Lazy Saturday Reads: “Shelter in Plates” — WTF? — And Other NewsPosted: April 26, 2014
The image to the right shows a commemorative plate from the “Shelter in Plates” project created by Chantal Zakari and Mike Mandela, a married couple who live in Watertown, MA, to mark the day when their town was locked down while hundreds (thousands?) of law enforcement officers swarmed their neighborhood in search of Dzhokhar Tsarnaev, the younger of the accused Boston Marathon bombers.
When I first saw these plates, I laughed out loud. The image of someone collecting these plates and displaying them in your home just struck me as ridiculous and incongruous. Every time I looked at them, I laughed out loud and couldn’t stop laughing. “Just the thing to add to a collection of Princess Diana and Elvis plates!”
I too was shocked to see multiple swat teams confronting innocent people in their homes and military equipment in the streets of a residential neighborhood. IMO the response to the killing of an MIT police officer and a carjacking was way over the top. It’s amazing that no one was killed by one of the hundreds of stray bullets that penetrated the walls of people’s houses. And the conduct of the manhunt the next day was even worse. In the end Tsarnaev was discovered, not by law enforcement but by a homeowner who went into his backyard to check on his boat and found the fugitive inside. I guess it’s just the notion of memorializing the events with plates that struck me funny.
But there is also serious side to this story. Last year, the Chief of Police of Watertown contacted couple’s employer at the School of the Museum of Fine Arts. From PBS station WGBH:
“We created the website on a Saturday or Sunday, and four days later I got a call from my employer saying that Chief (Ed) Deveau had called and wanted my employer to pull funding out of the project, because if this project went to the press it would be bad publicity for the institution,” Zakari said.
Sarah McKinnon is the dean of the School of the Museum of Fine Arts. That is Zakari and Mandel’s place of employment. She remembered the call from Chief Deveau.
“Back in December, I had a phone call from Chief Deveau from Watertown police to talk to me a little bit about it,” McKinnon stated. “He said, ‘Were you aware that the SMFA was mentioned on the website?’ and I said, ‘No, I wasn’t.’ So I took a closer look and indeed saw that SMFA was mentioned on the website itself. SMFA had supported the project by virtue of a faculty enrichment grant.”
The article doesn’t say this specifically, but it appears that McKinnon did ask Zakari and Mandel to remove the school’s name from their website, but the funding for the project was not withdrawn.
McKinnon says that the SMFA respects academic freedom and there was no attempt to rescind the faculty enrichment grant that had actually been dispensed a year ago, despite her misgivings.
“My concern is, I just didn’t want the school seen in a negative light. My concern was not with the particulars of the project, which I didn’t know about, but we didn’t want to be taking advantage of anyone else’s suffering. If this was a project that would put us in a bad light, that was of concern to me,” McKinnon said.
But Mandel argued that Chief Deveau was attempting to intimidate the artists.
“For the chief of police —in his official capacity—to call our employer and make his accusations was an act of intimidation,” Mandel said. “It was an act of harassment and he should desist, and in addition he should apologize.”
I absolutely agree with him, despite the fact that I loathe commemorative plates generally, and think the ones Madel and Zakari designed are ludicrous. The couple’s attorney sent a letter to Deveau demanding that he cease and desist from further harassment. The letter is posted on and their website. You can watch the WGBH interview with Zakari and Mandel on YouTube.
What do you think?
In other news . . .
Following on massive publicity about Cliven Bundy over the past week, the New York Times published a fascinating article about changing demographics in the U.S.: Southern Whites’ Loyalty to G.O.P. Nearing That of Blacks to Democrats.
President Obama’s landslide victory in 2008 was supposed to herald the beginning of a new Democratic era. And yet, six years later, there is not even a clear Democratic majority in the country, let alone one poised for 30 years of dominance….
From the high plains of West Texas to the Atlantic Coast of Georgia, white voters opposed Mr. Obama’s re-election in overwhelming numbers. In many counties 90 percent of white voters chose Mitt Romney, nearly the reversal of the margin by which black voters supported Mr. Obama.
While white Southerners have been voting Republican for decades, the hugeness of the gap was new. Mr. Obama often lost more than 40 percent of Al Gore’s support among white voters south of the historically significant line of the Missouri Compromise. Two centuries later, Southern politics are deeply polarized along racial lines. It is no exaggeration to suggest that in these states the Democrats have become the party of African Americans and that the Republicans are the party of whites.
I hope you’ll read the whole thing if you haven’t already. Particularly interesting is this map of counties (in yellow) where Obama received less than 20% of the white vote in the last election (census data was not available for Alaska).
This pattern represents a reversal of a trend that suggested “the South’s assimilation into the American political and cultural mainstream.” Some southern and western areas of the U.S. are regressing to the point that it’s as if the Civil War never happened. How would these areas respond to a woman President?
Milford, CT high school stabbing
Early yesterday morning, 16-year-old Maren Sanchez was murdered by male classmate who reportedly had asked her to go to the junior prom with him and was angry at being turned down. From the Hartford Courant:
MILFORD, Conn. — A 16-year-old Connecticut high school student was stabbed to death Friday morning, and police are investigating whether the 16-year-old male who is suspected of killing her had wanted to take her to the junior prom, which was scheduled for Friday night.
Jonathan Law High School junior Maren Sanchez was killed in a hallway at the school.
The suspect, also a junior at the school in Milford, was charged as a juvenile offender with murder. His name is being withheld because he is a minor, police said….
Milford Police Chief Keith Mello said that the assault happened about 7:15 a.m. in a hallway inside Jonathan Law High School. A staff member witnessed part of the assault, he said, and tried to help. Others joined the effort, and EMS personnel soon arrived to take Sanchez to Bridgeport Hospital. She was pronounced dead at 7:43 a.m., Mello said….
Police said that Sanchez suffered multiple cuts to her neck, chest and face. Investigators recovered a knife at the scene.
The prom was cancelled. Milford is about a half-hour’s drive from Newtown, CT. Read more and see photos at The New York Daily News, which also learned the name of the alleged murderer.
Jonathan Law High School students should have been going to their junior prom Friday night. Instead, the teens went to a seaside vigil for their murdered classmate.
About 200 community members and students, some wearing their prom dresses and tuxedos, gathered Friday evening at Walnut Beach in Milford, Conn., to remember 16-year-old Maren Sanchez, a junior who was murdered earlier in the day at the school after rejecting a classmate’s invitation to the dance….
Anguished classmates funneled down to Walnut Beach around 6 p.m. — just one hour before the school’s junior prom was scheduled to start at a nearby banquet hall. The annual dance was postponed after the tragedy.
Wearing their formal wear, students cried and prayed at the local beach, the Hartford Courant reported. Friends shouted out memories of their slain classmate as they released purple balloons into the sky and yelled “Love you, Maren,” the newspaper reported.
Earlier, students covered a rock outside the school with purple spray paint and wrote the teen’s name and birthday, Aug. 26, 1997, alongside a white heart.
Henry David Thoreau, Walden Pond, and Climate Change
Yesterday, NPR’s Science Friday had a report on Henry David Thoreau’s careful 160-year-old observations of plants in the Walden Pond area of Concord, MA and how they are being used by climate scientists today. The guest was Richard Primack, Professor of Biology at Boston University and author of the book, Walden Warming: Climate Change Comes to Thoreau’s Woods.
From The Guardian, Scientists use Thoreau’s journal notes to track climate change.
Fittingly for a man seen as the first environmentalist, Henry David Thoreau, who described his isolated life in 1840s Massachusetts in the classic of American literature Walden, is now helping scientists pin down the impacts of climate change.
The American author, who died in 1862, is best known for his account of the two years he spent living in a one-room wooden cabin near Walden Pond “because I wished to live deliberately, to front only the essential facts of life”. Packed with descriptions of the natural world he loved, Walden is partly autobiographical, partly a manifesto for Thoreau’s belief in the rightness of living close to nature. “I never found the companion that was so companionable as solitude,” he writes. “Simplify, simplify.”
But Thoreau was also a naturalist, and he meticulously observed the first flowering dates for over 500 species of wildflowers in Concord, Massachusetts, between 1851 and 1858, recording them in a set of tables. When Richard Primack, a biology professor at Boston University, and fellow researcher Abraham Miller-Rushing discovered Thoreau’s unpublished records, they immediately realised how useful they would be for pinning down the impact of the changing climate over the last century and a half. The timing of seasonal events such as flowering dates is known as phenology, and the phenologies of plants in a temperate climate such as that of Massachusetts are very sensitive to temperature, say the scientists. Studying phenology is therefore a good indicator of ecological responses to climate change.
“We had been searching for historical records for about six months when we learned about Thoreau’s plant observations. We knew right away that they would be incredibly useful for climate change research because they were from 150 years ago, there were so many species included, and they were gathered by Thoreau, who is so famous in the United States for his book Walden,” said Primack. “The records were surprisingly easy to locate once we were aware of them. A copy was given to us by an independent research scholar, who knew that they would be valuable for climate change research.”
For a more in-depth report of the research project, check out this long-form article at Smithsonian Magazine.
In the real world, where we’re definitely not doing much to address climate change, The Financial Times reports that, a “senior scientist” has charged that the “Climate Change Report was Watered Down.”
A politically sensitive part of the latest report by the world’s leading authority on climate change was gutted at the insistence of government officials, one of the study’s authors has revealed.
Nearly 75 per cent of a section on the impact of international climate negotiations was deleted at a meeting in Berlin two weeks ago, said one of the authors responsible for that part of the report, Harvard University’s Professor Robert Stavins.
The Berlin meeting was held so representatives of the world’s governments could approve a summary of a massive report by the UN’s Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change, on how to tackle climate change which took hundreds of authors from around the world nearly five years to compile.
The report was the third of a trilogy of studies the IPCC has released since September in its fifth major assessment of the latest state of knowledge about climate change.
Prof Stavins, a leading expert on climate negotiations at Harvard’s John F. Kennedy School of Government, wrote to the organisers of the Berlin meeting last week to express his “disappointment and frustration” at the outcome.
Read the rest at the Financial Times link.