Poli(tic)s and Ideology

As the recall Walker petitioners gather to collect signatures around Wisconsin, several issues have been brought to light, aside from the ones that have prompted the recall per se. These issues have to do mainly with where is it possible to plant oneself to collect signatures in public areas. It has been established that, in general, petitioning on a sidewalk, public library entrance, etc, is OK as long as nobody is blocking or impeding traffic.
But there also comes the issue of people taking issue with “things” becoming politicized, as if finding recall volunteers in the neighborhood is some kind of nuisance around the holidays.
Well, “things” are politicized to some degree or another, and more often than not, with a good dose of ideology.
Maybe you cannot collect signatures inside a store, for it is a private space. Fair enough.

But…do we check our politics at the door? Do we stop to think if the merchandise comes from sweatshops? Do they sell high quality products at that store? If not, what’s the target demographic…and why?
Likewise, I may happen to be shopping among friends and I may happen to make a “leftist” “feminist” “tree-hugging” comment, which may sound ideological to some and therefore, something unwanted during a shopping spree. Then again, do we stop to consider the politics and the ideology behind a retailer’s marketing campaign that plays on gender, social and/or racial stereotypes?
I do, because to me–call me postmodern or something like that–it’s easy to see the craft in a hyper-commercialized/stereotyped society.

The craft is pretty obvious, so are the politics in the making.

At times, I’ve been told that I bring those “theories” to my interpretation.
Not that there is anything wrong with that. And being told so already shows the politics and ideologies that envelop such a comment, whether the one who utters it is aware of them or not.
So, while for some it may be annoying to find recall volunteers by their favorite stores because they see it as a way of politicizing the area, it is puzzling that they haven’t realized that their shopping–from what they can and cannot buy to when to buy it–is already immersed in ideology, an ideology so conspicuous that could be mistaken as the “natural” way of “things.”

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Sidewalks

With mild temperatures for late November, today I walked all the way from Bayshore to a bit north of Good Hope Road to check on a wonderful kitty named Manchita.
I have done the walk up to Green Tree Road (just a bit south of Manchita’s) before, sometimes when going to the dentist, others when just wanting to plant myself at a different coffeehouse. I like the Stone Creek on N. Port Washington. (And hey, this week is double-punch week at  Stone Creek!)
For the most part, the way is adequately paved with sidewalks.
It is a different story, though, when venturing north of Green Tree.
Small patches of 10 feet of sidewalk close to a bus stop are quickly gone and one must walk on the side of the road, or on the grass if the terrain is approachable. Another patch reappears by another bus stop only to lead to no more sidewalk.
So I wonder what do  joggers and dog-walkers do in the area. What do they do when the curb is piled high with a foot of snow? Why not extend the sidewalk all along N. Port Washington Rd.?
It would be a nice short walk from Manchita’s to the coffeeshop and other establishments in the area if only there were sidewalks!

Uninterrupted sidewalks. What a concept! So simple! Wouldn’t it be great and in compliance of good hope and good will to have access to uninterrupted sidewalks…maybe with some green trees around in late spring and summer?!
Walking is good, healthy, and…free! We learn to walk since very little. It’s an awesome way to move around and enjoy our surroundings.
So, seriously, let’s walk on the side…on sidewalks!

Ah! The Real World…

This may seem a little random…like many things in the so-called real world are!…but I often hear people make a distinction between “academia” or university life and “the real world.” Now, the truth is that I don’t know what they mean by real.

Real as in tangible? The buildings, desks, stairwells, hallways, copiers, elevators (functioning or not), computers, paperwork, etc., at a college are very tangible. It is not like one enters a “something or other” Hall like one enters into a bubble.

Now, I also know many people refer to the “non-real world” as a bubble. A bubble, we know, is something very limited, floaty, and easy to burst. Moreover, a “non-real world” must be a place where we cease to be thinking humans, and enter another dimension that simply cannot be described (for it is not real, and there are no real words to talk about it).

So, back to real…working or studying are very real activities. One might say that the job of someone who delivers shopping guides on a daily basis is an example of something done in the real world. OK. It is. And so is the job of a researcher on social, geographical, computational data who then publishes something of impact for more improvements in society, while also being able to confer that knowledge to his or her students. That same research may impact other disciplines, say, the methodologies for teaching languages, and therefore, the learning of languages which allow the individual to understand the underlying codes we all use daily to communicate, both in the native and in the target languages.

Maybe that Pre-Calculus, Philosophy, Intro to Anthropology or Accounting Principles course we were required to take but that had nothing to do with our major, taught us something about time-management,  organizational skills, seeing a bit beyond our usual comfort zones, or may even have presented us with that one question–rather than that one answer–that opened the door to important realizations. And those skills come in handy not just for students and academics, but for navigating through life as informed members of society and as successfully as possible in doing so.

Writing syllabi, grading papers, teaching a class, researching topics for scholarly and pedagogical purposes are very real, time-consuming focused activities. So is thinking and the rewards of applying critical thinking skills for our decisions in daily life, whether it is for work, family or personal endeavors.

That’s why I don’t understand how the idea of “in the real world” is commonly used.

Because, in the end–let’s burst the bubble–it is all real, very very real.

¡No hay panty!

Hace un rato ojeaba la versión online del periódico El Nuevo Día y la noticia del día era la de la apertura de la tienda de Victoria’s Secret en Plaza las Américas. No lo podía creer. No que abrieran la tienda, sino el furor de la gente arremolinándose para entrar lo antes posible y dar el tarjetazo o el billetazo.
Siempre me ha parecido curioso eso de que una nueva tienda cause tanta sensación. En este caso no era sólo la inauguración de Victoria’s Secret en la Isla, sino que era el estreno con todo y helicóptero rosado y las modelos prontas a aparecerse por el lugar.
Las panties, creo yo, son panties donde quiera, al igual que los brassieres. Algunos de mejor calidad que otros y muchos con más pompa y circunstancia que algunos, gracias a la publicidad y solvencia financiera de algunas marcas. El consenso general es que lo que se vende en esa tienda es de buena calidad y que son prendas que, bien cuidadas, son duraderas.
Por otro lado, no puedo evitar pensar en el furor que acompaña el evento como un quirk obsesivo. Es una tienda como cualquier otra, en tanto anuncia, hace despliegue y cumple su propósito: vender y asegurarse de seguir vendiendo. Aparte de la conmoción multitudinaria–como se ha descrito la acogida en el día de estreno–que ha causado la llegada de lo que es otra oportunidad más para gastar dinero, tampoco puedo evitar pensar en los enormes afiches de las modelos “Angels” posando en ropa íntima con sus cuerpos flaquísimos, sus muy medidas sonrisas o labios pouty de vampiresa, y la piel inmaculada que sólo se logra con unas 60 interposiciones mediante la magia angelical del photoshop.
Me pregunto cómo va calando esa imagen–la de la modelo perfecta, archifamosa y por eso bien cotizada, que llega a Puerto Rico como princesa en su helicóptero rosado–en la niña de seis años que pase por allí al frente, o en la muchacha de catorce preocupada por su apariencia, o en la mujer de cualquier edad que en cada esquina le ofrecen, como muestra del último grito de un perfume lleno de químicos nada saludables, sobre lo que debe ser su feminidad.
Me pregunto también si esa imagen cala tanto en hombres como en mujeres, creando estándares inasequibles y, por ende, más abismos en el entendimiento de cada cual como persona con todos sus atractivos, desde los físicos hasta los mentales.
Me pregunto si el furor no es más que un montaje escénico como el de la imagen vendida.
Lo que sé es que no hay panty ni brassiere que me haga esperar en fila para gastar quizás el dinero que mejor hubiera invertido en un buen café, o película o libro.
Claro, a menos que sea tan despistada que haya salido sin llevar ninguno…

Estaciones

El viernes 4 de noviembre fui en tren desde Milwaukee hasta St. Louis–conectando a través de Chicago–para asistir a la MMLA. La conferencia se llevó acabo en la St. Louis Union Station, el mismo lugar a donde fui en otoño del 2006 a presentar para el Recovering the U.S. Hispanic Literary Heritage Project.
Esa estación de tren, ahora restaurada como estructura multi-uso, con hotel, restaurantes, lounge, etc, es verdaderamente una de las creaciones arquitectónicas que más me fascinan. Aparte del Grand Hall, donde hay un elegante bar de butacas rojas, y donde leí muy informalmente tres de los cuentos de mi colección: Sobre la tela de una araña, con unos amenos colegas, salta a la vista cada detalle de ese grandioso espacio.
En particular, me llama la atención el vitral con las tres tres figuras, unas tres féminas que simbolizan: la ciudad de San Francisco (a la izquierda), St. Louis en el centro, y Nueva York, mirando desde el este.
Es fácil estar allí, tomándose una copita y comenzar a imaginar cómo sería el lugar en los años 30, con gente por todos lados, llegando o apunto de abordar el tren. ¿Cuántas historias conjuntas y personales? ¿Cuántos encuentros y reencuentros? ¿Cuántas despedidas y nuevos comienzos?

Ayer, domingo, 6 de noviembre, hice el recorrido de vuelta a Milwaukee, cruzando casi todo Illinois. Las estampas del otoño avanzado estaban por todos lados, con árboles semi-desnudos, hojas marrones o amarillentas colgando de otros, y los últimos indicios del verde de la grama antes de que llegue la próxima estación con sus nevadas.

Me encanta viajar en tren. Como en la antigua St. Louis Union Station, es fácil dejar que la mente se vaya en sus “trains of thought” entre atardeceres y amaneceres, paradas y conversaciones que flotan alrededor.

En tren, vamos tan cerca de la tierra que parece que transitamos por el paisaje como una postal extendida.

Este fin de semana en St. Louis, viaje en tren incluido, fue una linda postal de otoño.