October 25, 2010

Play Nice!

Are you like me?  Are you wishing that November 3 would just hurry up and get here already?

If you're in a state with contested congressional or gubernatorial seats (ie, nearly all of us living in the US), and unless you don't own a TV, you've been bombarded with political ads.  BOMBARDED.  I'm not exaggerating.

One of my facebook friends posted today that total spending on political campaigns by outside groups in midterm election in 2002 was $31,000,000; in 2010 - $385,000,000.  So no, it's not your imagination; you ARE seeing that many ads.

I understand that with all of the information (and DISinformation) out there the candidates feel the need to inform the public about their policies and ideology, and that the best way to do this still is televison.  What I don't understand is why every candidate has been reduced to muckraking. 

Seriously - WHO does this work for?  I have never spoken or met a person that loves these ads, or whose opinion was swayed by a negative campaign.  In fact, I'd be willing to bet that the negative campaigns actually work in the opposite way - that former supporters are so disgusted with the way their favored candidate is behaving that they either vote the other way or don't vote at all.  And we can't have that happen!

My husby Brian and I are so sick of these stupid ads that we've resorted to muting every single one of them, regardless of political party.  And it's pretty funny what these ads look like when it's just the images and no sound!  Most of them appear to be for the other candidate because they use their opponents' names so often in their ads!  I love how they find the most unflattering photos of their opponents, too.  Mouth agape, chimp-like stares, furrowed brows - it's almost theatrical.

I'm not going to get into who I personally am voting for - I kick it "old skool" and still believe that it's a personal issue and one that I won't discuss with others for fear of putting them on the defensive (if you know me well, then you know how I feel about most issues).  Alas, I think I'm one of the last holdouts of this philosophy.  I feel the same way about religion.

I wish I had some ideas about how to put this sort of campaigning to rest.  I haven't a clue how to fix it.  But maybe after this election is over (it's too late for this one), if we all rally and let our elected officials know how we feel about being subjected to these ads, the tide will turn.  We can only hope.

October 22, 2010

Don't let the Art Snobs intimidate you!

See?  Even my Publisher clip art has a bias!
If you're a regular reader of this blog, then you may remember me talking about our group exhibit that is currently running at the Windhover, our wonderful arts center here in Fond du Lac.  I'm enjoying being in an exhbit immensely - it's the first time EVER that more than two of my pieces have been in a show. 

But last night, I felt compelled to write a Facebook note about people's apprehension when it comes to visiting art galleries and exhibits.  It is my feeling that a lot of smart, educated people in the arts are still baffled when it comes to going to an exhbit, because of the "stigma" surrounding it.

The following is the note in its entirety.  I really hope that people take it to heart, because I sincerely mean every word!

Let's make art accessible and available to EVERYONE without fear!

"A funny thing has happened over the last 3 weeks or so -

I'm discovering that people have an innate fear of art galleries and exhibits.

In many different areas of my life, when I tell people that I'm in an exhibit at the Windhover Center, they look at me as though they've never met me before. And these are people that have known me for a long time! I thought maybe they just didn't care at first but I think there's more to it than that.

Brian and I were talking tonight about our first experiences at an art gallery and that feeling came flooding over me, a feeling that I had forgotten I had felt - that feeling of panic.

I think TV and the movies have done a great disservice to art galleries and their exhibits - they portray everyone involved as hoity-toity @#%% who want nothing to do with us "regular people". You know what I mean - people in angular glasses wearing Euro-trash clothes, either as gallery owers or patrons, discussing the works of art before them in hushed tones and uttering such bon mots as, "I feel his postmodernesque work completely overshadows his earlier, edgier pieces." Or something like that. Whatever!

Here's the truth - I am EXTREMELY lucky to be a part of the art scene in Fond du Lac. Here's something else you may not know: we artists in Fond du Lac are NOT "art snobs". Remember - this is Fond du Lac.

Okay, so you may find someone at an artists' reception who feels the need to alert the entire room that he or she knows more than anyone else about a particular artist, genre, style, etc. But those people are really few and far between. The majority of folks who attend these receptions are friends/family of the artist(s), regulars at the particular venue, or just nice people who like art.

I think a lot of people are overwhelmed or afraid of being called out for not knowing enough about art - and to that I say, fuhgettaboutit! NO ONE CARES whether or not you know your dada from your cubism, or even if you know what those words mean! Do you like pictures hung on a wall? Me too! Let's go to a gallery together! :D

And seriously, that's all there really is to it. Art is meant to be appreciated and enjoyed (or not, sometimes, but that's up to you. Don't let ANYONE tell you what you should or shouldn't like, even if it's mine. :D ). It is my hope that you let go of your worry that somehow you're not going to fit in. I am NOT an art critic, nor am I even an art expert! I just know what I like and don't like, and one of the ways you find that out is by - you guessed it - going to art galleries.

If you're still not convinced, remember this - it's just as scary being the artist and wondering if you like our work. But if we're not going to accost you and ask you point blank if you like it - that's bad form. So you don't need to worry about that, either!

So come on down to the Windhover on Saturday, November 6, anytime between 4 and 6 p.m. I promise we're not scary, and you'll have a good time! :D"

October 20, 2010


"There's no place like home."  "Home is where the heart is."  "Home Sweet Home". I've been thinking a lot lately about "home" - I always do around this time of year.  It seems like when the weather turns colder, it's the only place I want to be.

I'm sure the concept of home means something different to everyone - maybe you take off your shoes and put on slippers the minute you get home from work.  Maybe you flip on the TV.  Maybe you can't wait to sit down to dinner with your family.  Maybe you work third shift and the sun's just coming up when you get home, so you check Facebook to see what happened with all your friends that evening.

Whatever your routine, it's good to be home, isn't it?

I don't know about you, but I've gotten emotionally attached to nearly every house I've lived in - I can't help but think about everything that happened while I was there.  Good things, bad things, celebrations, funerals - it's all tied to where I lived at the time.

How many of you had only one childhood home?  And of you that did, how many still have parents living there?  I lived in the same apartment from nearly birth until I was nearly 20, when my parents moved to Madison so my mom could get her Ph.D.  And even though we had insane neighbors and the place had seen better days, it was heartbreaking to leave (I didn't know it at the time, but I would move seven times in the nine years after that).  It was the only place I had ever known, and the "unknown" was the scary part.

My current home is the fifth place I've lived since I've been in Fond du Lac.  I told Brian that if we never move again, it'll be too soon.  We'll never outgrow it; it's just the two of us and, barring some wacky life-altering event, it always will be just us.  I have my art studio in my house; Brian's got a nice photography set-up too.  We have a living room and a big family room, two bathrooms, two bedrooms and an office, and of course a nice-sized kitchen and dinette.  There is no need for anything more.  In my 42 years I've lived in 13 different places, and 10 of those have been in the last 22 years.  I'm done moving!  I love the security of staying put.

I recently made the collage (above) for the contest winner on Retro Renovation.  Every month one winner is picked from the entrants and the prize is a collage that I've rendered of their house.  I absolutely LOVE making these collages - one's house is such a personal thing and I love the challenge of creating something that will reflect how much these people really love where they are (the slogan of Retro Renovation is "Love the House You're In!").  This month's winner, however, really brought home to me how much we cherish our homes. 

Ann, the winner, lives in North Carolina.  They had just been through a tropical storm shortly before the contest was announced.  Many of Ann's neighbors suffered some pretty devastating damage; thankfully, the damage done to this house was minimal.  It was truly poignant to make this collage knowing it was such a close call!

So the next time the water heater goes out, or the roof shingles need replacing, or you just ran into the side of your garage (yep, that's me) - remember to take a moment and be thankful that you still have a home you can come home to.

October 14, 2010

I Heart the Post Office!

Close-up of "Save our Saturday Service" by me
 Recently my friend Beth sent me a very interesting e-mail forward, full of predicted soon-to-be obsolete items or places in our everyday lives.  One of those was the post office.

I've talked about how much I love the post office in my other blog, Ephemeraology, from a collecting and art point of view.  But I love it for other reasons too.

When it worked well, pre-Internet and other delivery services, the post office was one of the best examples of our government at work.  I mean, did you ever stop to think about how amazing it is?

I write a letter, send a gift, write a check, etc. and that item will reach its destination in a week or less.  And nearly the whole world's in on it!  Isn't that incredible?!  Truly stop to think about this.  And don't say, "Well, the Internet does the same thing, only faster."  Yes, the Interwebs is also amazing, but we are yet to teleport packages.  Until then, we will need a mail service.

You might say, "Why do we need a privatized mail service when we've got UPS and its ilk?"  Well, because they're publicly traded companies, they have to answer to shareholders.  They need to make a profit and the last time I checked, it was impossible to mail a letter via UPS for 44 cents.

And I've always marveled at how people would complain about the price of stamps going up.  Really?  What else can you do these days for 44 cents?!  You can't get coffee, a newspaper, bus fare, or any other cheap item for less than 50 cents anymore.  Most cost a buck, at least.  But we (for a little while longer, anyway) are still able to mail something under an ounce ANYWHERE IN OUR COUNTRY for such a little cost.  You say you don't write letters anymore?  Last time I checked we're still getting cards for our birthdays and the holidays.  And they're much nicer than a text.

Here in Fond du Lac they're discussing doing away with our Saturday service and/or consolidating our post office with the one in Oshkosh or Green Bay (both too far away to be convenient).  Besides all of the jobs lost, it would force people to use satellite post offices in businesses like grocery stores.  This doesn't sound bad in theory, but there will be service fees tacked onto your errands, mark my words.

If we do keep our post offices, and I sincerely hope we do, there will be price increases.  It's worth it to keep efficient, safe mail handling available for ALL.

October 12, 2010

Shame on you, Miley.

Like probably a zillion other bloggers today, I'm going to rant on the new Miley Cyrus video (no, I'm not going to link to it.  I don't want to give her any support).

I'm totally not surprised that Ms. Cyrus is taking this route to stardom, but I am disappointed that this trend continues.  Has her family not seen what has happened to other girls (yes, she's technically still a girl!) when they try this?  Britney, Lindsay, Paris....has she learned nothing?

What is the lesson here - that in order to make it with less-than-stellar talent, you have to resort to writhing around on a bed in your underwear?  Oh, and let's not forget - she's still SEVENTEEN!  Never mind the fact that her parents think it's okay that she's already living with her older boyfriend. 

I wonder sometimes what has happened to our "Free to Be You and Me" world.  When I was growing up in the Seventies, I heard all kinds of pro-women talk.  It was the era of the ERA, and women felt empowered.  They'd had enough of being thought of as just men's playthings (or their servants).  It was a time when Sesame Street encouraged learning for everyone equally - all races, abilities, genders and ages.  Thinking back to when I was a kid, this all seemed normal and, well, right.

So what happened?  Instead of "Maude" we've got "The Bachelor" and "Real Housewives" and "Rock of Love" (ad nauseum).  We still have Sesame Street but it's been dumbed down considerably and it plays along other pap like "The Wiggles" (seriously?).  Instead of "I am Woman" (which is a pretty terrible song, but at least it's got a halfway decent message), we've got "Break your Heart" by Tiao Cruz.  Instead of "The Stepford Wives" we've got "Bride Wars".

I have two teenage nieces and my sister and brother in-law, along with me and my ultra-feminist mother, are doing our best to instill "can-do" attitudes that they can carry with them.  I know family is the first line of defense in these situations, but I do worry that the positive messages they're hearing at home are being eroded by the crap they see all around them every single day. 

So what do we do about it?  Part of it is educating our BOYS as well.  If boys are taught that girls are just people, that's a start.  I'll even go so far as to say that an "I am Woman" mentality isn't that great; equality is far more important.  Yes, at some point, biology is going to take over boys' thoughts and they'll start to see girls differently.  But if "she's a cool girl" could replace "she's so hot" as far as how they think about girls, that would be fantastic.  And if we teach our girls that you don't have to get a boy's attention by flaunting what you have, and that they don't have to put up with any sort of behavior that is contradictory to this mindset, that would also be a tremendous help.

Do we want to turn the clock back to 1952?  Do you want your daughter to be a subservient wife instead of an equal partner in the relationship?  If this sounds good to you, then just keep teaching her that showing off her body is the way to snag a man.  Because we all know that the foundation to all wonderful relationships is how sexy you look, not your personality or thoughfulness or sharing.  I think we should all strive for a world where gender means nothing.  This probably won't happen in my lifetime, but maybe my nieces will have a better shot at it.

October 5, 2010

An Abomination

Oh, this is bad.  I'm not exaggerating - this is just really, really bad.

Take a look at this photo.  Yes, there are FIVE garbage bags there (one is kind of hiding).  They're full of clothes.

Oh, go ahead and yell at me - I deserve it.  How did it get this bad?!  I'm trying to think of the last time I made a Goodwill run with donated clothes - I can't remember the last time.

I was in one of those moods today where I just decided that I'd better clean out my closet and drawers, or it may wait another year.  It's a daunting task, but today I felt like being realistic.

"Were clothes REALLY made right here in the US, Mommy?"

What do I mean by that?  Well, as sad as it is, I'm pretty sure I'll never be a size 10 ever again, considering the last time I was that thin was back in '95, when I was 27 years old.  Time to throw out that plaid skirt from Express.  Oh, check out this tag:  it's from a sweater I bought at the County Seat (remember them?) back in - wait for it - 1985.  Yes, I said 19-EIGHTY-5.  It's 25 years old.  How can you tell?  Well, when's the last time you saw "Made in U.S.A." on a clothes tag? (I also have to laugh at the "virgin acrylic" material - must be from those petroleum-based sheep!)

Now, those of you that know me personally and have seen my taste in clothes know that I am, by NO stretch of the imagination, a clothes horse.  I will wear something until it wears out (I must've gotten this trait from my Depression-era dad - mustn't waste ANYTHING!), regardless of whether it's in style or not.  I haven't gone so far as to buy "separates" yet, but that's probably because I'm only 42 and I don't need elastic-waisted pants (yet).  So if I'm not a fashionista, how on earth did I get FIVE bags of unwanted clothes?  Well, if you count pants that I've grown out of (or bought thinking every 14 is the same and then was too lazy (or too optimistic!) to bring them back), there's a bag right there.  If you count clothes I hung onto for sentimental reasons, there's another bag and a half.  If you count gift sweaters, that's a half bag.  If you count Target t-shirts, for which I had one of every color, there's another half bag (but they're pretty poorly made, and those were on the verge of wearing out, yet too good to throw away).  If you count dresses and skirts that I wore once to some Christmas party or other, there's some more.  Et cetera, et cetera, et cetera.

Strata of clothes, ranging from 1985-2008.

I'm pretty sure that my generation (and possibly the Boomers) is the first generation to have this problem.  Seems to me that before all of our disposable income (and cheaply-made Chinese clothes) people bought a few well-made items and then mixed and matched them.  Something tells me that, save the richest folks, people didn't have a completely different outfit for every day of the week.  And did anyone really care if you wore a shirt twice in one week?  Would anyone really notice today?

I have bought very few clothes this year - firstly, because I really don't need any now that I'm home all the time; and secondly, for budgetary reasons.  I remember, in the past, going to Target and just throwing a pile of shirts in the basket because, hey, they're cheap, so why not?

What I'm going to try and do this year is: a) Buy American! and b) buy less.  If I can find a couple of classic pieces (like a good white shirt and some nice pants) and pair them with sweaters I already own, so much the better.  I don't ever want to have to clean like this again.  But there's always Brian's closet....

October 3, 2010

Happy October!

"Autumn Oak" ATC by me.
 It's hard to believe we've entered October already - is it just me, or did the summer just fly by?  (For my southern hemisphere friends - did the winter just fly by?)  :D

This time of year always feels like the new year to me.  No, I'm not Jewish but I think they're on to something!  Doesn't it totally make sense to begin the new year right after a harvest?  It is a process of starting over, after all!

I do have ulterior motives for why October is my favorite month - it's my birthday (or as my family likes to call it, my "birthday month".  We really like birthdays in my family.)!  I'm not shy to say that this year I turn 42.  What IS weird is when my mom was 42 I was a sophomore in college!  I absolutely remember her turning 42!  And in two years, I will be the same age as my Grammie was when I was born.  EEK!

But enough about that - I don't think I'm alone when I say that Autumn is a time of rebirth, even though in this hemisphere, everthing is coming to an end.  I for one am very happy about the chilly weather we get in these parts - in Wisconsin, the 50s are normal for this time of year but it can be as warm as the 80s and as cold as the 30s!  I've had every temperature fluctuation on my birthday - 3 years ago it was 85 degrees!

I tend to be happiest during this time.  I feel more creative, more social, and more willing to try new things.  I have more energy and ideas.  Plus, did you notice that some of the best movies and music come out in the fall?  And of course, the new seasons of network TV shows happen. 

But the best thing about fall is the spectacle that Mother Nature sends us!  I happen to live in a state that has all four seasons, so we get to witness the fall colors in all of their splendor.  I think the leaves turning is one of the most amazing wonders of our latitude!  Some day I'd love to take a trip to Nova Scotia in October and experience some of the best color around.  We also grow amazing apples here - the cold weather helps.  We have a great orchard/farm in our area called The Little Farmer, where there's apple picking, incredible baked goods (like pumpkin muffins that are to DIE for), hay rides and live music.  It's only open from September-November, which is why it's so special.  It's a must-see destination for many folks in our area - we're going this week!

However you celebrate this wonderful season, I hope you enjoy October and autumn as much as I.  If you don't, it's only six months 'til spring!