professors the Bank of knowledge of recalculations across parallel universes, the poets that make you laugh, worry, question, empower.

Do the 20 something year olds see what I see?

I’m emerged, taken, absorbed.

The weight of information is frying my brains, I can feel the heat emitting. I feel like a Nick Cave song. Poverty, testosterone, rebirth, death, crisis, grouping, introspection, self and sense check.
I can see again and with that I came to find a purpose for the frame I hold in my hands as I type.

Here are the shots from the first month in uni. After 20 years. Just as my memories from the first time, fading away in the distance, this somehow has poured new colours on to it.

I learnt a new word today, Decarceration

Decarceration means more than getting individuals out of prison. It means healing trauma, restoring civil rights, and ending the suffering this system has imposed on American families and communities.

The U.S. puts more people in prison than any other nation in the world.

Today we have over 2 million behind bars, 10–14 million arrests every year, and 70 million Americans with a criminal record. Not included in these numbers are all of the families, who have committed no crime at all yet suffer greatly from the separation of loved ones.

Read more at Decarceration.org
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Our overly punitive system only increases the threat that individuals pose when they are released back into their community. Even for people who have committed serious and violent crimes, it is time to offer effective rehabilitation based on high quality mental health services.

Of course, with over two million still behind bars, our first priority is to release those prisoners who represent little or no threat to public safety. But releasing people isn’t enough, because the taint of punishment has a debilitating effect on the millions who return. We need to confront our own social stigmas and the long shadow cast by mass incarceration. To be successful, we need a paradigm shift.

Our systems must move from punishment to public health.

We need new social institutions to replace our prisons– places of healing and reconciliation. We must build local resources of peer and family support. We must provide meaningful support, not just supervision, for people after release. Over 5 million prison survivors already live in our communities as convicted felons, and their life prospects are severely limited by the restrictions that our legal system imposes on them. We must restore their civil rights.

Our politicians must now confront the devastation that mass incarceration has wreaked on poor and minority communities in America, and to take responsibility for treating the wounds of a racist and brutal institution. The primary goal of decarceration is one of healing, and I am launching this website with the hope it will become a useful tool in this newly energized struggle.

Read more at Decarceration.org
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About the author

Ernest Drucker, PhD, is a licensed Clinical Psychologist in NY State and conducts research in AIDS, drug policy, prisons and criminal justice policies, and is active in global public health and human rights efforts in the US and abroad. Ernest is a Research Professor in Criminal Justice and Anthropology at John Jay College of Criminal Justice, City University of New York. He founded Decarceration.org in 2015.

Poverty, extremism and art. Where do we go from here?

Many days in the past two years I have woken up with the feeling we are living in parallel universes. Politicians continue to offend sensibility on a daily basis, polirising public opinion, whilst we stand aside watching on, the theatre of the insane. Our reality has become not too different from the Hunger Games, or many apocalypse-in-process themed movies.

Since Brexit, Trump being voted in, Putin and Erdogan, the troubles in Venezuela, Congo and Honduras to name a few, it is apparent that politicians aim to hold onto power, often to further their personal financial interests, on a wage funded by tax payer’s money.

Having gained power with dubious populist campaign sentiments, these politicians have also grabbed power with well versed catch-phrase marketing, tricking electorates with empty promises, whilst reducing their rights, and further pushing them into poverty.

However we have also seen the popularity and rise of progressive movements through the mist of this adversity. These have sown the seeds of change, pushing back on the dark principles of those autocrats. #metoo, #timesup, #FBPE and reports from non governmental organisations such us Doctors of the World, Human Rights Watch and Global Witness among other, have exposed witnesses in the political system, corruption, and promote accountability.

In London, knife crime amongst the young has escalated to uncontrollable levels, with police cuts, closure of youth services and social care, leading many with the inability to escape and furthermore to extremes and desperation.

Would any of the people affected be likely to join these movements or is their anger at a point where they are more likely to be pushed to extremes?

And how many times does this need to repeat to feel real in order of recognizing violence is not a resolution tactic, sometimes even when it is in defense.

Is activism and progressive thinking a middle-class will?

Artists and creatives around the world will surely emerge with an engaging and metaphorical message. That is the traffic light defining we live in intolerable political times.

Tracey Emin made her stand with the neon writing at St Pancras station. And that is all good willed and valuable. Many others follow.

However I can’t help but wonder how the most marginalised will gain a voice again. And who will care enough to listen, and for what reason.

Meet Dangerous Dave,  the death-defying fisher poet

Original posted by ntskinner in peoplewemet.org

I interviewed Dave Densmore over the phone in December 2016, for a story about the Fisherpoets Gathering in Astoria, Oregon. The photos were taken by Malte Jaeger on an earlier trip to Astoria.

Stories aren’t exactly in short supply at the Fisherpoets Gathering in Astoria, Oregon, or so I’m told. In the bars around this gentrifying blue-collar town, a hundred or so men and women – all of whom have had commercial fishing experience – read poetry, sing songs and tell tall tales of life on the seas.

But few, surely, can hope to match the storytelling chops of “Dangerous” Dave Densmore – who was the youngest king crab skipper on the Bering Sea, off Alaska, at 23; who survived four days on a tiny life raft in a violent storm in 1971; and whose father and son died in the same fishing accident in 1985. Dave has some stories.

Today, he’s speaking to me from the 54-foot ketch he lives on in in Astoria, and on which he’s planning to set sail around the world with his partner. “I guess I’m just happier on the ocean,” he says. “On land, it gets complicated – people, relationships, status, all that stuff. Out there, none of that matters so much. You’re in nature’s pocket, and you realise that in all that beauty and power, your shit doesn’t mean much.”

Born in the commercial fishing hub of Kodiak, Alaska, Dave bought his first boat at 13, and became a king crab skipper at 23, a preposterously young age in a game where respect is all. But, hearing about his time on that life raft, which is the subject of one of his best-known poems, you get a sense of the man that Dave was, and is.

“We’d been out fishing king crab, not far from the shore, when the boat caught fire and we had to jump ship. Having got on the life raft, we watched, helplessly, as a storm rose up, taking us further and further out to sea.  

“This was before survival suits were invented, and we were freezing – but I didn’t allow myself to think we’d die on that raft, bobbing around in huge waves, with driving snow. On the first night, I told my guys the rules: We weren’t gonna talk about food, water, wives, girlfriends. It was just the four of us, the raft and the here and now. We were going to tough it out, and we were going to live.”

Eventually, four long nights later, fate played a hand. A Japanese trawler came past and flipped the raft. “If they hadn’t seen us and stopped, that would have been that,” says Dave. But the sailors heard the screams and did stop, dragging the shivering Alaskan fishermen onboard. Not speaking a word, the Japanese seamen got to work instantly, taking to turns to massage Dave and his crews’ feet with Savlon and warm water.

“Without them,” says Dave, “I was told I would have lost both feet. It was a miracle that all of my crew survived without losing any parts of their bodies.”

But if that didn’t break Dave, what happened on June 28th, 1985, would have broken most men. Dave had been through a stint running a salmon trawler in Oregon and Washington, and a divorce. He’d moved back to Kodiak Island with his new partner, Pat, and his son Skeeter, in 1980.

June 28th, 1985, was Skeeter’s 14th birthday. That day the boy went out with Dave’s father on a skiff in Uyak Bay, Kodiak. Both were experienced on boats. Neither came back.   

“I lost everything that day,” says Dave. “It was mighty dark for a couple years, and to this day there isn’t a day that I don’t think about my son and the life he might have had. But, one day, I wrote a poem about my boy, and I realised that it helped. It was the start of a long road to coming to terms with what had happened.”  

He read ‘Skeeter’s Song’ in public for the first time at the Fisherpoets Gathering, which was first held in the winter 1998. “There was a couple in the audience who’d lost their son and they weren’t doing too well. It meant a lot that I wasn’t just helping myself, but that the poetry meant something to other people, too. Of course, it still hurts – but you can find a silver lining if you look hard enough.”

As for the idea of fishermen writing poetry, to Dave it makes perfect sense. “There’s real poetry in fishing,” he says. “You can’t live that close to nature without seeing the spiritual side of it. We see miracles out there all the time, whether you’re talking about the flight or a bird or a whale planing. I’m not a religious man, but I can see the spirituality in it all.”

You can’t live that close to nature without seeing the spiritual side of it.

He also sees poetry as a way to change perceptions about fishermen and commercial fishing. “It’s something I love and have given my life to, but as an industry, it sometimes gets a bad rap. I want to show people that there’s a human story behind that piece of fish in Styrofoam: blood, sweat and tears; a guy who missed Christmas with his family; a guy who lost a finger, or more.”

Dave talks about preserving the oceans, and making sure that future generations can experience the raw beauty that he loves so much. He talks about his plans for sailing the world. His story, it turns out, isn’t really one of suffering and loss, or how tough the life of a fisherman is. It’s one of beauty, and hope.

Read Dave Densmore’s poem about his son here, and his poem about surviving on the life raft here. Read more about the Astoria Fisherpoets Gathering here.

 

Mr Robot

Things have moved on.

Evil Corp changed its name to ECorp.

Elliot got a job for ECorp.

Mr Robot is acknowledged by most and he is gettimg more aggressive by the day.

And then there are the stoops.

Have you noticed them?

China town gentrification thanks to Mr Robot being in the area.

Stoops and dumplings over time.

Here are the flash railings, and the refurbished stoop…

And still hooked on it just like since episode 1.

Off to Coney Island?