Monday, May 12, 2008

The NHRA's Suffrage

Recently, there have been a few milestone reached for women in modern day motorsports. Danica Patrick won her first Indy Racing League race and Ashley Force in the NHRA assured her continued point lead, after winning her first national event.

But while the milestones may seem somewhat similar, there are many differences that should be noted. Most importantly, while Danica's success is ground breaking to an extent, it must be observed that the real issue of women in motorsport is a choice of two possibilities. On the one hand, females may be predisposed (for whatever reason) to not wanting to race. On the other hand, females may be steered away from anything that racing in general, or certain types of racing, because of our own established gender roles.

If females are predisposed to racing, or not racing, then we will have to deal with it because there is currently little we can do about genetics. But what about our own ideas of gender roles? What about the ways in which one raises their children?

For me, here is the real question: Why does the NHRA have considerably more women drivers, and other forms of motor racing do not? I posed this question to an outside NHRA expert, and was treated to the usual, "ratings and advertising" answer. And while that response might suffice normally, it does not answer the real issue regarding why the NHRA has so many more women participating than other forms of motorsport.

This is where it gets a bit saucy. But we’ll get to the unpleasant consequences of my theory’s holes later.

I want the average person out there, you, your mother, your neighbor, anyone to go out to a drag racing track one weekend, and a karting event the next. I want you to look at the gender make up of who is racing those junior classes. What you will find will be…well, it won’t be startling, honestly, but it will prove my point, and show where my logic comes from.

In my two seasons of observation I have found that the junior dragsters have a considerable amount more female racers than the karting participants. Why? How could, at such a young age, girls develop a preference for dragsters over karts?

Posit for a moment that maybe this has something to do with the parents getting their kids into dragsters over karts. Why? Possibly, for the reason that it seems safer to go drag racing than karting. At a young age, junior dragsters are speed limited, whereas the karting limitations don’t make much of a difference because most accidents occur at corners with kart on kart, wheel to wheel incidents. In junior drag racing, there are only two cars on track at a time, and they each have one huge lane to travel, and little to no steering is involved relatively compared to karting.

In fact, I’ll be honest with you. If I had a child and someone told me to put them in the safer motor sport, I’m going straight to junior drag racing. (Ironically enough, in the professional ranks, when these dragsters are set free of limitations they often exceed them and can easily get out of control.)

In the end, this theory has some repercussions. First of which, is that parents may be encouraging their little girls to go drag racing rather than karting because it may be safer, or at least seems that way. So, if that is true, there’s a bit of sexism from those parenting decisions, which means that the females that make it through to the NHRA are actually a part of sexism, not some repudiation of it. Crazy, I know, right? Although considering the recent deaths in professional drag racing, the women who are there surely know of the risks, and sexism in that sense is non existent.

Here is another crux of the issue. If my theory is wrong, and it most assuredly is, then that doesn’t help the NHRA either. The reason is because women’s entry into the NHRA has other possible connotations, which few are good.

One of those reasons is the publicity that my friend described. Ratings? Good looks? So, what kind of “talent” are we talking about then? If you then tell me that it’s a family affair (“my father was a drag racing king”) then all that does is alienate everyone else who climbed through the ranks as many of the other drivers have.

In the end, this is about an honest discussion regarding talented drivers, and proper teams. Why anyone even has to wonder how Sarah Fisher struggled through the Indy Racing League while Danica Patrick has not is simply, sad. Patrick has the team to win now, while Fisher never did. In fact, this year Fisher - committed to the Indy Racing League - has started her own team (aptly named Sarah Fisher Racing) to compete at the Indianapolis 500.

Englishwoman, Katherine Legge, has all but given up racing in America, and has started competing in the German Touring Car Series (DTM). And she is just as accomplished, if not more so, as Danica Patrick.

If women get attention in racing solely from assets that have nothing to do with their driving, then most women will continue to find it hard to break through. But, if my theory is right, then maybe we have the ability to change how women’s capabilities are perceived generally, and their possibilities in varying forms of motor racing.

Monday, May 05, 2008

What a Vote Could be For

Pundits are at it again. This time, Paul Krugman writes, "working-class Americans do vote on economic issues — and can be swayed by a politician who offers real answers to their problems." Now, it's not that I'm a cynic in thinking that most working class Americans don't vote on economic issues. But here's the thing - they don't know how to vote on economic issues. The old adage of "focusing too much on the trees so that you can't see the forest" applies.

And that is not to say working class voters lack the ability to think these polcies through. However, working class voter don't have the time to learn global and development economics for three months every four years when it becomes the subject du jour. All they know is that working gives them money to buy things. If their job is under threat, and it can be explained by illegal immigrants or cheaper labor elsewhere, then that's how the debate will be framed.

What is so important about framing the debate? Dani Rodrick once explained how Tyler Cowen and others forget that, "Food importing countries are food scarce countries, and as they open up to trade, the relative price of food falls. But if you are Thailand or Argentina, where other goods are scarce relative to food, freer trade means higher relative prices of food, not lower." But even then, to the regular American, that means lower prices. And since our jobs, and our price of food is important to us, then who cares if that tiny country has to pay more for its own food.

And even in food production there is a catch. As has been discussed before by msyelf and others, subsidising ethanol has created unforseen (to most politicians and the general public) price increases in food.

And it's not that Krugman gets the facts wrong entirely. Mainly, he misses the message, or, maybe Krugman is so involved in his own policies that he fails to see what Americans who vote for Obama are telling him.

Like here, Krugman seems to have forgotten to remind himself that there is a war going on. When supporters, and pundits alike, talk about "change" this election cycle, they are speaking on the grounds of changing the way our executive branch runs things, or if it should be running everything to begin with. It's about moving away from authoritarianism, and last time I checked, that authoritarianism is what most critics espoused of the Clinton administration.

Moreover, considering that the Iraq war is as draining as it is, then why not provide any background on a place where presidents have the most clout? Such as, foreign policy. At the latest Democratic debate, Clinton was far more assertive in saying that an attack on Israel could be considered as an attack on the U.S. Maybe our citizens don't want any such a foreign policy. Maybe a change in that paradigm of foreign policy is the change that Obama keeps talking about.

Maybe it's that change that Obama keeps talking about that will get people involved actively again politically. As I've said before, America really is active citizenship. Complacency allows others whose agendas you may not agree with to take hold of policy right from under our noses.

While Krugman might be able to get away with this kind of cynicism on regular readers, he won't get away with it from everyone. Right now, Senator Clinton is making sure she will do whatever it takes to get the nomination. So, simply saying that it's okay because what would happen in the fall campaign to Obama is much worse, is, by definition, cynical. And frankly, guess what, that type of politicking is another item that Obama is referring to when he discusses change.

And Krugman gets away with this kind of stuff because nobody cares to check and see why voters like Obama. Once again, it's the media telling us what to care about. I think a lot of the politically active citizenry still think authoritarianism is the big issue. Too bad, because today the media tells us it is the economy, which is one of the items the President cannot do much about.

Saturday, May 03, 2008

South - You Are Here

South is also out with a new album, entitled You Are Here.

With their last album, Adventures in the Underground Journey to the Stars, South departed from the string arrangements that played so heavily into With the Tides. Well, there is no return of strings, but the ability of Joel Cadbury, Jamie McDonald, and Brett Shaw to come together and make large alternative rock soundscapes has not escaped them.

Below is the video for their single from the album, entitled "Better Things."

Blondfire - My Someday

Blondfire is out with their new album, My Someday . If you had heard their debut EP, Don't Whisper Lies, then this will come to you as a natural progression of that sound, which mixes electronic synths with standard pop rock accompaniment.

Bruce and Erica Driscoll (brother and sister) have an ability to arrange music that takes you back in frame of mind while providing you with the feeling of a new sound. They have also released two other EPs between Don't Whisper Lies and My Someday, and the only track to make the transition to the new album is the obvious single, "L-L-Love." However, don't let that deter you from their other EPs, especially their iTunes acoustic EP.

Here is hoping that their fans will not have to wait as long before they come out with their next album.

Below is the iTunes acoustic EP version of "L-L-Love."