Monday, January 30, 2006

RIP: Paik + Wasserstein + Politics Ties & Hidden Biases

More quickish posts.
Mendi O. of SWEAT and Tisa B. alternately sent word today about the passing of artist and video pioneer Nam June Paik (1932-2006). I always think of Paik's work (such as the Evolution.Revolution, 1989, at left, courtesy of PaikStudios) as emblematic of the major technical shifts in the artworld of the 1970s, though he actually got started in the late 1950s. In 1963 he was participating in Fluxus performances, and by 1965 he'd purchased the first portable video recorder (it's hard to believe they've been around that long!). Paik was very conscious of the importance of the visual to our culture and of the increasingly mediat(iz)ion of our lives, and his works across a range of media reflected this. His site, PaikStudios, is definitely worth visiting.

SWEAT's post on Paik is up too.

This afternoon, driving back from the airport, I thought I heard what sound like a memoriam for playwright Wendy Wasserstein. A check later online confirmed what I'd heard; that she'd died after a battle with lymphoma. I can't say I'm that familiar her work beyond the Heidi Chronicles and the Sisters Rosenzweig, but I do know that she was a critical figure in the rise of female playwrights on Broadway in the late 1970s, and that numerous figures in the drama appreciated her friendship and activism, which extended to the development of new audiences, including working-class teenagers from the five boroughs of New York City. I believe she may have been the first American woman to win a Tony, and later the Pulitzer Prize in Drama in 1991. Ten years later, in 1999, at age 48, she decided as a single mother to have a child, who survives her, as do her siblings, mother, many beloved plays, books of essays, and forthcoming novel.

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Why is almost everyone on United Airlines flights always coughing and sneezing? Do UA planes do double duty as airborne Petri dishes? Why hasn't anyone taught most of these spraying flyers that when you cough or sneeze, you should cover your mouth or nose with your hand, or better yet, the inside of your elbow? I swear I learned this by the time I was 4 years old, but I sat behind a man who sneezed like clockwork every 15 or so minutes and never once covered his nose. He was easily over 4, had two hands, two elbows, and any of the four could have covered his schnoz. The large gentleman next to me kept sneezing and coughing as well. Another man walked down the aisle sneezing as if conducting benedictions. By the time I got off the plane I felt like I had a cold coming on. But then, what are you supposed to do? You very well can't get on a plane with a surgical mask these days and slathered in Purell these days...

***

One of my graduate students mentioned after class tonight that she translated technical documents into and from Spanish and Portuguese. So we chatted about this a little bit. She learned her Portuguese from a gaúcho (a resident of the southern Brazilian state of Rio Grande do Sul, which is like another country altogether), I from an Azorean (who found 100 different ways to dissuade me from anything having to do with Brazil but had me reading Portuguese writers after only a few weeks). We compared notes about pronunciations and so forth. She said that the gaúcho had told her that if she went to Bahia she'd never want to go back home. A fair warning. He suggested instead going to visit Porto Alegre. She mentioned her boss was in São Paulo. Then she noted that in reading some of the Spanish in her piece and passages in Junot Díaz's work I'd pronounced it "with a Caribbean accent." That made my night.

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On a different note, here's an article I could not have made up. In the (ever rightward-listing) Washington Post, Shankar Vedantam pens "Studies Ties Political Leaning to Hidden Biases." I'll say no more beyond that the Raw Story's link came from the great pull quote that "Study: Bush backers more likely racist." Sound overblown?

For their study, Nosek, Banaji and social psychologist Erik Thompson culled self-acknowledged views about blacks from nearly 130,000 whites, who volunteered online to participate in a widely used test of racial bias that measures the speed of people's associations between black or white faces and positive or negative words. The researchers examined correlations between explicit and implicit attitudes and voting behavior in all 435 congressional districts.

The analysis found that substantial majorities of Americans, liberals and conservatives, found it more difficult to associate black faces with positive concepts than white faces -- evidence of implicit bias. But districts that registered higher levels of bias systematically produced more votes for Bush.

"Obviously, such research does not speak at all to the question of the prejudice level of the president," said Banaji, "but it does show that George W. Bush is appealing as a leader to those Americans who harbor greater anti-black prejudice."

Vincent Hutchings, a political scientist at the University of Michigan in Ann Arbor, said the results matched his own findings in a study he conducted ahead of the 2000 presidential election: Volunteers shown visual images of blacks in contexts that implied they were getting welfare benefits were far more receptive to Republican political ads decrying government waste than volunteers shown ads with the same message but without images of black people.
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In other news, the filibuster attempt to stop ScAlito's ascension to the US Supreme Court is dead. Kaput. Muerto. A day late and a dollar short, as the phrase goes. The New York Times profiles how the right-wing Federalist Society schemed two decades ago to put Alito and Roberts on the court and transform American jurisprudence to conservative ends. At least my two New Jersey Senators, Frank Lautenberg and Robert Menendez (it sounds so strange to utter his name in conjunction with "Senator")--and the two from Illinois, Dick Durbin and Barack Obama--were willing to put their necks on the line. But 19 Democrats, including the one and only Joe Lieberman, enabled the GOP once again. Their motto: stomp on us and come again. A heck of a job: Green Party, did you call?

4 comments:

  1. It's a funny thing about accents (I think it's probably true for most people in their third or fourth language): my Spanish accent drifts immediately toward that of my present (or last) interlocutor. And when I was studying (Brazilian) Portuguese seriously, I had someone tell I spoke Spanish just like their friend from Rio!

    Kai in NYC

    Kai in NYC

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  2. As I can't lay claim to any foreign languages (Gikuyu and Swahili don't count; they are, after all, "home" languages) I copy and paste one of my favorite self-quotations of the year: "I speak the Queen's English in American."

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  3. Here's a pragmatic suggestion for when you fly the bacterial-infested skies. I usually take several Emer'gen-C packets with me (1000mg Vitamin C, 32 Minerals, Vitamins B3 & B12). It does the trick.

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  4. Kai, I sometimes think my Spanish sounds like Portuguese, and I often (mis-)substitute the words, but the more I speak the one the more I retain the other. Pero me gustó mucho que ella ne dijo que sueno al caribeño. (Or something like that!)

    Keguro...well, I leave that one alone! LOL

    Audiologo, thanks for the advice. I used to take Emergen-C a lot. It just seems like more people are sick on my flights than in the past. It is winter, after all--but I mean, it's crazy.

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