Monday, January 15, 2007

Notes on a Neighborhood

The neighborhood that I live in is very eclectic. There are wealthy people who live across the street on the lake, college kids renting, octagenarians, activists, gardeners, busybodies, etc. We like that there is a great variety of souls on our short two block street. And we thought that we would be a different and welcome addition. And just like some pet owners and their pets begin to look alike, some homeowners begin to look like their neighborhood.

We were sort of laughing the other day at some of the neighbors and their choices in cars. Two doors down, the couple each have Saabs, across the street the husband and wife both have BMWs. We thought it a somewhat hilarious and off-putting commentary about coupledom when both of us remembered that we each have an Acura!

Friday, January 12, 2007

Kid Apathy

When a friend of mine, a professional with liberal politics, decided to have a baby she confessed that she was a bit torn. While she wanted to have a child she was a bit concerned about raising a child in what is to her an uncertain future. You see, she saw An Inconvenient Truth, believes in global warming and the destruction of the environment, listens to the news of daily Iraqi skirmishes and terrorist threats, she worries about the economy, fears for minorities and the poor. She wondered whether it was irresponsible and selfish to bring a child into the world who would have to face such a mess. I countered that I thought it was exactly people like her who are concerned about these things who should be the ones to raise children. Certainly she would be able to impart upon her children the importance of contributing to the idea of making things better.

So I really shouldn't be surprised to come across a very interesting statistic that conservatives have more children than liberals. According to the 2004 General Social Survey, if you picked 100 unrelated politically liberal adults at random, you would find that they had, between them, 147 children. If you picked 100 conservatives, you would find 208 kids. Nature and nurture being what they are, it is reported that 80% of kids end up voting like their parents. And so it seems that as time goes by, in future generations there will be more conservative voters to offset the liberal ideals. Because liberals have less liberal babies, and because those liberal babies will be outvoted by conservative babies, in essence the act of NOT having babies is tantamount to giving conservatives further reign to ruin the country and the globe.

As a liberal and someone whose name will go down with the ship (I will neither have kids nor do I want them and anyway there weren't enough liberals to allow a vote for me to adopt kids), I have some initial feelings of guilt about this. Never one to shirk from a political fight, I fear that I am not doing my part. I wish someone would come out with a study that showed that the genetic makeup of a child can determine its voting record. If that were the case, I would be making regular donations to the almighty plastic cup in hopes that my liberal politics would make their way to small rural Texan towns.

But I guess there is another option for those of us with kid apathy. We can continue to intervene in the impressionable minds of children and adults everywhere. We can educate them to think for themselves instead for their parents. We can encourage them to embrace a new world from what their parents have created. In that case our ideas will live on even if our genes don't.

Thursday, December 14, 2006

Friend of Dorothy?

Toto, I don't think we're in Kansas anymore?

The Decent Docent

Congratulations to me! On tuesday, I finished a twelve week class preparing me to be a volunteer docent at the Madison Museum of Contemporary Art. For the last three months I have been gaining instruction on principles of art and design, philosophies behind contemporary art, and strategies for working with different groups of people including different age groups (kindergarten trough adult) and disabilities. I had to write a paper on a particular piece of art in the museum, Romare Bearden's collage Serenade, linking its elements of design to its interpretation. And for the last few weeks I have been creating my final exam - a practice tour linking works of art from all three exhibits around a central theme of symmetry. I have incorporated works by artists like Bearden, Paschke, Kahlo, Oldenbourg, sculpture by Sol LeWitt and Alyson Schotz, and photographs by Klein. I have to take the education department through the tour. If I pass, I will be ready to start giving my own tours to various school groups, adult groups, and special tours.

I'm actually pretty excited about it, to get people to talk about what they see in a piece of art and reorient them to the things that they might want to look at. Strangely enough, I'm looking forward to the school groups. I remember how interested in looking at art I was at that age. It would be really cool to spark an interest or make a connection with the kids, get them to come back, and remind them that even as a kid they can look at a piece of art and just voice their opinion about it. Art is so cool.

Friday, December 01, 2006

World AIDS Day 2006

I applaud senators Obama and Brownback for bringing some attention to World AIDS day by individually taking an HIV test. The message that they wanted to send was that it is easy, painless, and bipartisan. Hey, if two senators can take the test, so can you.

But I think it falls a bit short because let's be serious. Did either of these men have to go to a free clinic, wait their turn with their cohorts, answer a battery of questions regarding sexual practices, numbers, and drug use? Do either one of these men actually think there is a chance that the test could come out positive?

Anyone who has ever taken an HIV test for something other than a photo op or support statement knows that taking an HIV test is more than just having the test. For many, it involves talking to one's doctor or locating an anonymous testing center. And the worst part of the test is getting over the fear, even if it is only a mild fear and only brief, that the test result could alter your life forever. I think it is that fear, more than disinterest, that keeps people from getting tested - the front of "it could never happen to me" that masks "what if it could?"

In celebration of World AIDS Day, let's try to remember that knowing is half the battle.

Wednesday, November 29, 2006

Brokeback Pope

What could be gayer than this?

Friday, November 17, 2006

Project Literacy

Ever since my move and my deluge of free time, I've managed to do more reading and more writing. I think I've read more books in the last few months than I had in a long time. Plus, I'm reading the New York Times. Ok, I'm only reading the sunday New York Times. PS, this past week I finished both the crossword and the acrostic. Ok, my boyfriend helped a little.

I've updated the sidebar on what I've been reading lately. I finished the book State of Fear by Michael Crichton a while ago. It's essentially a "thriller" that disproves the harmful effects of global warming. I didn't really have anything to say about it except that I was surprised that the right wing didn't greenlight a movie version of the book to pile against Gore's Truth. It's essentially formulaic Crichton that always leaves me wishing he still wrote like Jurassic Park. I started but quickly stopped reading Front Runner. I tend to dislike gay themed literature because it's usually stupid. But this was a classic and so I was surprised that I just couldn't get into it. It just wasn't the right time for me what with the amendment and all. I just kept rolling my eyes at the main character and thinking "Gracious, just come out already."

This time around, I'm doing the juggling act - three books at the same time. I'm halfway through We Were the Mulvaney's by Joyce Carol Oates but I hadn't finished it before I promised to give it to my mom to read. I like Joyce - shitty things happen to her dark characters. I started Barack Obama's latest book The Audacity of Hope. Now that Russ Feingold isn't running for president in 2008, I must get aquainted with this man. And lastly, I am neck deep in an odd and rambling story called The Children's Hospital by Chris Adrian - an apocalyptic drama set in its title place seen through the eyes of a disgruntled medical student. Having a medical background makes the story incredibly funny. A sort of been-there-done-that without the end of the world.

I am an impulse buyer and a book whore and so I discovered that my crack house is Barnes and Noble. Hard cover books everywhere with shiny pretty covers. I picked up The God Delusion and a CSI board game and Josh Groban's newest CD just the other day before regaining consciousness in the parking lot. Send help.

Wednesday, November 08, 2006

Midterm Voting

Yesterday was election day. I always feel great about voting, so patriotic. I am always infused with vigor at the democratic process even though in alot of ways I think it's rigged. I am always registered in the district where I live and aside from a short period of time when I voted absentee (to prove a point), I love the actual process of going to my polling place and casting by ballot. I always thank the volunteers and make a big production of putting my ballot in the machine. I could vote straight down one party line but I like filling in the arrow for every single candidate. I exit the building with a sense of duty accomplished and I always participate in exit polls if there is one.

I'm pleased as punch that the Dems took the House. For one, history will recount the first female Speaker of the House. And for those of you who aren't in the know, if both president and VP are out of commission, she would become president. I'm actually a bit worried that the Dems might take the Senate as well. On the surface, it would seem like a good thing but I worry that the Republicans would then blame the Dems for everything over the next two years leaving the door open for a Republican presidential win in 08.

I'm bummed about Wisconsin's stupid marriage amendment passing. I thought the race would be closer. Wisconsin voters caved to right wing pressure. And while I will be the first to say that I think the institution as a whole is very flawed, I think that all people should be given that choice.

And even though I leave my polling place feeling excited and patriotic, I often feel guilty too. Guilty that I didn't do enough again this election cycle to help the candidates I supported or the amendment I didn't. I should have volunteered more time, made phone calls, donated more money. 2008 is only two years away.