Popular Culture

Cinco de Mayo is a loud & proud celebration of Mexican heritage

By DAVID DUPONT BG Independent News Gloria Pizana and her family didn’t celebrate Cinco de Mayo when they grew up in Pemberville. Their celebrations of the Mexican heritage were private – birthdays, holidays, all had their own Latin twist. Now Pizana, as a member of Bowling Green’s Human Relations Commission, organizes the Cinco de Mayo celebration which was held Sunday. As she spoke the sound of Mexican music echoed through the corridors of the Woodland Mall. “I never had this,” she said. “Having grown up in Northwest Ohio you think you’re the only one. You have a few cousins. No one ever talks about your culture, who you are. You’re isolated, and the history books never mention it.” That’s why she feels it’s so important that Bowling Green has held this celebration for 24 years. It started, Pizana said, when then Mayor Wes Hoffman approached Marsha Oliveraz about what the city could do to recognize Latino culture. The result was the Cinco de Mayo celebration. That’s a bit ironic because, as Pizana notes, the holiday that celebrates the Mexican repulsion of a French invasion in 1862, isn’t really celebrated much in Mexico. Still this became a time for area Hispanics to celebrate their roots and culture. That’s important, Pizana said. “I say it’s the most important history. To know who your ancestors are is to know who you are today because of what they went through. It’s showing respect and appreciation for your ancestors. You need to take pride in who you are. The more you know about your family the more there’s that self-pride. That’s why we do this. I want my grandchildren to know, I want everyone to know.” Everyone should celebrate their ethnic heritage, and she’d like to see Bowling Green host powwows and events to celebrate other ethnic groups. Her great-grandparents were from Mexico. Her parents traveled back and forth between Northwest Ohio and Texas to harvest crops for many years before settling here in 1954. The display tables included her family tree among those of several other families. That included the Estrada family. Jacob Estrada led the band that opened up the festivities with a variety of Mexican pop tunes. Pizana’s brother Juan Enriquez had organized the tables, about half of which were devoted to Latinos, including himself and his brothers, who had served in the military. He is on a mission to celebrate winners…


Prince maintained artistic integrity throughout his career

By DAVID DUPONT BG Independent News Jeremy Wallach was a teenage musician when Prince hit the scene. As a keyboard player he was captivated by the sounds Prince elicited from his keyboards. The attack was funky and percussive, and Prince made the most of the distinctive qualities of the electronic instruments of the time. They were firmly rooted in the funk traditions, but difficult and definitively Prince. Now a scholar who studies Indonesian rock and pop music, Wallach has seen the global reach of Prince’s music. When he hears a Chinese guitar player solo over a rhythm ‘n’ blues groove that manages to incorporate elements of traditional Chinese music, he hears the influence of Prince. The Minnesota funk master respected no boundaries, he didn’t set any for himself and certainly didn’t care about any limits others tried to place on his music.                 When his record label pressed him for new and bigger records following “Purple Rain” he rebelled. He famously changed his name to a symbol, and was referred to as “the artist formerly known as Prince.” All “because he didn’t like the way the industry was treating him.” Wallach, who teaches in the Pop Culture Department at Bowling Green State University, said Prince never returned to his days of being “a commercial juggernaut” the way he was in the 1980s and 1990s, but he continue to create. “I hope 50 years from now people will listen to his entire catalog as masterpieces of American music, both his best known stuff, and his lesser known stuff. … I do hope music scholars will appreciate his later work.” Wallach said he senses people are beginning to start to appreciate the entire span of his work. True, Prince’s most innovative period was in the 1980s and 1990s. His late work “wasn’t as innovative. It didn’t have the shock of the new.” Still Prince explored his own sound, and he was still experimenting. He defied genres and defied limitations. He tossed together elements of rhythm ‘n’ blues with rock. He experimented with hip hop. And he was always funky. That defiance of industry expectations was a reason he was so “beloved” within the African-American community. “He was speaking for a community that was very boxed in,” Wallach said. “He stands up for himself, and the music he produced, and by extension the tradition it represents.”…


Cherry Blossom Festival celebrates Japanese culture

Fifteen years after Japanese graduates of Bowling Green State University showed their appreciation for the school by planting cherry trees on campus, several are returning. In fall, 2001, eight Japanese alumni came to campus for the planting of the trees. Graduate Masatoshi Emori had spearheaded the effort, inspired by the cherry trees in the nation’s capital. Fittingly then First Lady Hope Taft was on hand for the planting. Her husband’s great-grandfather was president when those trees took root in Washington D.C. as a sign of peace between Japan and the United States. Thanks to the Schedel Garden three of the BGSU trees were cuttings from the originals. The next spring Akiko Jones, an instructor of Japanese, initiated the first Cherry Blossom Festival to celebrate the plantings. Over the last 15 years, more trees have been planted and the Cherry Blossom Festival has grown. Now there are about 80. In Japan, the blossoming of the cherry trees is celebrated by outdoor hikes and picnics. Given the questionable weather in Northwest Ohio, the ceremony has been moved inside since its damp, very windy inaugural event in 2002. Last year with the event staged in the Lenhart Grand Ballroom of the Bowen-Thompson Student Union, more than 800 attended. Jones expects to attract even more celebrants this year when the event is held Saturday, April 16, from 4 to 8 p.m. in the ballroom. Attendance at the event, a celebration of Japanese culture, has increased in every year, outgrowing several venues. Jones credits the involvement of students with keeping the event going. When it started, she said, she never imagined it lasting this long. “I thought I’d retire” before now, said Jones, who has taught at BGSU for 33 years. She started the Japanese Club to introduce students to the culture and customs of Japan beyond what could be covered in the language class. “My students really work hard. It’s nice to see my students working together to make it really successful. Certainly I could not do it without the students,” she said. That includes graduates coming back to help. Last year, one of the most popular activities was caricature artist Theo Rollock. Jones said he continued drawing until midnight. He graduated last year and now lives in Indiana, but is returning to campus to participate in the festival. Caricatures will be just one of more than a dozen activities including a sumo game,…


BGSU grad Steve Hanson has stories to tell about the art & business of making “The Prophet”

By DAVID DUPONT BG Independent News When Steve Hanson returns to Bowling Green State University, he will have stories to tell about telling stories. His story as a multimedia entrepreneur starts with his time at BGSU. “Bowling Green taught me how to think, how to tell a story,” the 1975 graduate said in a recent telephone interview. As a photojournalism major that education included late night calls from Professor Jim Gordon. Hanson, then photo editor of the Key, lived with Joe Darwal, then photo editor of The BG News. When Gordon called it wasn’t just to say hello, it was usually to deliver blunt critiques of their most recent work. “It is that kind of mentoring that takes us to a different level,” he said. Hanson will participate in Bravo! BGSU Saturday in the Wolfe Center for the Arts Saturday from 7 to 10 p.m. For tickets, call 419-372-6780. He’ll show excerpts from the film “The Prophet,” which he produced, from 7:30 to 8 in the Donnell Theatre. (See related story: http://bgindependentmedia.org/2016/03/25/bgsu-putting-on-the-glitz-to-raise-money-for-arts-scholarships/) Then on Sunday he’ll kick off the university’s E-Week activities with a screening of “The Prophet” at 8 p.m., also in the Donnell. On Monday, he’ll discuss the making of the film at a Lunch and Learn session from 11:30 a.m. to 1 p.m. in The David J. Joseph Company Business Hub on the second floor of the College of Business. The first stirrings of the film began back in his undergraduate days. That’s when he read Lebanese writer Kahlil Gibran’s inspirational book “The Prophet.” It was a time of great turmoil,” Hanson said, and as a photojournalist he was in the middle of it. He remembers digging a hole to look like a bomb crater to illustrate a story. He was also a pioneer. Working with Gene Poor, he had a “self-proclaimed” minor in visual communications. This was before the days of the Department of Visual Communications Technology. This served him well as he moved from photojournalism into multi-media production. The change is not so radical. It’s all about storytelling, he said. That may be a story about how to be a better employee or why you should insulate your house with Owens-Corning’s signature pink insulation. “Those are all stories,” he said. Some of those industrial productions cost in the seven figures to make, he said. None was on the scale, however, of an internationally distributed feature-length film….


BGSU College of Business hosts event on digital entrepreneurship

By BGSU OFFICE OF MARKETING & COMMUNICATIONS The Sebo Series in Entrepreneurship continues to bring innovative and current entrepreneurial leaders to Bowling Green State University. This year’s event on April 8 will feature keynote presenter Dr. John Kelly, who oversees Watson, the IBM supercomputer that answers questions using artificial intelligence to accept and process natural language requests. The Sebo Series will take place from 9 a.m. to 2 p.m. in the Lenhart Grand Ballroom of the Bowen-Thompson Student Union on campus with Kelly’s talk scheduled for 12:15 p.m. For details visit: https://www.bgsu.edu/business/centers-and-institutes/dallas-hamilton-center-for-entrepreneurial-leadership/e-week/sebo-series-in-entrepreneurship.html Watson wowed the public during its “Jeopardy!” debut when it defeated two of the game show’s top champions. Watson learns about subjects and automatically updates as new information is published, which made its “Jeopardy!” appearance a day-by-day process in which the supercomputer became increasingly better each day as it learned more about the game and subjects. Kelly is the senior vice president at IBM and his top priority is to stimulate innovation in key areas of information technology and to bring those innovations to the marketplace quickly, to apply these innovations to help IBM clients succeed, and to identify and nurture new and future areas for investment and growth. Other featured presenters include William Amurgis, intranet and internal communications specialist; Mark Hosbein, managing director at Accenture; Lisa Mitnick, managing director at Accenture Digital; and Dr. Gene Poor, Hamilton Professor of Entrepreneurship at BGSU. The event will be at the Lenhart Grand Ballroom of the Bowen-Thompson Student Union. Reception and networking begins at 8:30 a.m., with the welcome at 9 a.m.Kelly will be the afternoon keynote speaker.  


Scholar puts feminist spin on issues of sports & fitness

By DAVID DUPONT BG Independent News Scholar Pirkko Markula’s talk Monday at Bowling Green State University on “Women’s Empowerment Through Sport and Exercise: Rhetoric or Reality?” revolved around pole dancing, or pole fitness, as it has come to be called. The exercise, popularized in strip clubs, has become a popular form of fitness training for women. Markula opened her talk with positive comments about the activity by one of her students and testimonials from those who participate in pole workouts. The student reported that it helped build her self-confidence as someone who had “overwhelming dissatisfaction with my own body.” This led Markula, who is a professor at the University of Alberta, to wonder: “Pole fitness may be an avenue by which women can develop and maintain positive body image as a result of an environment that emphasizes body acceptance and the body’s abilities.” Still the exercise, with its emphasis on shaping the woman’s body in a stereotypical form that appeals to men, is problematic. At the conclusion of the lecture, Leda Hayes, a graduate student in American Culture Studies, asked the speaker if the popularity of pole fitness could lessen the stigma on those working in the sex industry. Markula said she, contrary to what some believe, considers the sex industry harmful to women, and she wondered why women would choose the particular form of exercise to do. There are other forms of pole exercise, including one practiced in China, that are not sexualized and provide the same benefits. Pole fitness, like female sports and fitness in general, is fraught with issues about social expectations and norms, about empowerment and submission to social stereotypes. Pole fitness “reflects the multi-meanings of feminism for today’s active women,” she said. In her talk, Markula explored the theoretical responses to sports and fitness. Liberal feminists, she said, advocate for inclusion in sports. “Women are liberated when barriers are lifted.” They advocated for Title IX that opened up participation of women in school sports. They pushed for greater inclusion of women in the Olympics. Nearly half the athletes at the last Olympics were women. However less than 3 percent of the media coverage was about women. “Equality,” Markula said, “has not been achieved.” Critical feminists, Markula said, contend that liberal feminism fails because it does not challenge the underlying structure. Women may be tennis players, swimmers, soccer players, boxers or weight lifters, but the media…


Mr. & Mrs. Potato Head take up residence at BGSU

By DAVID DUPONT BG Independent News Mr. Potato Head has had a storied career. The pop culture icon has been a beloved toy, a movie star, a “Spokes-spud” for physical fitness and the Great American Smokeout. He’s encouraged consumers to buy Burger King fries and citizens to vote. Now, Mr. Potato Head and his wife, Mrs. Potato Head, have become Bowling Green State University Falcons. Thanks to a donation by Matthew Wilson, of Michigan, a collection Mr. and Mrs. Potato Head toys have taken up residence in the Popular Culture Library on campus. In February, Nancy Down, head of the Popular Culture Library, and Alissa Butler, a doctoral student in American Culture Studies, gave a talk at the Women’s Center on campus to discuss the history of Mr. and Mrs. Potato Head and their roles in popular culture. Mr. Potato Head was born, the brainchild of inventor George Lerner, fully formed with bushy mustache in 1952. “Mr. Potato Head is the best friend a boy or girl could have,” the original ads promised, Down said. Mr. Potato Head was the first toy advertised on television. His wife arrived a year later followed by offspring, Spud and Yam. At first they were sold as disembodied features, noses, eyes, mustaches, hair, and shoes. Kids had to supply their own potatoes or other vegetable of their choice. The plastic body was introduced in 1964. The spud couple were epitomes of 1950s consumer culture. They had two cars – his with a boat trailer, hers with a shopping cart. They had a boat and a plane. They even had a train. “How many couples in the ‘50s had their own locomotive?” Down wondered. They stuck to the established gender roles. Mrs. Potato Head was her husband’s dutiful helpmate. She had her ever present purse, and fancy hat. He had a jack hammer, she had a feather duster. Though the accessories and detachable parts were interchangeable, the packaging was color coded to make clear which gender the toys were intended for, Down said. Only Mr. Potato Head was inducted into the Toy Hall of Fame in 2000, the third class of inductees. Given her character, though, his wife surely would have been proud of him, but would have cautioned him not to let it go to his head. By then the Potato Heads had emerged from the toy chest. He ditched his pipe for the…