Burroughs Adding Machine

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

Eat the Yak Butter?

Martha Stewart is interviewing Susan Orlean on this morning’s show. Admittedly, a guilty pleasure.

However, I’m also troubled by what I see as glimmers of exoticism in their conversation. A typical question: “Did you eat any unusual foods?” Orleans and Stewart commence discussing the yak butter and other uncivilized things “they” might have slipped into the tea. Sure, yak butter is unusual or, worse, exotic, to us–but what about to the people we’re visiting? To those who do not view yaks as exotic but as familiar and as necessary as cows or pigs are to American diets.

Yet another cringe-worthy moment during the show: “I’ve been to the most uncivilized places.”

I find it troubling how often we view our own milieu as the primary one, or worse, the “right” or “civilized” world; meanwhile, other cultures are exoticized as something less than. More articulate theorists (Edward Said on Orientalism, for example) than me have mulled over this dilemma. It’s interesting to witness how we, as Americans, easily prioritize our own values and culture over others.

I was recently interviewed and asked, “What’s the importance of learning about other cultures?” The answer seemed self-evident: expanding one’s mind, gaining empathy and solidarity (often with people less fortunate than us), sharing a larger worldview with friends and family at home.

Below, a short clip about Edward Said and his ground-breaking contributions to post-colonial theory. As Prof Jhally reminds us in this clip, Said’s theory of Orientalism asks: “How can we come to understand other people who look different than us?”


Filed under: travel, , , ,

Demystifying the Hollywood aura

As a recovering film major, I still have an unhealthy obsession with movies.

This video from Stargate Studios (a promotional reel? or just an attempt to demystify the mystique of Hollywood?) shows us the bones of the movie machine. It’s pretty amazing to watch epic landscapes–everything from the desert to Times Square–as they appear or disappear behind the actors.

Filed under: film, , , ,

A Smart Thing to Do: Swarm the HRC, not Obama

They’re calling it a blog swarm, and I’m on board.

Tired of the “yes men” (note the intentional gendering of that term) attitude of the Human Rights Campaign, notable bloggers (including Pam Spaulding of Pam’s House Blend, at right) are calling on HRC to make truly represent the needs and demands of lesbian and gay citizens in the U.S. Rather than passively accomodate the agenda of the White House and the democrats, the so-called, self-identified blog swarm is calling out the Joe Solomonese and the Human Rights Campaign for its inaction.

Yes, call your Senators and Representatives. Yes, make your voice heard in the White House. But also call on your foremost gay rights advocacy group–intentionally called the “Human Rights Campaign”–to stand up for human rights, namely:

  • the 2010 repeal of DADT (which may not happen in Obama’s first term without HRC agenda-setting),
  • the passage of ENDA, to forbid employee discrimination based on sexual orientation or gender identity,
  • and, of course, an end to legalized federal discrimination in DOMA.

The blog swarm says call on Human Rights Campaign to stop accepting the donations and accomodating agenda of an elite donor list–and to step up to the plate on issues of real importance for the glbt community.


Filed under: gay rights, , , , , , , ,

Glee: Cause for Concern?

Yes, another post about Glee.

Try this one on for size: the dumb, blonde cheerleader (with a heart of gold–remember when she bought her friend Becky a cupcake in the wheelchair episode?) talking with the smart, multiracial cheerleader about Rachel’s outfits: “Those sweaters make her look home-schooled.”

Gawker worries that this preview means that Glee has jumped the shark. I used that phrase when I was speaking with my undergrad interns tonight, and they all stared at me with blank faces. I must be getting old.

But not too old to enjoy some giddy anticipation for Glee. Gawker worries about the prospects for a new season, as well as pitfalls to avoid from other fabulous first-seasons. I worry, too, but giving the producers the benefit of the doubt.


Filed under: television, , , , ,

America (Literally) in Ruins

Photographer Camilo Jose Vergara takes as his subject abandoned, neglected, unloved buildings across America. His photographs appeal to the futility of industriousness; in a series of images detailing a Packard manufacturing plant in Detroit, for example, the sheer time span of his photographs (taken over a dozen years) reveals how nature can be relentless–even ravenous.

As Vergara notes in his introduction:

Abandoned and derelict buildings quickly become hosts to vegetation on their roofs and in their walls. The rain and wind accelerate their descent into ruin. Often, unscrupulous contractors and businesspeople use ruins as dumps for discarded old tires and broken appliances. Ruins are potential homes for the homeless and offices for drug dealers.

These are abandoned structures in New York, New Jersey, and Detroit. The buildings range from residential houses and office buildings to a depressing (though beautiful) church overgrown with moss. In his quiet, artful way, Camilo Jose Vergara captures the inevitable futility of man against nature.


Filed under: art, , , ,



» "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)
February 2010
« Jan   Mar »


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About Me

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

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