October 31, 2011

Turning cultures into costumes

Photo credit: colorlines.com
Last week when me and a few of my girl friends were shopping around for Halloween costumes, one of my friends told us she was going to be a Native American. I didn't really think anything of it until one of my other friends spoke up and said, "You can't do that. That's like saying you are going to be Black or White." We kind of nodded our heads in thought for a few moments - we are all Black (or half Black in my case) and agreed there is something not right about the idea of a "Black" costume. Then, we decided she should be Pocahontas instead. Which seemed okay.

Not too long after that conversation in the mall, I started hearing about the "We're a costume, not a culture" campaign, initiated by Ohio University students. Maybe it's been around for a long time and I've been totally out of the loop, which could easily be the case. Even if it's an issue that's been around for a long time, it is still a prevailing one. I think the major problem here is that a lot of people don't recognize the problem as being a problem. I'm still debating in my head weather a costume labelled "Native American" should be considered racist. If I saw someone at a party wearing a "Mulatto" costume, I don't think I would be initially offended, unless maybe their costume suggested that us mixed people are all monstrous or hideous or something inherently negative. I guess that is where it becomes a problem, when the costumes actually accentuate negative stereotypes. I guess all racial costumes have that potential (and tendency) to do so.

Photo credit: nytimes.com
This campaign is reminiscent of other headlines I remember from recent history. "Australians Angry Over Russian Ice Skaters' Aboriginal Routine" (telegraph.co.uk) or "Out of Step Ice Dancing Routine," (nytimes.com). During the 2010 Winter Olympics, two Russian ice dancers incorporated Aboriginal Australian costumes into their Olympic performance. An excerpt from the NY Times describes their costumes as "...dark bodysuits with white tribalesque markings, red loin cloths, and what appeared to be brown face." Though I'm assuming there was no malicious intent behind the costumes, it is no surprise that Aboriginal Australians were offended. Some described the performance as being culture theft, appalling and exploitative. The issue here, I would say, is that the Russian dancers did not see their costumes as being problematic.

I think the message that the Ohio University students are trying to broadcast is a valuable one. We should see culture as something to respect, not something to degrade or poke fun at. At the same time, though, I think it's important to view the world with humor in some regard. Maybe humor is neither necessary nor very respectful, but it definitely helps people get through hard times even if major issues are trivialized. Eliminating racist costumes is not an impossible goal, though and it certainly doesn't mean eliminating all notions of humor (Russell Peters and Dave Chappelle will live on). If being Pocahontas instead of being Native American is less offensive, then I don't think the costume change is asking too much. I would gladly change my costume from "Black person" to something less racially charged if it meant discouraging stereotypes and encouraging racial, ethnic, and cultural tolerance.


Happy Halloween

Samson's costume
I would have posted a picture of my pumpkin carving...but the squirrels got to it before I took a picture. That's okay though, because Samson makes a good substitute and real pumpkins make good delicacies for squirrels. Sam is also an experienced model and he shares a mutual love with cameras. I know some people are not too fond of using animals as models because of inhumane treatment - who knows what happens beyond the camera lenses of the ads we see in magazines with lions and tigers and bears and other exotic animals.  I assure you, in this case, Sam has been treated well. As you probably can tell, he is also fed well. Maybe too well. I had to buy a medium-dog sized costume. The tag said something like, "fit for cocker spaniels..." So you can imagine how huge my cat is. It fits him snug.


Also, if you are into Halloween, but aren't as into the blood, guts, and  gore, you may want to check out this list of Fright-less Halloween films that I compiled for SHEI Magazine!


October 30, 2011

Recipe: Tilapia Corn Chowder

Will make about 3 of these bowls.

Since Halloween weekend, aside from Thanksgiving weekend, is one of the most festive times during the fall, I thought corn chowder would be a good idea. It seemed like a fall-like food and it reminds me of whale camp (yes, camp for kids who love whales) back in the day where they served us corn chowder while whale watching over the Atlantic. It was actually Summer time, but the ocean winds made it feel just like the fall.

I made up an experimental recipe and it turned out really good! I didn't take measurements or write anything down while I was doing anything, so this recipe is going to be slightly off. Just keep that in mind if you are one of those people who needs to follow word for word directions. Also, I added tilapia, making this inedible to vegetarians. If you don't eat meat, then try adding other veggies instead. There are substitutes for everything it seems. On the plus side, it's a fairly inexpensive list of ingredients.

You will need:
(You're probably wondering where I shop)
1 tbs flour
1/3 cup butter
1/2 can of coconut milk 
1 cup of half and half 
1 tbs olive oil (just because I love olive oil)
2 cups shredded cheddar cheese (I used sharp cheddar) 
1 stalk celery (chopped)
2 stalks green onions (chopped)
at least one cup of corn 
1/2 or 1 cup spinach
1 tsp garlic
3-4 tilapia fillets (cut into bite size peices) 
Salt and pepper to taste

What to do:
1. Make the cream sauce base by melting butter in sauce pan and adding flour. Once mixed, add coconut milk and half and half. Mix well.

2. Add cheddar cheese, celery, green onions (save some to sprinkle on top later), corn, spinach, garlic, and salt and pepper to taste. Stir and let simmer until it thickens. Mix occasionally so as not to burn the pan. If it's not thickening, you can add more flour, but don't add too much flour or you will taste it.

3. Cut up the tilapia fillets and throw them in last. Tilapia cooks fast and is delicate so if you add it too soon, it will crumble into tiny pieces. Boil the tilapia in the soup for around 5-10 minutes or until fully cooked.

4. Remove from heat, serve, and enjoy! Sprinkle with green onions and cheddar cheese for extra yummy.


October 29, 2011

I spy interesting things

Tiny blue berries
Sometimes when we aren't paying attention, we miss out on simple treasures. Normally, walking around town means walking to class, or walking home in the cold, or walking with some destination in mind. Usually the destination seems to be the only thing in mind. I think it's important to value travel as highly as we value arrival, and to keep our minds open to happenstance and memorable things - or people- we may stumble into along the way.

You can't drink pizza.

These look like pineapples 

There's a few of these around town

My boyfriend pointed out this handsom Oak tree

A grizzly mail box

Some primates painted on an indoor wall

I love mosaics.

A robot hiding in the pavement.

Stacked cans.
Talking chairs

- Doe

For real this time...

(Here I am)

I'm starting a blog. (Last time I said this, it didn't happen). I will probably try to focus on things I like. I guess this isn't really a focus considering I like a lot of things. Topical restraints can feel limiting at times, so I'm going to give complete freedom a try. My interests mostly revolve around the arts but I'm sure this blog will expand to other interests as well.