Burroughs Adding Machine

Social justice, arts and politics, life in New York City

Fort Greene, Ghana, Des Moines

On my way to Ghana via New York City, and my friend Lara–a superb novelist and screenwriter–graciously offered me a place to crash for a couple nights. Her neighborhood is Fort Greene, a little bit south of the hipster mecca Williamsburg, and the frontier of gentrification. Had a spectacular South African dinner at Madiba, a mango capirinha at one of Esquire’s Best Bars called The Hideaway, and the polar opposite, a local dive bar called the Alibi, where Lara was told by a friend that we’d just missed the barbeque (dammit). Fort Greene is truly a mix of incomes, races, and sexual orientations. Maybe I should go back to graduate school for urban planning with my interest in Jane Jacobs (read The Rise and Fall of Great American Cities, if you haven’t already, about the impact (mostly negative) of urban renewal in places like Boston’s West End) and gentrification in general.

Our flight takes off today for Ghana and I’ll be off the grid for most of the next six weeks. Lots to post about the travels around Ghana and Togo. And my folks’ 60th wedding anniversary in Des Moines as well! Stay tuned.

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The Girl Effect

As I mentioned, I’m in residence in a BC dorm (a perk and a perturbance) with a gaggle of highly motivated, incoming first-year students. One of the things that I forget about spending time with young people is the carelessness with which their everyday conversation reinforces stereotypes. Not all of these students, mind you, but a few.

Thoughts that cross my mind:

Is this a microcosm of other college students?

Of my adult contemporaries in general?

Typical conversation:

“Did you get his/her number?”

“He/she’s a player.”

Me: “How do you define a player?”

“She’s a ho. He gets around.”

I’m perturbed by this casual reference to women who may be sexual as “ho”, while the men are let off by a casual, less loaded “gets around.” Stuff we all know, of course, but still echoes in everyday conversation.

How might we empower women, instead of demean them? (This goes for all genders.) How can we move away from gender stereotypes outside the academic classroom? After all, if we’re only challenging our own prejudices and stereotypes when a teacher’s around, what good is a good education?

The Girl Effect appealed to me not only for its graphic design, but for its empowerment of young women and its social conscience. I’m leaving for Ghana in about a week, and acutely aware of the impact of simple gestures. I’m even more aware of the fact that I’ll be learning more than serving.

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Radiohead covering Portishead

I’ve been indigent on the posts lately, working at BC as the director of an orientation program for students who are the first in their families to go to college. It’s both tiring and exhilirating. Good thing is that Lucy’s here, too.

Came across Radiohead’s quiet cover of Portishead’s “The Fix.” Have you downloaded their new album, Third, yet? It’s fantastic, and hearing Thom Yorke’s almost too-pretty voice covering Beth Gibbon’s sultry voice gives the song a whole new, stripped-down feel.

Here’s the Portishead version (what did we ever do before YouTube?):

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» "Pinays," AGNI, Spring 2016
» "Dandy," Post Road, Spring 2015
» "Wrestlers," Fifth Wednesday, Spring 2014
» "Babies," Joyland, August 2011
» "Nicolette and Maribel," BostonNow, May 2007
» "The Rice Bowl," Memorious, March 2005
» "The Rules of the Game," Screaming Monkeys: Critiques of Asian American Images (Coffee House Press, June 2003)
» "Deaf Mute," Growing Up Filipino (Philippine American Literary House, April 2003)
» "Good Men ," Genre, April 2003
» "The Foley Artist," Drunken Boat, April 2002
» "Squatters," Take Out: Queer Writing from Asian Pacific America (Asian Am. Writers' Workshop, 2001)
» "Deaf Mute," The North American Review, Jan 2001
» "The First Lady of Our Filipino Nation," The Boston Phoenix, 1999
» "Paper Route," Flyway Literary Review, 1996
» "Brainy Smurf and the Council Bluffs Pride Parade," Generation Q (Alyson, 1996)
July 2008


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Ricco Villanueva Siasoco is a Manhattan-based writer and non-profit manager. More

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