THINGS THAT MATTER: STANDING UP FOR PP

•March 27, 2017 • 1 Comment

The pro-choice vs pro-life argument has taken place long before our current political climate, and so has the fight for female reproductive rights. It wasn’t until the 1960s that birth control became available — and even then, it wasn’t always accessible due to states opposing the sales of birth control pills. Women like Margaret Sanger advocated for birth control and a better way for women to take charge of their own health, strongly supporting the use of birth control so that women could control unwanted pregnancies to have have better and healthier lives. Sanger opened her own birth control clinic, and fought for women’s reproductive rights through lobbying for the legality of birth control in the US. More famously, the Roe v Wade decision of 1973 famously declared that state bans on abortion were unconstitutional.

Despite all this progress, Trump and Congress have pushed more and more votes and bills in an effort to repeal Obamacare and, in effect, defund Planned Parenthood by stripping all federal funding for the organization.

There is a common misconception here. Federal tax dollars do not go to paying for abortions. Instead, it goes to reimburse Medicaid claims, preventative medicine, cancer screenings, HIV tests, as well as to birth control.

Defunding Planned Parenthood would take away access to health care from patients who depend on Medicaid (60% of all Planned Parenthood patients do!). This is especially important because the majority of Planned Parenthood patients are people of lower income groups. In many cases, there aren’t enough other medical care providers, especially for reproductive health services, to replace Planned Parenthood in the event of defunding.This is not the first time that disadvantaged people and communities are placed in an even more disadvantageous position. In “Nuclear Wasteland”, Valerie Kuletz describes nuclear waste affecting indigenous peoples, writing that although it is an issue that affects all people, this “price we pay for our freedom…is paid by those with disproportionately less power” (Kuletz 95).

Defunding Planned Parenthood matters because access to healthcare should be a universal and basic right.

Safe access to birth control and abortions protects women. In an article about repealing the 8th, Leslie Spillane, an Irish women, wrote “Abortions happen, everyday. Making them illegal doesn’t stop woman needing, or wanting them, or inflicting them on themselves — there will always be coat hangers, broken bottles, painkillers, stairs to fall down, fists to hit, medicines to swallow” (O’Shea). Ireland is one example of what shutting down Planned Parenthood would do (SHUTTING DOWN not defunding).

Planned Parenthood has an estimate of 2.5 million patients. This means that one in five women in the United States visits Planned Parenthood at least once. The sheer number of people they help requires us to stop and re-evaluate the importance of this organization.

Planned Parenthood EDUCATES. For teens and children growing up in this country, Planned Parenthood often works to educate the public on their reproductive rights as well as sexual education. This helps to decrease the risk of unplanned pregnancies and prevents the spreading of STD’s and HIV. In “Greetings From the Salton Sea”, Kim Stringfellow investigates the Salton Sea issue, writing that “perhaps a better understanding of these interconnected processes will allow us to make much more informed political decisions regarding the environmental and ecological concerns of today and those of the future” (35). Similarly, Planned Parenthood spreads accurate information to voters and potential voters and actively promotes access to health care.

Works Cited

Haberman, Maggie. “Trump Tells Planned Parenthood Its Funding Can Stay If Abortion Goes.” The New York Times. The New York Times, 06 Mar. 2017. Web. 25 Mar. 2017.

“How Federal Funding Works at Planned Parenthood.” Planned Parenthood Action Fund. Planned Parenthood|. Web. 26 Mar. 2017.

Kuletz, Valerie. The Tainted Desert: Environmental Ruin in the American West. New York: Routledge, 1998.

Stringfellow, Kim. Greetings from the Salton Sea: Folly and Intervention in the Southern California Landscape, 1905-2005. Chicago: The Center for American Places at Columbia College Chicago, 2011. Web.

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Vlog Post 3

•May 11, 2018 • Leave a Comment

What really is trash?  Is one person’s trash another’s treasure?  Nelson Molina certainly believes so!  Nelson Molina is a, now retired, NYC Department of Sanitation worker who, for over 30 years, collected items that were throw out, and stored them in a warehouse in Harlem.  In an interview with Hyperallergic, Molina describes his ability to spot treasure through a trash bag often by listening or observing the shape and feel of the bag.  I found this to be a really interesting addition as the aesthetics of garbage are most often to hide it away in opaque bags.  As I looked further into the museum, I began to think how these things ended up there.  Did people just trow things out?  Did someone die?  Was it an accident?  How much in value do ya think is thrown away every year?  I wonder what would happen if someone who visited found one of their own heirlooms.

I find this situation to be a bit confusing.  On one hand, finders keepers, but what if it was an accident?  Are there ways to ensure we don’t get rid of precious things?  Are there better places to discard of unwanted items still with value?  What I think is missing from people’s interaction with discard is a lack of creativity when it comes to repurposing or finding ways to more actively get rid of things.  The disconnect and lack of conversation around what to do with things we don’t want causes the anxiety around cleaning.  Studies, and mothers, say that a clean working environment makes keeping thoughts organized easier, but at what cost?  What can be done with things we don’t want?  At first, I thought this museum was a really interesting idea.  However, after looking into it further, I have found it is not often open to the public.  I was confused, as I think to have a museum of collected garbage should be for people to reflect on their own consumption.  I believe the lack of communication around consumption and convenience is harmful to all of us.  The issue, while at the surface, becomes ingrained in us.

We like to be healthy, to pay for organic, and to but all the artisan ally packaged goods, pick out the gluten free and the vegan, but we still aren’t doing much of our part in understanding the value of our consumption.  Since the development of agriculture, we have been able to produce our own consumption, yet more than ever, we rely on the convenience of people packaging our desires, and dumping the responsibility of consumerism on us.  I think the trash museum shows how even valuable or personal things are temporary, and we are always looking to change things up, and move on from items.  We crave more, but hen have to move, and can’t bring it all.  Or worse, we are gifted more space, and thus the desire to fill it.  Without communication between the person, their garbage, and the collector, there is no easy way to remember accidentally throwing away your wedding ring, or precious family photo.  The way we interact with our garbage, “tie it off, throw it to the side, and let it be someone else’s job” does not foster a positive feedback.  It becomes a lack of a thought, and without an inhibitor, consumerism is free to flourish like a virus.  Its is free to run a muck, and alter our perception.  To recycle is to do the better thing, to buy organic is to do the better thing, so if we do more of that, we can just throw everything else out, right?  Does it matter how much we consume so long as we make sure we leave it to someone else to be disposed of properly?  Or worse, do we trust those who don’t know how to properly recycle not to cause the whole lot to be wasted?

 

The Trash museum:

https://www.huffingtonpost.com/entry/treasures-in-the-trash-museum_us_56f96e07e4b0143a9b48c03a

https://hyperallergic.com/368152/nyc-trash-is-a-museum-of-treasure/

Vlog post 1

•April 3, 2018 • Leave a Comment

This is unbelievably inefficient as there is no communication between either party, rather only a negative feedback loop.  I believe the precarity exists in the lack of communication largely due to a desire to distance oneself from trash.  In this day and age, every company thinks they have the thing you really need.  How do they do that?  Packaging.  Think about it.  If a company just sold you their product without a label, how would you ever know what you’re getting?  Sure you could look at it, but what if it’s a knockoff?  Well. You can always check for certain distinguishable markings, or better yet, register the code on the side of the box online!  All of these little things, including the product’s key features, require a lot more space than on the product itself, plus, who would ever be caught wearing the tag?  (Unless its the sticker on a hat, but that’s different, I guess?).  Well….. Don’t worry, because you can recycle it!  Easy peasy.  But there is so much more.

What is garbage?  Garbage is the end product of something of value.  At some point in the lifecycle of an object in a consumer capitalist economy becomes zero at which point it becomes equal.  Equal to literally anything “who’s” value has officially “died”.  What do we do with things of no value?  We can’t simply keep it lying around, because in a consumer mindset, what is something valueless but a nuisance? We trash it.  Along with the rest of the trash.  A ripped t-shirt, a banana peel, tissues, food wrappers, coffee cups, and whatever else someone decides This needs to go.  So what do we do with all of our waste?  Well, that for which we see a possible future, we can recycle.  Recycling is great, is important, however, does not even begin to scratch the surface of the issue.  The main issue at hand is consumerism, however I can’t even begin to get into that yet.  But it’s ever-present.  So I think it’s important to note.  I guess I could call that precarity, for now.

“First, the only way to find things out about what happens when complex objects … is to carry out such interactions – it has to be done live, with no control sample.  Objects here should also be understood to mean processes embodied as objects, as elements in a composition.  Every element is an explosion, a passion or capacity settled temporarily into what passes for a stable state.” -(fuller 1)

The system is giant, so for now let’s start basic, with a trash chute and compactor, an invisible highway of waste.  On either side of this system are a host of people interacting with trash.  The act-ants of the system are the residents, constantly feeding the loop with new purchases, old clothes, etc.  they act with the system, and it’s maintenance crew.  The assembly of the system is a series of funnels which continue to compact waste, but require human act-ants in order to complete the assembly of the complete system.  The hard working people who are responsible for the pick up and drop off of the conspicuously dark bags filled with heavily compacted nastiness.  Each time they interact with the human, waste becomes further compiled, garbage bags of bags which are thrown into garbage bags for garbage bags of garbage.

Which brings me back around to the fundamental issue which I mentioned earlier.  At this time I but only have questions.  Is air-tight, sealed, out of sight, out of mind the best way to interact with trash?  Is it the most comfortable?  What is waste and who is responsible for creating it?  Who manufactures waste, and who is responsible for the redistribution of it?  What is mechanic about the process?  What are the physical limits of the system?

 

Re-evaluating Precarity

•March 29, 2018 • Leave a Comment

When I first started this project, I assumed that I would find multiple instances of precarity within the Indonesian community in Elmhurst. Yet, as I continued my visits to the site, I found that evidence of such precarity was minimal, and that most Indonesians enjoyed their time in the States, with a few exceptions here and there. I had been hoping to find evidence of worker abuse such as has been found in the Middle East and other Arab countries.

 

What I began to realize was that the instances of precarity here in Elmhurst would not be as severe as those in the Middle East or Arab countries, as social, cultural, and political norms would dictate otherwise. Instead the precarity found here is more akin to the issues faced by other immigrants, most commonly issues with living and work permits, prejudice, and racism, but not to the point where beatings and assault become commonplace.

So with this in mind, I would like to revise my project to focus more on the small Indonesian businesses that help anchor the community and keep it afloat, and how the owners and customers’ experiences are in addition to how these businesses help new Indonesians acclimate to a new culture and environment. I would like to conduct more in-depth and personal interviews with owners of businesses and their customers in order to understand the special ecosystem that the community has.

Assemblage, Actants, Affect

•March 29, 2018 • 1 Comment

Browsing through the installation project Greetings from the Salton Sea was truly an explorative experience to me. The site creator Kim Stringfellow starts off tactfully using an affect-inducing instrument—photo slideshow. The impingement of affect on the users’ bodies are immediately realized via the use of highly saturated colors, be it the sickishly orange body of water that triggers discomfort in your brain, the shiny silver skin of fish carcasses reflected against the bright sunlight, or the dusty filter that renders the stacked mattresses and the floral wallpaper a muted counterpoint to the rest; altogether they form a rich tableau that leaves traces of the prosperity the Salton Sea once enjoyed as well as its desolate status quo. Knowing that certain usage of retouching must be employed to bring out such effect, I began to think in what ways did I, as a member of the audiences rather than of the webpage creators, fully receive the affect of those photos, of the highlighted colors that guided my eyes towards the objects Stringfellow intended me to focus on, so that I was able to sit in front of my laptop and experienced (mostly) what Stringfellow saw back then.

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there’s no time for letting the affect of photo to sink in, it hits you head on

Clicking into the introductory page, I was drawn to its clear-cut “sectionality”: the detailed literary research on the left and a combination of photo and map on the right, and not to mention the smart choice of patterned background that is reminiscent of blue sea waves. Such functional layout is consistently kept throughout this website, creating a specific mindset for the audience to 1. learn about the history of the Salton Sea in its chronological order 2. gets informed about the location, its topography that explains the formation of certain inflow from the sea 3. see the harmful transformation human exploitation has imposed on the ecology surrounding this body of water.

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the map feature is interactive as the user could choose different ways of exploring the area (i.e. terrain/satellite)

While comparing Stringfellow’s project with mine, I really wanted to steal his “sectionality” move. Since both of our projects are centered upon environmental precarity, a subject matter that does not receive its due attention, it is necessary to “prime” the users with adequate background research while not falling short on the fun-filled, explorative affect acquired in the process of navigating a full-blown website.

—one Goliath is made of numerous little Davids—

The name of my website “THING-POWER” is a term borrowed from and inspired by Jane Bennett’s article “Vibrant Matter”. Bennett brings up the term “assemblage” to explicate the agentic power of things we normally deem as “lifeless” and “inanimate”, as she notes,  “An assemblage owes its agentic capacity to the vitality of the materialities that constitute it.” With the trash as the main actants in mind, I reexamined my website in the audience’s stance and soon a question popped up: “Besides being the eyesore that disrupts the scenic view, what are some other actual, solid effects that trash has cast upon the Flushing Meadows park?”

As I introduced in my previous blog post, the Corona Ash Dump, an inglorious past of this site that was dominated by huge piles of trash and animal manure, was a crucial lesson to be learned regarding the detrimental effects of trash. Therefore, to improve and possibly redesign my website, I want to incorporate a historical insight by unveiling the past, an element of this park that most people (including myself) are rather oblivious about, by 1. giving an overview of each major environmental red flag that was or still persists and its harmful effects on human, animals, environment 2. complementing with visual proof  3. pointing out (as many as I could) each actant that was part of the whole assemblage (human and other “heterogenous series of actants), which altogether has led to the negative consequences we see.

And that’s when Stringfellow’s move comes into play, as I want to divide up my page in a similar fashion: there’s the historical background (word), the visual aid (photos), and then a special section dedicated to the identification of actants that would hopefully tie up with the other two. It functions almost like the kind of “criminal board” one finds in the police station or a detective’s office, where mugshots of criminal suspects are pinned up, each with littles descriptions of the crimes they’ve committed, which in my case, would consist of not only the variety of trash found in the area (e.g. plastic bottles, plastic bags), but also the human factor, in that without which many of the environmental problems wouldn’t even surface and resurface over and over again. To give you an example of what I meant, the picture below, despite not being completely accurate, demonstrates the general idea.

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by giving the trash “a voice”, the often ignored effects are made obvious to the users

By juxtaposing the aforementioned elements, I wish to highlight that behind every environmental problem that the Flushing Corona park, along with its frequenters and habitants have suffered, there’s an assemblage of countless number of small actants in play, each contributing a little push that eventually resulted in affectual events we see and should remember today.

 

Works Cited

Bennett, Jane. “Vibrant Matter.” 2009, doi:10.1215/9780822391623.
Boys, Bowery. “The Corona Ash Dump: Brooklyn’s burden on Queens, a vivid literary inspiration and bleak, rat-Filled landscape.” The Bowery Boys: New York City History, 15 Jan. 2015, http://www.boweryboyshistory.com/2013/05/the-corona-ash-dumps-brooklyns-burden.html.
“Greetings from the Salton Sea | Kim Stringfellow.” Greetings from the Salton Sea | Kim Stringfellow, greetingsfromsaltonsea.com/.

Navigating the Story-Telling Process

•March 28, 2018 • Leave a Comment

After last week’s class, I began to re-evaluate my project in terms of how best to deliver my message. I intend to revamp my website not only in terms of overall web design but also in terms of detailed content. I would first go through my conceptual blueprint according to the grid I designed for last week, and then to the details of possible execution.

I got most of my inspiration for revision from the project “Greetings from the Salton Sea,” mostly because it is also a Web Installation, and I can learn a lot from the design and content navigation, which forced me to rethink about my project.

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In terms of web design, I drew my inspiration from the Salton Sea Website. The photo slides on the homepage are impactful because each photo actually showcases a different side of Salton Sea and tell a different story. When you press “Explore the Salton Sea,” the different sections actually match with the individual stories, with an addition of the Google Map. I want to redesign my website so that each final product I want to present could be shown on the main page, and when my audience sees the actual presentation page, my language could guide them into a story setting. I want to arrange my photos so that it first tells stories of language barrier, and then to how helps are offered, as well as the good consequences. I would definitely try to take more impactful photos. See the gallery below for a potential sequence:

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Since video is an important part of my project, I surfed through the internet to look for videos that are related to aging population and senior centers, and I found a short video entitled “Lisa Ling’s Struggle with her Aging Father | Our America with Lisa Ling | Oprah Winfrey Network” on YouTube. I find the video engaging because it is about how a senior citizen falls in love with a senior center after visiting it with his daughter. The video is coupled with Lisa-Liang’s voice-over which introduces the background and the senior center, as well as a tour that includes a guide from the administrator and chats with the residence. I found the video what I imagine my ideal video to be like, and one thing precious I learned from the video is that it includes a personal interview with Lisa Liang’s father, who talks about why he does not want to live in a senior center that serves like an institution. If possible, I want to interview one of the members of Nan Shan Senior Center and learn about his/her heart-felt opinion about the center.

The supermarket (a.k.a trash) colony

•March 28, 2018 • 1 Comment

Crowd.

Trash bags on the sideway.

A dim-sum restaurant.

Crowd.

Supermarket.

Trash bags on the sideway.

Supermarket.

A noodle-place.

A tourist shooting photos of a Chinese lady picking up apples at the grocery store.

Supermarket.

Trash bags on the sideway.

Welcome to main street Flushing!

The Chinatowns, including Flushing, have long been marketed for their authentic, and cheap food, attracting tourists from around the world. To have a neighborhood like Flushing where all the good restaurants and supermarkets gathered together is definitely a good thing, at least for foodies like us, Chinese students studying abroad who do not have access to gain an authentic taste from their hometown when living in Manhattan.

However, if you have a close look to the details of the neighborhood besides the appealing neon signs of dim sum restaurants, you will find Flushing is not only a place colonized by food, but also, trash.

On Monday I told a friend that I was going to Flushing, and he immediately gave me this “Why-do-you-ever-want-to-go-to-that-place” face. “I know there’s good food there… but Flushing is not a nice place.” He later added.

My friend is also a Chinese student, and I knew what he meant when he said, “flushing is not nice.” Most of my Chinese friends will not consider going to Flushing unless they want to shop for cheap groceries or eat at a new Sichuan food restaurant. There is a poor sanitation service in downtown Flushing: there were used to be less than 50 waste bins in Flushing and the government is now trying to build up more to clean up the bustling neighborhood. However, their efforts are not receiving a very good result. Trashes are still all over the place and there are huge piles of trash bags outside supermarkets and restaurants.

Initially I was having my research focusing on the raingardens polluted in the main street. However, after walking around the neighborhood and really digging into it, I realized the environmental issue in Flushing is not merely about the rain gardens but more about the food businesses there. People shopping at the supermarkets are consuming tons of plastics bags here every day.

img15 copyTherefore, to improve my project, I will have both portraits and analyses of the rain gardens and the supermarkets in neighborhood. I am very inspired by the documentary called the Food Inc., as it is the case showing the “dark side” of the dazzling and alluring food industry, or supermarkets specifically, and it tells how consumerism and the food business are destroying the environment and human bodies. In the trailer, I see how the director is using first-person perspective when he shoots the scene of the person shopping inside a supermarket. The colors are highly saturated, and there are lots of close-up scenes of the food, which create a strong affect in showing how desires and consumerism are created in this environment. When I was recording the video in Flushing, I tried to apply his tactics to my own work. Hopefully after editing the videos could creative an immersive experience for the viewers, making them feel like shopping in Flushing and overwhelmed by the dazzling commodities, food and the trash. I also have close-up shots with the plastic bags people were holding after they shopped at the supermarkets.

Continue reading ‘The supermarket (a.k.a trash) colony’

Curating for Immersion

•March 28, 2018 • 1 Comment

Since the beginning of this course, my ongoing examination of the cultural and environmental ecology of Jackson Heights has reached a plateau of sorts. I feel that, after the initial experiences and getting to know the neighborhood thoroughly, my continuous visits are starting to feel stale and uninspired. I find myself struggling to search for signs that would indicate a state of precarity, and I realized that I may be actively imposing negative connotations to my observations for the sake of satisfying the theme of my project.

In my last blog post I talked about the duality of Jackson Heights, its attraction in the form of a hyperdiversified, concentrated, and affordable neighborhood with a variety of ethnic food spots, and its contrasting reputation of a troubled area with a relatively high propensity of crime and social instability. I have come to understand that the vast majority of the area’s inhabitants, including visitors and locals, are most likely not aware of, or don’t have the time and effort to give attention to, statistical trends and informational reports. I myself think that it is indeed very difficult to visit Jackson Heights and come out of it with an unpleasant experience.

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So far in my portrayal of this ecology on my website through image, text, and audio, I have been trying to convey an affect of disorganization, uncertainty, and volatility. In the following weeks I will work on improving the overall effectiveness of this narrative through editing photos, mixing audio, and documenting through video. I aim to curate the content on my site to create an immersive experience for my audience, where my intentions would be clear as soon as they begin to navigate the site.

I’m still in the process of brainstorming for my home page, though I would most likely use visuallly appealing images, such as pictures of food and colorful architecture, to draw viewers in, then reveal through other forms of multimedia the underlying precarity the area holds. I recently adjusted the color scheme of my website to make it match the dominant colors present in the space. I also want my site to resemble my ecology in a way that reflects its aesthetic and distinct features. Perhaps I can create an interactive map of all the different ethnic backdrops that participate in the cultural disposition of Jackson Heights, and show how they relate to each other.

I also plan to have hyperlinks scattered around my web pages that would probably link to elaborations on different aspects of the neighborhood, as well as some short video clips. I wish to integrate visual and audio elements that would mimic the experience of physical being at the space, with distractions and sensual stimuli everywhere. I have yet to have the chance of exploring the area during night time, so I may plan my next visit accordingly to hopefully discover a new facet or potential idea to enhance the effectiveness of my project. I found the following video which I think displays another side of Jackson Heights worth investigating.