thoughts on food, culture, and community

Archive for the tag “graffiti”

Friday Photo: Stop the Killing

Harrisburg, PA (March 2014)

Harrisburg, PA (March 2014)

You can tell that Harrisburg was ranked as 25th most dangerous city in the US in 2013 when you see citizens, like this one, asking for change.

Friday Photo: Graffiti and musical rebellion, Metz, France

Metz, France 2008

Metz, France, 2008

Just days after a friend of mine visited Metz, France, and questioned why the French would ever deface their beautiful, ancient buildings with graffiti, I stumbled across this phrase, barely visible in the dark: “Beethoven is a revolutionary.”

While I didn’t answer my friend at the time, I should have told her that I love thought-provoking graffiti not only because of what is says but also how it says it and where. The combination between images and words, medium and method, never ceases to amaze me.

Here, I imagine some French teenager, in the classic image of rebellion, scampering off with a can of spray paint in the dark, only to paint a statement about classical music and Beethoven’s unorthodox take to it. Alan Woods summarizes: “After Beethoven (1770-1827), it was impossible to go back to the old days when music was regarded as a soporific for wealthy patrons who could doze through a symphony and then go home quietly to bed. After Beethoven, one no longer returned from a concert humming pleasant tunes. This is music that does not calm, but shocks and disturbs. it is music that makes you think and feel.”

In other words, even though Beethoven’s music is now considered standard in classical repertoire, his music in his time was emotional, nuanced, and breaking musical taboo.

Graffiti like this makes me rethink the purpose and the place of public thought. It makes me rethink my typical image of a graffiti artist. It also reminds me that change — even through music — is rarely appreciated until after it manages to happen.

The wisdom of the bathroom stall

American women are infamous for using public restrooms in pairs, talking to one another while in adjacent stalls, and continuing the conversation while washing their hands and heading right back out to the public sphere. However, nothing surprised me more than these written words found in a bathroom stall in the woman’s room on the second floor of Pittsburgh‘s iconic Cathedral of Learning, where bomb threats had marred the bathroom walls less than a year ago.

Bathroom graffiti isn’t unusual, and the comments in this stall aren’t all pristine, but the tone of many of these words uplifts, rethinks, and inspires. Comments and artwork are added daily, and I visit this stall as much as possible. Seriously. Why shouldn’t a public restroom be a place of reflection and dialogue? A new perspective is sometimes most effective when it’s unexpected.

October 2012

October 2012

October 2012

Friday Photo: Graffiti plea for social change

Maclay and 6th Street, Harrisburg


Friday Photo: Kill Your Television

Uptown, Harrisburg, October 2011

I found these words on a street on which I’ve never walked before.  I do not know the street name, but what I know for sure it was north of Maclay, the unofficial dividing line between Harrisburg’s Old Uptown and “real” Uptown, between poverty and prosperity, between black and white.  When living on the farm in Shippensburg, I never understood how it was be possible that the contrast between city neighborhoods could be so stark, but the answer as I see it now is both complex and simple: differences in money and thus schools, differences in traditions and thus legacy, differences in opportunity and thus the lack of it, which both enrobe and result in the mistrust of a stereotype.

But here’s a fact that brings us together: in 2010, according to the Bureau of Labor Statistics, Americans over the age of 15 spent an average of 2 hours and 45 minutes watching television daily, making TV-watching the most third-most prominent activity in our lives.  (As the survey includes retirees and teenagers and charts daily activity, including weekends, sleeping tops the chart at 8 1/2 hours, and “work-related activities” only clocks in at 3 1/2 hours).  This means that watching television one of the most unifying activities across races, genders, and age.

There’s a problem in this equation–for all of us.  Norman Herr, Ph.D., author of the textbook The Sourcebook for Teaching Science publishes on his website that, by the time a child finishes elementary school, he has witnessed 8,000 murders via television, and will watch 400,000 violent acts by the time that he reaches 18.  He also writes that many of Americans are so “hooked” on watching television that the act, for some, fits the criteria for substance abuse (usually defined by answering “yes” to two or more of the following questions): 1) the substance is used as a sedative; 2) it is used indiscriminately; 3) the user feels a loss of control while partaking; (4) the user feels angry with himself for using too much; (5) he feels an inability to stop; and (6) he feels miserable when the substance is being withheld.

(Does “I accidentally stayed up until 2am watching Breaking Bad” sound familiar to anyone?)

It’s easy to laugh off these occurrences, but with these statistics in mind–along with well-popularized figures of increasing childhood obesity rates–it is no longer funny.  I originally read the message I found with the violent wording (“Kill,” not just “Turn off”) in a rough neighborhood as being fueled by one resident’s frustration about and awareness to the role that excessive television-watching plays in the cycle of poverty and abuse, but apparently, the message is for all of us–south of Maclay and otherwise.

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