30 March 2010

chocolate & arugula transpositional pun contest!

What's a transpositional pun, you ask? It is a pun that involves not only a clever redefinition of a popular phrase or saying but also the repositioning of the words in that phrase. For it to be a chocolate & arugula transpositional pun, it also has to be grounded in a popular black or green reference that refers to the other.

I found a great one when I was in a bookstore this past weekend: Waste is a Terrible Thing to Mind, about a state agency's attempt to discreetly dispose of waste.


The title is, of course, a transpositional pun on UNCF's motto, "A Mind is a Terrible Thing to Waste." Wildly popular and award-winning, the motto, credited to Forest Long of the Young and Rubicam ad agency, was first used in 1972.

The contest also includes clever word & visual play:

Examples include The New Yorker's play on John Howard Griffin's Black Like Me with "Green Like Me" for an article on environmental stunt writers and Green America transposing Tommie Smith and John Carlos' raised arms at the Mexico Olympics in 1968 on the arm of the Statue of Liberty on their new t-shirt design.

Now it's your turn. Let the chocolate & arugula transpositional pun/word & visual play contest begin! Act quickly. You have just one week. Email your submissions (as many as you like) to mmcquirter@gmail.com by Wednesday 7 April 2010.

The clever winner's prize will be either Camille Dungy's Black Nature or Dianne Glave's Rooted in the Earth (due out August 2010). The winner's choice.

Share & submit!

26 March 2010

children, school selection & sustainability

Mara, who's 4, attends Acorn Hill, a Waldorf School in Silver Spring, MD. She will attend again next year and possibly a year after that. (Acorn Hill accepts students up to age 7.) Before Acorn Hill, she attended a morning coop at the Kennedy Recreation Center in Washington, DC. I and other parents volunteered one day a week. It was a wonderful experience.


Less wonderful is the elementary school selection process. For a city that has so many choices--public, charter, private--it can feel like you have no choices. Why? Because private schools are thru the roof ($20,000+), public schools are uneven and charter schools are like water in a desert. Most charter schools have applications in the 100s for a dozen spots. 1 Montessori bilingual school didn't take one child from its waiting list.


But that's not the main reason I opted out of the whole process. What mostly all 3 types have in common is an over-emphasis on learning. Let me explain. Because of the testing stats in DC, the goal has been to get children into schools at younger ages (away from their parents?!) and teach them how to read, etc., so that they don't have to play catch up later. I understand the rationale but those metrics have nothing to do with Mara.


Therefore, I chose a school that is nestled in the woods, that encourages her to use her imagination, where vegan snacks are prepared every day, where she plays outside daily in almost any weather and where I already knew 2 of the teachers and several parents!

It also means that I chose driving (a Zipcar!) 20 minutes, 2x per day, which can be a real grind, and paying tuition.

In my school selection/sustainability calculus, Acorn Hill was the best choice.

I'd love to hear from you about how/whether sustainability factors into your school selection calculus.

i can comment now!

I'm so excited. I have not been able to leave comments since I started the blog back in July. Why? Some blogger glitch. So if you've been wondering why I haven't commented on your comments, now you know.

let the dialoguing commence....

21 March 2010

¡happy 1st night of spring!

I'm just settling down from a glorious day in DC. Mara and her bff, Naima, are asleep (which is no small feat), exhausted from fun at a party, a playground, Grandmama's house and then home for bed jumping, lite brite and eating fruit and crackers in my bed! After three books--Where The Wild Things Are, Stone Soup and I Remember 121--they are out!

I love this time of night when Mara is sleeping, the dishwasher and dryer are swishing and twirling, and I'm relaxing with a movie on Hulu before I go to sleep.

I'd love to hear your 1st spring night stories.

09 March 2010

♫the sol bus♫


It's a bus powered by the sun!

Sun Pods, Inc. & Bauer Intelligent Transportation have teamed up to create the first "solar power-assist system for buses" in the U.S.

How does it work?

Four thin film solar panels, that run the length of the bus, charge an on-board battery bank. When the engine is turned off, to avoid illegal idling, the batteries can still power the ac and wireless connectivity equipment, and riders remain cool and comfortable.

i love it!

Read the press release here.

photo is of the tindo solar & electric-powered bus in australia from inhabitat.com

take (the) a train

42 states and Puerto Rico have been given a total of $600 million dollars for 191 projects that will, according to Vice-President Joe Biden and U.S. Transportation Secretary Ray LaHood, "help transform the nation’s infrastructure and support thousands of jobs across the country." For public transportation users, that means that buses, subways and trains should be better maintained and more accessible.


To find out what your city/state/territory received, click here.

photo under creative commons license from Washington Metro wikipedia entry.

08 March 2010

naomi davis & big


Naomi Davis, founder of BIG--Blacks in Green, was featured in The New York Times last Friday. I met her back in October at a dinner she organized at Busboys and Poets when she was in town for the Green Festival. She is quite dynamic!

Click here for the article.

photo by Marya McQuirter. feel free to use & credit! Naomi Davis, Busboys & Poets, 5th & K, October 2009.

04 March 2010

peta & gibert arenas & free furs


The same day that I posted about PETA's fur-free ad, Gilbert Arenas was hosting PETA's free fur give-away to (formerly) homeless women at Rachael's Women's Center here in DC! (The furs are donated by people who decide it is unethical to purchase and wear a fur.)


Arenas' relationship with PETA dates back to early January when he posed for their "Ink, Not Mink" ad.


Arenas, who has been suspended by the NBA and drop-kicked by Adidas, is apparently happy that PETA is not abandoning him in response to his arrest for carrying guns into the locker room.

So many issues come up for me with this story. Here are a few:

1. Is it ethical to wear fur even if you don't buy it?

2. I am uneasy about using the image of the furs because they serve to desensitize us to the unseen but very real violence within.

3. I am also uneasy about using Arenas' ad because I disagree with PETA's general philosophy that it is acceptable to deploy sexism, racism and other isms in the name of the almighty animal rights. Although, I understand it.

4. Is PETA implicitly hoping that the coupling of fur with homeless women will lead to the decoupling of fur with celebrity/wealth and, therefore, will lessen the cultural cache of wearing fur?

5. Did any of the women at Rachael's Women's Center refuse a fur on ethical grounds?


What do you think? Any other issues come up for you?


photos: Arenas' "Ink, Not Mink" here. Arenas w/ Rachael's Women's Center unidentified client here. Rachael's Women's Center logo here.

02 March 2010

it's a surprise-ful day in my neighborhood

While walking in my neighborhood, I saw two advertisements that completely surprised me. One was by PETA, a simple, large brown banner that said, "Make DC Fur Free."


The other, by the World Wildlife Federation, beckoned, "Don't wait until they are gone." "There are as few as 3,200 tigers left in the wild." And "Protect the future of nature" is captioned underneath a photo of a tiger.


Why was I surprised?

1. I saw both of them within 15 minutes from my apartment. I wondered when my neighborhood became a desirable market for organizations focused on animals! I live in Petworth, which is primarily black, Latino/a and white, ranging from the working poor to middle class.

2. The PETA ad appears on the storefront of a vegan carry-out owned by the Black Hebrew Israelites, a mainstay here for over a decade. They receive a wide range of customers, including students at nearby Howard University. The carry-out is located on Georgia Avenue, one of DC's main corridors, and, therefore, would be in the sight line of thousands of walkers, bikers, bus riders and drivers.

3. Although PETA has placed signs in primarily black neighborhoods before, it's been several years since I've seen one.

4. The WWF ad about tigers really surprised me. This one was placed on a bus stop, where several bus lines intersect, and in front of the Georgia Avenue/Petworth Metro station. Similar to the PETA ad, it could be seen by thousands of walkers, bikers, bus and subway riders and drivers. But because much of the print is small, it is most effectively seen by bus riders and walkers.

5. Tigers, really! And the placement and text of the ad suggests interesting juxtapositions: the urban and the wild; city and nature.

6. Also, the white hand holding the photo of the tiger and pushing it towards passersby so that we can't avert our gazes, seems oddly out of place--here and there.

7. Finally, I was surprised by the lack of images in the PETA banner, considering that the organization has built its reputation on the power of images.

What do you think? Have you seen these ads (or others) in your neighborhood?