Wild West Shootout 2017

This is an article I wrote for the Wild West Shootout 2017 event program about Bishop Manogue High School. The Wild West Shootout is a basketball competition among eight high schools, mainly in the western part of the United States and is held in Reno, Nevada.

It raises awareness and funds for the Sierra Kids Foundation, which provides help for children with autism and their families. They are tied into the University of Nevada, Reno’s autism program. My first grandson is on the spectrum, so I’m very grateful for what they do.

wild west shootout 2017 cover

Click image to read article

Sorry it has been so long between blogs. A lot has happened, but I’m alive. Enjoy the article. Enjoy life.

©  Paul George and The Reno Signal, 2018. Unauthorized use and/or duplication of this material without express and written permission from this blog’s author and/or owner is strictly prohibited. Excerpts and links may be used, provided that full and clear credit is given to Paul George and The Reno Signal with appropriate and specific direction to the original content.

 

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Book Review: The Girl of the Sea of Cortez

peter benchley the girl of the sea of cortez 1983 cover

Peter Benchley, The Girl of the Sea of Cortez. This is the 1983 Berkley edition. It’s a little ragged, but the pages are clean and readable. I picked it up at a thrift store for 25 cents.

The Girl of the Sea of Cortez. Benchley, Peter. New York, Berkley Books, 1983. 229 pages.

Review by Paul George

Peter Benchley will go down in history as the author of Jaws, an entertaining book adapted into an excellent film. More than forty years later, only two of Benchley’s books remain in print, the aforementioned Jaws and one of his lesser known novels, The Girl of the Sea of Cortez. After three thrillers, Benchley wrote Cortez as something of an counterbalance to Jaws.

Paloma is a 16-year-old girl living with her family on the coast of Baja California. She lives with her mother, Miranda, who wishes her would behave more like a young woman, cooking, cleaning, sewing and hanging wet laundry. However, Paloma is much more like her deceased father, Jobim. Daily she takes her boat to a section of the sea that is full of life. There she dives, explores, and, occasionally, finds a pearl. One day, she spots an injured manta ray and saves its life. In contrast, her brother, Jo, only sees the sea as an opportunity to fish and make money.

Paloma is concerned about over fishing and, due to her father, believes in conservation. But Jo only sees the sea as an object of exploitation. Eventually these two ideologies come into conflict.

If this sounds a bit like John Steinbeck’s The Pearl, it is inspired by the same story Steinbeck heard when he was in Baja California.

After Jaws – both the novel and the film – a media-induced hysteria not only made people unreasonably afraid of sharks but led to the killing of many sharks. Benchley became an advocate of the sharks, educating people about the ancient fish. Cortez seems to be an attempt to show that, while the sea can be dangerous, it is also a place of beauty. Sharks appear in the story at least twice. In both cases, they are presented as a potential danger, but also as creatures that are not that interested in humans.

Through Paloma’s adventures, Benchley clearly shows his love for the sea. It is a breezy read, appropriate for a summer read. There are a number of flashback sequences as Paloma remembers her father and what he taught her about the sea. One sequence, however, seems out of place. It feels like Benchley had an idea for a short story and stuck in in the middle of this novel. That’s a small complaint in an otherwise enjoyable read.

peter benchley the girl of the sea of cortez modern trade paperback

This is the current trade paperback edition of the novel.

This book does not have the adult language or sexuality present in Jaws. I would consider it a very good, almost excellent, selection of young adult readers, even preteens. My son has trouble picking out books for school assignments because any book that has been adapted into a movie or television show cannot be read for credit (I think this is a stupid rule).

Benchley’s first three novels were adapted into film. Cortez was the first to not be adapted. After moving away from the thriller for this novel, Benchley would go back to the basics with Beast, about a giant Humboldt squid tormenting a fishing town. Beast followed the Jaws formula exactly.

The Girl of the Sea of Cortez is one of Benchley’s best novels. Peter Benchley clearly wanted to move away from the sea-thrillers that he was known for and created a fine novel, possibly his best, that deserves to be reintroduced to readers.

©  Paul George and The Reno Signal, 2016. Unauthorized use and/or duplication of this material without express and written permission from this blog’s author and/or owner is strictly prohibited. Excerpts and links may be used, provided that full and clear credit is given to Paul George and The Reno Signal with appropriate and specific direction to the original content.

 

The Myth of Race

Races, as natural divisions of the human species, are
rather like angles. Many people believe in them, devoutly.
They can even tell you what properties they have.
But the closer you try to examine them to discover their
real nature, the more elusive they become.
—Jonathan Marks, 2006

by Paul George

The issue of race* cannot be ignored, even though it is a term that only exists because society demands it. Many Americans were irritated when the 2010 United States census asked questions about race. Public school districts are required to collect data about the racial makeup of their student body. Employers report race-related data to the government to show compliance with Affirmative Action. Americans are constantly told they must identify themselves with a race.

Stereotypes abound when people discuss race. Some races are considered inherently lazy, dishonest, or greedy because the stereotypes continue to flourish. The concept that races are different genetically appears to be supported when diseases like sickle-cell anemia are labeled as a “black” disease**. Without defining what race is or is not, biologists have been quick to label diseases such as sickle-cell anemia as inherent in a race. In the past, they have been ready to define and label human beings as distinct biological races (Kaszycka 44).

A group of researches demonstrated that this view is still prevalent in Europe. They questioned members of the European Anthropological Association about the issue of race. Out of 125 respondents, 50 percent agreed that human races exist. Of those that agreed, 62 percent support the classification of race as a subset of Homo sapiens (Kaszycka 45).

The American Anthropological Association, however, issued an official statement in 1998 stating that race is not a biologically meaningful concept. According to their statement, race is simply a human cultural behavior and is learned, not inherited. Other research has shown that adopted children, whose adoptive parents are of another race, demonstrate intelligence similar to that of the adoptive parents (Sternberg).

According to anthropologist Audrey Smedley, race is “a recent concept in human history” and it “emerged as a dominant form of identity in those societies where it functions to stratify the social system” (Smedley 691).

Smedley argues that the modern concept of race is not found in most of human history. Race generally referred to where a person was from, not their skin color. Human history is full of tales of trading, travel, war, peace treaties, and inter-marriages between people of different nationalities. Yet the skin color of these people is never talked about. Alexander of Macedonia conquered from Afghanistan to India. He adopted many customs of these locations and told his men to marry Indian women (Smedley 690).

The Bible account of Moses*** states that he married a Cushite, or Ethiopian woman (New Rev. Stand. Ver., Nu 12:1). During the earliest days of Christianity, Philip converted the first non-Jew to Christianity. The convert was an Ethiopian who was a court official for the queen of Ethiopia (New Rev. Stand. Ver., Acts 8:26-39). In neither account is the modern concept of race an issue. Multi-ethnicity is not a new concept. In ages past, it was a normal part of life as travelers from different lands intermingled.  People were judged, not by skin color, but by genealogical identity and the work they performed (Smedley 691).

That viewpoint changed, however, in Europe in the 17th century. England began to view the Irish as savages and maintained the same view when they dealt with the indigenous people of the New World. Very quickly the modern concept of race emerged. English law protected white servants, but African servants had no rights. By viewing blacks as inferior and, therefore, unworthy of legal protection, the concept of race became a part of Anglo-American society. Within a century, citizens of the emerged United States of America were conditioned to this “arbitrary ranking” (Smedley 694,695). The general public in the United States were conditioned to accept race and racial superiority as natural part of human life.

Modern science, however, has developed a much different view of race: it does not exist.  Characteristics like skin color, hair color, and eye shape are all influenced by several alleles in the human genotype. If races were truly discrete species or subspecies of genus Homo, then many different genes should be similar among populations within a race than those of different races (Belk and Maier 298). Data collected, however, falsifies this concept. Various alleles are found throughout the gene pool of humankind and it would appear H. sapiens has never been truly isolated.

Sickle-cell anemia, the so-called “black” disease is a good example of an allele being found throughout the species. About 10 percent of African-Americans and 20 percent of Africans carry one copy of the sickle-cell alleles. However, many parts of northern and southern Africa have little or no sickle-cell alleles. Furthermore, the allele is found in populations of the Middle East (white) and Indian (Asian) (Belk and Maier 297). While the disease is more common in middle African populations, it is clearly misguided to call it a “black disease.” This represents a cline variation in the species. A cline is “a gradual change in the frequency of genotypes and phenotypes from one geographical region to another” (Jurmain 431). Natural selection is working with H. sapiens in various areas on a micro evolutionary level.  Humans in different regions adapted over time to their environment. However, none have made a genetic adaptation unique only to an isolated population. According to biology professors Belk and Maier, “scientists have not identified a single allele that is found in all (or even most) populations of a commonly described race but not found in other races” (Belk and Maier 297).

“Race” is a concept that humanity needs to evolve out of in order to progress. However, government and society are reluctant to accept the fact that “race” is simply a cultural myth that allows one class to lord over another. Too many interests are involved. On one side, there are those who believe that one race is superior and should, therefore, be considered privileged. On the other side, well-meaning advocates have encouraged the government to regulate hiring, making sure that all races are being treated fairly. While this may help some, it ignores the underlying problem, a three-hundred-year-old concept of race that is archaic and inhumane. Society needs to understand that skin color is simply the way light reflects off an individual and reveals nothing about the person. The concept of race is ignorant at best and, at worst, criminal.

This essay was originally titled: Cline Variation and the Myth of Race in Modern Homo sapiens and written in 2010.

Endnotes

The term “race,” unless noted otherwise in this essay, refers to skin color.

** This essay will use the commonly used terms “black” and “white” for people with dark skin (usually of African descent) and Caucasians (usually people of European descent).

*** The writer is using the Bible for its historic value (whether the stories are true or not, they do say a lot about social attitudes of the time) and references to the Bible are not intended to encourage or promote any theological views.

 


References

American Anthropological Association

“American Anthropological Association Statement on ‘Race’”, 17 May 1998. http://www.aaanet.org.

Kaszycka, Katarzyna A., Strkalj, Goran, Strezalko, Jan.

“Current Views of European Anthropologists on Race: Influence of Educational and Ideological Background”, American Anthropologist, March 2009, Vol 111, Issue 1, pp. 43-56.

New Revised Standard Version. Grand Rapids : Zondervan, 1989.

Smedley, Audrey

“’Race’ and the Construction of Human Identity,” American Anthropologist, Sept 1998, Vol. 100, Issue 3, pp. 690-702.

Sternberg, Robert J., Grigorenko, Elena L., Kidd, Kenneth K.

“Intelligence, race, and genetics”, in AccessScience@McGraw-Hill, http://www.accessscience.com, DOI 10.1036/1097-8542.YB071440.

Belk, Colleen and Maier, Virginia

Biology: Science for Life, Third Edition. 2010. Pearson: San Francisco.

Jurmain, Robert, Kilgore, Lynn, Trevathan, Wenda, Ciochon, Russell L.

Introduction to Physical Anthropology, 2009 – 2010 Edition. 2010. Wadsworth: Belmont.

Film Review: Buffalo Girls (2013)

tear offs.psd

© Copyright 2012 Buffalo Girls Movie

Stam and Pet are two eight year old girls living in Thailand. Stam is a cute, normal-looking girl. She has stuffed animals and is a shy little girl. Pet has a shaved head, with a section of long hair in the back, and has a heart condition. This image of normalcy, however, is shattered when director Todd Kellstein shows the two girls fighting in an underground muay thai kickboxing match in Buffalo Girls, a 2013 documentary.

According to the documentary, there are 30,000 child boxers in Thailand. The fighting is real, and it’s for money.

She boxes for money to get an education, Stam says in the film.

Another boxer, age 10, says she boxes to take care of her mom and dad.

pet running after school buffalo girls mauy thai

Pet running after school. © Copyright 2012 Buffalo Girls Movie

The narrative of the film follows Stam and Pet as they train. Six days a week, the girls workout – running, weight lifting and working the heavy bag – in order to help support their families. The girls are very different in nature. Stam is shy, but smiles a lot. She appears to enjoy the training regimen. Pet has more of a laser focus, rarely smiling.

buffalo girls muay thai kickboxing

Stam (left) taking a right cross from Pet (right) © Copyright 2012 Buffalo Girls Movie

As a child of western culture, I found some of the fighting, and especially the way the girls are treated in the corner, to be shocking. But as the story unfolds, I realized that fighting is a way to get out of poverty. What impressed me was how serious the girls viewed their responsibility to the family. Also a career in kickboxing can mean these girls will be able to avoid the common career of many your Thai women, sex work.

It’s also important to understand that kickboxing is to Thailand what Baseball is to Americans, a culture-defining activity.

This is a good documentary with two likable characters in a difficult situation. There’s no narration in the film, Kellstein simply presents the situation. If I have one complaint about documentaries, it’s that they tend to run too long. Buffalo Girls is 66 minutes in length and moves quickly. My only complaint is the movie has a grainy look, possibly due to the low-lighting of the matches and the equipment used to document the story. The fights are brutal, but there’s no blood in the shots. The movie’s unrated, but I’d give it a PG for fighting.

If your kids complain about taking out the trash or doing homework, I suggest you have them watch Buffalo Girls. Taking out the trash isn’t fun, but it’s better than getting beat up by another kid while fighting in the middle of a brothel.

©  Paul George and The Reno Signal, 2016. Unauthorized use and/or duplication of this material without express and written permission from this blog’s author and/or owner is strictly prohibited. Excerpts and links may be used, provided that full and clear credit is given to Paul George and The Reno Signal with appropriate and specific direction to the original content.

A few thoughts about David Bowie

david bowie

David Bowie, 1949-2016

The death of a celebrity is not something I would usually write about. However, David Bowie died today at age 69, and I’m deeply saddened by it.

As a child of the 70s and 80s, Bowie was an ever-present talent. From his starchild Ziggy Stardust persona to the Thin White Duke, he was ever changing in style. When New Wave hit the airwaves in the early 80s, he was already there with Scary Montsters.

He was one of the handful or artists that inspired me to learn to play guitar and try to write songs.

Bowie will live forever. He gave us decades of music, from folk to classic rock to avant garde.

Honestly, I have nothing poignant to say, no epiphany to share. I loved the man’s sense of style and his music. My favorite album by Bowie is Hunky Dory. If you’ve never listened to it, check it out.

And these children that you spit on
As they try to change their worlds
Are immune to your consultations
They’re quite aware of what they’re going through – “Changes”

You will be missed starman …

Shawarmageddon: Meals and metal

“Have you ever tried shawarma? There’s a shawarma joint about two blocks from here. I don’t know what it is, but I want to try it.”  — Iron Man/Tony Stark

shawarma avengers

I admit, the only thing I knew about shawarma is that it was mentioned in Marvel’s The Avengers and a quick gag shown at the end of that movie’s credits.

Now, after visiting Shawarmageddon in Reno, Nevada, I find myself asking where have you been all my life?

Shawarma is not so much a type of food as a type of preparation. I spoke to one of the preparers at Shawarmageddon, and he explained that it is the roasting method, usually on a vertical spit, that makes it shawarma. However, based on my experience, and research, shawarma usually refers to this meat as it is used in a wrap, with spices and vegetables.

shawarmageddon door and window

Shawarmageddon is located at 501 W 1st St, with its entrance on Ralston.

Shawarmageddon is literally a hole-in-the-wall operation. Located downstairs of the now-closed Pneumatic Diner, it has a small seating area. There is a small window for ordering and paying for food.

The menu is small, with choices of lamb, chicken or vegetarian shawarma, served as a wrap or as a platter.  It also has spiced chick peas as an appetizer, and a variety of tea, soda, and craft beers. The menu is limited, and I think that’s a good thing.

The atmosphere is heavy metal. “Eat and destroy,” a play on the title of Metallica’s classic “Search and Destroy,” is the restaurant’s slogan. Its specials reflect the metal there. For example, it had a special, lamb and other toppings on french fries called “Fries of the Ancient Mariner,” a pun on “Rhyme of the Ancient Mariner” by Iron Maiden.

Did I mention Iron Maiden is my favorite heavy metal band ever? So Shawarmageddon gets a few brownie points for that one.

I have gone to Shwarmageddon twice. Both times I had the lamb shawarma ($8). The wrap includes the restaurant’s home-made flat bread, romaine, tomatoes, onions, mint, cucumber, french fried potatoes, ras al hanout vinegrettte, seasoned labneh, and chili oil.

lamb shawarma

One bite and I was sold! The flavor is a mix of sweet, sour and savory. The lamb was tasty, although a bit dry. The spices are clearly Mediterranean, with a finish that reminded me of cinnamon. Overall, however, the taste was very good, something I’d buy regularly and enjoy.

I’m not sure if the metal theme is something that will appeal to the masses. Honestly, Shawarmageddon’s first goal should be to make money (by selling us an excellent product). While I am perfectly happy ordering my food to the sound of Mastodon, not everyone finds metal appealing.

As a restaurant, its location is a bit of a problem. It is easy to get to, especially for visitors near the western end of downtown Reno. However, there is no signage to catch the attention of people passing the restaurant. I highly recommend some signage for the place.

Shawarmageddon also updated its menu in mid-November, raising prices and changing the make-up of its wraps. Now turkey is offered. I walked into the restaurant (I live in the apartment complex it’s attached to) the other day, and the lamb was $10. Economically, it was just a little too much for me.

The menu changes have also upset customers. Recently on Facebook, customers have complained about the updated menu with comments like:

I hate the new menu. The old one was crazy good. I was eating it like twice a week with my brother John Taglieber. I attempted the new turkey one today and didn’t even finish it. My little shawarma loving heart is broken. — Jessica Levity Daylover
I also am really disappointed with the new menu. The slaw is bland and bitter. The sauces are bland. I miss the yogurt and the tomatoes and the onion and the flavor! I miss the fries inside the wrap! I miss the spicy chick peas! — Brock Young

These are just the opinions of two customers, but it sounds like a bad move to me. However, I have not tried the updated menu. Based on what I had, Shawarmageddon has served one of the best items I have ever eaten. The staff was friendly, helpful and informative.

Reno continues to grow as a foodie town, and Shawarmageddon is a fine example of that spirit.

©  Paul George and The Reno Signal, 2015. Unauthorized use and/or duplication of this material without express and written permission from this blog’s author and/or owner is strictly prohibited. Excerpts and links may be used, provided that full and clear credit is given to Paul George and The Reno Signal with appropriate and specific direction to the original content.

New Batman v Superman Trailer is Basically the Entire Movie

Honestly, I thought about writing my thoughts about Batman v Superman: Dawn of Justice, but I think my fellow Reynolds School of Journalism classmate Kyle Wise echoed many of my thoughts. Like The Force Awakens, I want a good movie. If J.J. Abrams is keeping the secrets of Star Wars a little too close to the vest, Warner Brothers seems to be doing the opposite with Dawn of Justice.

Source: New Baman v Superman Trailer is Basically the Entire Movie