Monday, October 20, 2008

Censorship in the Mission

This mural, on 24th St in San Francisco's Mission district, is one I've often noticed and liked. Painted by the group Homey (Homies Organizing the Mission to Empower Youth) it unfolds across 117 feet of concrete, showing people challenging the barriers --cultural, societal and physical -- that oppress and divide them. But I never really knew anything about its history.
Today, I learned the panel above originally depicted these figures bursting a Palestine-shaped hole through the wall, and that the woman on the bottom was first painted with her kuffiyeh covering her face.

When the San Francisco Jewish Community Relations Council and the local office of the Anti-Defamation League caught wind of it, they pressed the San Francisco Arts Commission to have the mural changed, and managed to suspend the community beautification grant that funded the project until Homey agreed to compromise on their design.

What does it say when nice, liberal San Francisco is comfortable with public art and public discourse that challenges the legitimacy of the wall on the US-Mexican border, but censors any similar challenges to the wall between Israel and Palestine?

[In other news, right after I started typing this, a car window got smashed right below my bedroom window. My neighbors ran the guy off, but this is at least the second time this week. The neighborhood has been crazy lately]

Saturday, October 18, 2008

Pumpkin Festival

I went to the Half Moon Bay Pumpkin Festival this afternoon. It was a nice escape from the daily routine, but the whole affair had an "end of the Roman Empire" vibe I found a little hard to shake.

Scenes from the Pumpkin Pie eating contest.

Wednesday, October 15, 2008

Human bone found in Bataan Camp

From the Philippine Daily Inquirer:

Human bone in Bataan camp
by Nikko Dizon
LIMAY, BATAAN—Braving rains, a fact-finding team Tuesday dug up a yellow rubber slipper, a laced shirt and burned fragments of what they suspected was a human bone in an area where a former detainee said he saw people being tortured by soldiers. [more]

and more

and more

I don't even know what to say. So I'll quote UP Professor Roland Simbulan, from an interview I did in Summer 2007:

“There were human rights abuses before. Illegal arrests, torture, detention. But what is different now under Arroyo is the extent of killings of political activists. In fact, there’s an ugly joke going around that they don’t anymore have to feed them. Because during the Marcos time, and Ramos and other administrations, they would arrest an activist, or torture him at the most. But at least they were alive, they kept them in detention later to be released. But now, they’re not arresting them anymore. They just kill them. There’s not even a formal charge against them. They just abduct them, and perhaps they would try to extract as much information from them, and then they kill them. Some of their bodies or corpses are not even found. So that’s the difference, the gravity or the volume of people who are being killed. It’s very alarming."
It's not completely impossible this is some sort of elaborate hoax. Not completely.
And I'd very much like to think so, and that Karen EmpeƱo and Manuel Merino are still safe and alive somewhere in the mountains.
But it doesn't seem likely. By the most ridiculously conservative numbers, there have been at least 200 extrajudicial executions since Arroyo came to power. By the greatest estimate, over 1000. And I personally know multiple people who have been kidnapped by paramilitaries, taken to camps in isolated areas and subjected to brutal torture.
So there's no real doubt in my mind that Manalo is telling the truth. I just hope that this time, this one time, some of the blood sticks on somebody's hands.

Saturday, October 11, 2008

Crew slideshow

My multimedia slideshow on the Jack London Aquatic Center's crew team for Oakland youth is not up at

More to come...

Wednesday, October 08, 2008

VP Debate collage

Multi-media collage I built (using other people's photos and reporting -- it was a mostly successful collaborative excercise). It doesn't fit too well in this column, so click on the box at the lower right (with the arrows) to view full screen.

Vuvox is my new favorite toy.

Rice crisis revisited

UPDATE: You can view a slideshow of the pictures below. But you'll still have to actually visit the set to read the text.

Back in June, when I first started taking pictures of the rice crisis in Mindanao, I wasn't really sure what I wanted to do with them. Since, for the moment, the answer seems to have been "nothing" I thought I'd at least put them all up publicly (Some of the pictures, and most of the text haven't been up before).
The full set is now up here
There's quite a bit of explanatory text along with the photos. One of these days, I do still intend to put this all together, but for now time seems hard to come by.

Sunday, October 05, 2008

Lazy Sunday

After days spent immersed in the arcane minutiae of municipal bond markets, it was nice to take a short day assignment that basically involved hanging out with kids in a neighborhood park.

(Of course, I do still have to write the bond piece.)