Thursday, September 25, 2008

Pass it on.

So here's something interesting: before we convened last night at choir to talk about what we'd like to do with our reverse-offering, some email suggestions went back and forth and I found that my knee-jerk reaction to the suggestions about arts initiatives was "that's not important enough."

I probably don't need to deconstruct all of this for you socialist-leaning hippies, but I was intrigued by my own reaction. I had to have a little talk with myself. I've written before about how I don't think that art is a luxury; I think it's basic to human existence, and there's practically a fossil record supporting this assertion. It's no coincidence that in oppressive regimes, the arts are heavily censored, if not banned outright; the Taliban, for example, beat and jailed people for listening to music and for singing, and destroyed the folk music archives in Kabul. Musicians in Afghanistan risked their lives to bury their instruments for future retrieval rather than destroying them outright.

I've also written about how lucky I have felt that artistic endeavor was always supported in my family, and about how no one has ever really tried to make me feel like music isn't important. But apparently I've still internalized some of those messages about "well, people need to feed their families." By that logic, the only charitable efforts worth supporting are those that produce and distribute food.

The thing is, artists need to feed their families too. The folks driving the WPA realized this, during the Depression: the program included massive arts initiatives designed to keep the arts local and to harness them to support public goals, all the while employing unemployed artistic professionals. I am not kidding you when I say I get a tear in my eye when I read about this.

So then we met up last night and I suggested we fund a scholarship to a local music school, which is in the economically- and culturally-diverse neighborhood of the church, and that spiraled out into other suggestions about underwriting a concert for the school's students, or buying instruments, or what have you. Something, in other words, that would connect us to people around us, support the arts, and possibly have far-reaching implications for the students whose lives are improved by participation in and learning about music. And then I volunteered to head up the effort.

All of this happened about an hour after I had a comic phone commiseration with the Brit about how much I enjoy being passive, and how put-upon I would be at rehearsal that evening because our director was out sick and I wouldn't just be able to sit there and go la la la. I was also moaning, half-joking but maybe not even half, about the fact that my jobby-job is becoming less passive. In some ways I liked things better when I was just entering crap onto a spreadsheet. His job has become exponentially less passive as of late, not that it was ever passive, so he was feeling it too.

However, and this is a pattern with me, even if I don't look forward with pleasure to taking an active role in something--whatever that something may be--once I am doing it I am invariably happier. It's true of teaching, running a rehearsal, standing up to do nebulous training of supervisors, even and maybe especially exercising. I think it's my introvert and extrovert duking it out for dominance. Whenever I do a Myers-Briggs test I always end up right on the line, sometimes leaning more one way, sometimes the other.

In a not-unrelated episode, I had to get to work early yesterday and I spent about 15 minutes trying to decide whether I would bike or drive, bike or drive, bike or drive. All told it would have given me about 15 extra minutes to dink around if I drove, but the longer I hemmed and hawed the closer I got to having a decision made for me by Father Time rather than by my own agency. This is also a pattern, and an annoying one, let me tell you. Finally I got irritated with myself and was like "what is your PROBLEM" and I took off on my metal steed, and of course it was brilliant.

To sum up: I left choir last night feeling weirdly energized, enough that I snorted at myself about my entire day and how easy things can actually be and I said out loud "STEP IT UP."

Wednesday, September 24, 2008

Quick hits.

Tomorrow is the deadline to comment on the proposed Health and Human Services regulation that purports to protect religious freedom of health care providers. In reality, the regulation would effectively allow health care providers and anyone who could potentially come into contact with a patient to refuse to do anything to which they morally object. Reproductive Health Reality Check has much more on this if you haven't been following it, but the really important thing is the first thing I said: tomorrow is the last day to submit your objections to the proposed regulation, which have the potential to block access to basic reproductive health services. The easiest way to do this is to visit the ACLU site set up for the purpose. Tell everyone you know and hit them up before 5 PM on Thursday.

I think there was some other important thing that I was going to link at you, but now I can remember what it was. It may have been that thing about going to Ohio to help register voters, since 2.25 million Ohio residents did not vote in the 2004 election, but I can't put my hands on the link. I'll update tomorrow. Basically, if you have the time and want to volunteer, they can put you up until the election. Early voting starts September 30 and continues right on through election time. (UPDATE: Here it is, at America Votes.)

Also, my sister wrote a fictional "where are they now" based on the idea that the original members of the Baby-sitters Club would now be 35 years old. I was just barely young enough to read Baby-sitters Club books when they first came out; if you were younger still, you will totally appreciate Em's post.

Here is my assistant, assisting me.

Monday, September 22, 2008

Money for something.

Yesterday in church as I was fumbling around for my wallet to slap a little money in the collection plate, the minister explained that the plates were actually full of envelopes for us, that each household should take one and open it up and use the money in the envelope to have a discussion about how to use what you have in order to make a difference in your community--how to line up your money with your values. And then she said that we should get creative with the money and let them know what we did with it.

So then they passed plates, amid quite a lot of excited burbling in the congregation, and gave away $10,000 over the course of the three services. There was $20 in each envelope. So now I'm asking you, what should I do with this money? And bear in mind that I have access to a lot of other people who got a twenty on Sunday, and that we could pool our resources to do something more exciting.

Friday, September 19, 2008

On a mountaintop, tootin' on a flizoot.

A dirty little secret is that this, the third week in September, is the first week I have taken the bike to work every day, to two of my jobs, anyway (riding for an hour one way, largely uphill, on Sunday morning and then singing a few services is still a little advanced for me). When I started riding for transportation purposes back in early May, my resolution was to ride my bike to work at least once a week. I ended up riding to work 2-3 times a week most weeks and to my dance class every week. There were also a few weeks when things were bonkers and I had various errands all over town and I didn't bike at all (see for example: the week before vacation. Hurry up and relax!!).

But now we're having that perfect weather week, you see. The one where daytime temperatures are in the 70s but the mornings are crisp, and the sun is out, and the roads are dry, and everyone is in a good mood. You should hear the greetings flying around on the bike trails. There are some headwinds here and there, but people just pull up next to you on their rigs and joke about them. It makes you feel tough, like a member of a club. I've been veering off my well-worn route, just for kicks. And also because one of the main bridges I usually use to get to work has closed its bike lanes for the foreseeable future and requires me to disembark and walk, which is the last thing I want to do when I am rolling rolling rolling. Thanks to my detour, this morning a dude and I got off our bikes to haul some trash bags full of yard waste off the middle of the busy Franklin Ave bridge. "See you later Good Samaritan!" he hollered when our bikes parted ways. A few minutes later, I was singing the praises of my bike basket to the woman locking up her bike next to me (she asked).

Sometimes you gotta drive, but stuff like that doesn't happen when you're in your car.

Also, a few weeks ago, I found the best exercise pants ever at Thrifty Outfitters. They're capri-length pants by Sugoi and they are made of a perfect, futuristic fabric and they have deep pockets in the front and back, yet they manage to be sleek. When I run they go ssskrick ssskrick, like enough to be funny, but they are totally getting the job done for my various activities. They even look good enough to wear for real, though by wearing them you would be telegraphing the idea that you are an active and sporty person who will take off running after work.

I guess what I'm saying is that this has been the week to EAT IT UP, so that's what I'm doing. It's happy hour, bitches.

Thursday, September 18, 2008

What's another word for pirate treasure?

In honor of International Talk Like a Pirate Day, here is a lame-ass joke that is also nerdy:

What's a pirate's favorite noble gas?
Arrrrrr-gon!

I'll be here all week.
I already shared this on my Google Reader thingie over there, but here's a nice little nugget from Shakesville:
Oliver Wendell Holmes once said: "I like paying taxes. With them I buy civilization." And I've always thought the Democrats should use that, should connect, at every opportunity, paying taxes and buying civilization.

Every time some bloviating nitwit conservative goes on about how the government never gave him nuttin', the Democrats should say: "Oh, you've never used roads? Never mailed anything? Never logged on to the internet?"

And every time the Republicans talk about the Democrats wanting to raise taxes, the Dems should retort: "Yes, we want to raise taxes on those who can afford it, because with taxes, we buy civilization. We build schools and bridges and freaking spaceships. You got a problem with that?"

Wednesday, September 17, 2008

On my list.

I have left you high and dry, have I not, after hinting about a mythical list of things that I want to do in the next year? I had a birthday on Friday and it passed without much fanfare, being a non-milestone year, and I gave you no post about what I have learned and what it's all about. If you're into that sort of thing you might read my sister's post on the topic, since her birthday is the day before mine and she has had eight fewer years to do these types of ruminations, so hers are a little fresher albeit still totally germane to turning 34. And speaking of her birthday, I did no blogular meditation on my sister in honor of her birthday, either. Oh snap.

Here's how our birthday looked, though:
Why so animated, o freakshow?

The thing is, in many ways I'm exactly where I was at this time last year, possibly even literally, except that this year I have biking clothes hanging up to dry in my office (a little bit ew, yes, but no one ever comes in here) and many more personal effects cluttering my desk. I'm also picking up a box of farm vegetables on my bike in a few minutes, which I also wouldn't have been doing last year. My net worth vaulted up by about $13K from last September to this one, which is pretty cool. I did my first road race and while I have not signed up for any additional ones since then (I have to admit that the entry fees and totally random causes can be a deterrent), I'm still running. I may in fact have reached a plateau, which isn't that cool, because it means I have to start trying harder in order to improve, which means I will be hating on the running a little bit more.

I also have a contract to go back to Collegetown Wisco for another sabbatical term this year, which I don't think I've mentioned here yet. I was sort of keeping it on the downlow, even though it's been a done deal for awhile. I am excited about the teaching gig for a variety of reasons--not least of which is the boost it will give my sense of purpose--even though it is happening during the winter term, which is the DEEP DARK DEPTHS, people. On the other hand, it's something concrete to eat up all of my time during the deep dark depths which I would be experiencing in Minneapolis in any case, so I got that going for me, which is nice.

Winter is also the time that I plan to start swimming again, both to keep me sane and active when biking and running are bad ideas and to test, gingerly, the notion of doing a triathlon next summer. I might put that on the list of Things to Do This Year if I ever get around to making that list for realsies. Look forward to reading entries about running into my students at the pool. Horrors.

Anyway, the really crazy thing about this teaching gig is that I'm not giving up my day job. It would make no sense to jeopardize my earning power and benefits for the other 40 weeks of the year in order to take this opportunity, so thanks to the largesse and flexibility of my boss, I'm going to be commuting, telecommuting, teaching a full studio of students, and likely losing my mind a little bit from January through March. Say a little prayer for me. At the end of it I'll undoubtedly be wealthier and wiser.

As for the Buy Nothing era that I mentioned a few posts back, it's not going to happen just yet--it's more likely that I'll do it in the new year, which phrase I cannot believe I am already uttering. I was mentally mapping out the next few months and thinking about things like potentially needing cold-weather gear for biking, and I decided to shelve it. I probably won't buy much in the next few months, but I want to take some time to evaluate what I have, jettison some more of what I don't need, and think about supplies I might lay in before I stop being a "consumer" and content myself with being a human being. When I'm ready to do it I'll talk more about the parameters. If you want to read about someone who is REALLY buying nothing, including almost all food, for 9 whole months, please direct yourselves to These Days in French Life.

Soda jerk.

Do you know The Knowledge for Thirst? It's a beverage review blog that is very funny. I liked this bit from today's post:
Posting an opinion of something on the internet is the karmic equivalent of shouting into the ear of your very deaf great grand-aunt at Thanksgiving, who does not remember your name, and who is more likely to accuse you of trying to steal her purse then ever pass the sweet potatoes.

Thursday, September 11, 2008

Zombie feminism.

Another excellent piece of writing from Rebecca Traister at Salon, on "Zombie feminists of the RNC": How did Sarah Palin become a symbol of women's empowerment? And how did I, a die-hard feminist, end up terrified at the idea of a woman in the White House?

Maybe I'm just overtired, but I got teary-eyed at the end of the article, when Traister implicates liberals in the whole Palin debacle:
For while it may chafe to hear Rudy Giuliani and John McCain hold forth on the injustice of gender bias, what really burns is that we never heard a peep or squawk or gurgle of this nature from anyone in the Democratic Party during the entire 100 years Hillary Clinton was running for president, while she was being talked about as a pantsuited, wrinkly old crone and a harpy ex-wife and a sexless fat-thighed monster and an emasculating nag out for Tucker Carlson's balls. Only after she was good and gone did Howard Dean come out of his cave to squeak about the amount of sexist media bias Clinton faced...Which leads us to my greatest nightmare: that because my own party has not cared enough, or was too scared, to lay its rightful claim to the language of women's rights, that Sarah Palin will reach historic heights of power, under the most egregious of auspices, by plying feminine wiles, and conforming to every outdated notion of what it means to be a woman. That she will hit her marks by clambering over the backs, the bodies, the rights of the women on whose behalf she claims to be working, and that she will do it all under the banner of feminism. How can anybody sleep?

Tuesday, September 09, 2008

Something else to hate about the Republican VP nominee.

When she was mayor of Wasilla, the city charged rape victims for rape kits because they didn't want to burden taxpayers.

What. The. Fuck.

Thursday, September 04, 2008

Imagine me singing the theme song of Mad Men and that will be the title of this post.

The blogosphere is full of elegiac posts about the end of summer today. Here, it's as if September 1 flipped a switch and it's crisp and blustery and there are local apples at the co-op. Yesterday, I biked to work in street clothes for the first time since May. There's one brief wooded stretch over the creek on my ride home that smells just like the end of every summer of my childhood, loamy and secret like the overgrown passage next to our neighbor's garage before the leaves started to fall. Like a fort in the forest when you have already had to start back to school and your jeans are too new and your shoes are too stiff.

We went to the State Fair, another harbinger of summer's end for anyone who grew up around here, over the weekend. We wound our way through the animal barns, checking out the frilled and extravagant chickens, the roosters with their alarmingly genital headgear, the velvet-eared goats, the recumbent, redolent swine. We ate french fries. The Brit could only stand about an hour of the talent show--that was the entire pre-teen division--and I can't say I totally blame him, though I would have stayed to the bitter end just to be illuminated by the fireworks. It's hard to watch painted and primped little girls screaming their heads off about love and disillusionment and ambition and shaking their butts in pursuit of a stage career. These kids are my worst nightmare as a voice teacher. You want to encourage kids who are talented and who love to perform, but the training for girls so easily turns them into perma-smiling pageant plastics with sexy outfits and phony ponies in their hair. Fortunately the judges gave the first prize to a kid who wrote and performed his own piano sonata. That gives me hope.

I plundered old alumni rags this weekend for more book recommendations, looking specifically for the submissions by the hilarious, cranky old professor who taught my Milton class. Now every day I feel showered by gifts when campus mail is delivered. I have Behind the Scenes at the Museum by Kate Atkinson, An Equal Music by Vikram Seth, The Namesake by Jhumpa Lahiri (whose name, incidentally, I love), and Memento Mori by Muriel Spark, which is a 1960 paperback edition with a fabulous cover that I will scan directly. I also have The Legend of John Hornby, which was central to another book I just read, Elizabeth Hay's Late Nights on Air. A stack of books feels like back-to-school. It's also part of an item on my List for this year, a non-specific item about using libraries more and reading new books. I have always read a lot but had been in a rut for awhile, not actively seeking different things to read. That's changing now that it's time to get cozy.

An unrelated item: we finally started smoking the crack that is Mad Men and this is making it harder to go out and get some exercise in the evening.

And I'm eating what might be the last good caprese of the year. In autumn, even salad can be melancholy.