May 2, 2008

The State of the World - For Real This Time

Working in groups, on projects, in college, sucks. This is my fifth year of higher education, so I have had this experience a lot. It's next to impossible to coordinate 5 young adults with jobs and full-time class schedules and social lives and try and get them all to make space in their schedules to sit down together and fight about how the project should be. Ok, usually it's not arguing. Usually one or two people take the lead, dictate how the project will go, who should do what, and the rest of the group are too complacent about the assignment in the first place they're just glad to have someone else doing the thinking for them. Usually that leader person is me, and usually because it's so hard to get people together, I pick up the slack and just do a lot of it myself. This time, however, I was lucky enough to have an awesome group who were easy to meet with almost every week and who took the initiative and who all genuinely cared about the outcome of the project. So in short, this group project was the best I've done. However, that's besides the point I think you're looking for.

The project itself. I think it's important to get us into the mindset of giving back. It's definitely important to get us thinking about what's going on in the world. Especially in a field like architecture it's important because it is a field that can be used for good or for evil. A lot of people might be going into this field to build mansions and design megamalls and sell their skills to the highest bidder, all morals aside. It's so important to learn about the state of the world so that we can see that changes need to be made. We can grow up and build buildings for good, refugee camps, low income, build for morally responsible companies that will give back to society. If we grow up in a bubble, however, thinking only about money and prestige, the minds of these architects can be used to furthur the exploitation of the environment and people of the world. I learned a lot from these presentations and my eyes were opened to things that I might not have thought about, especially if all we ever talked about was the different types of columns used in classic palaces. I am a firm believer that all the situations of the world are connected, that even if you don't involve yourself directly in a solution, the mere habit of keeping your eyes open to those sorts of things can help you to think about the situations you are involved in. A moral and helpful mind is a powerful thing to have, and instilling that in us at this crucial time in our career development can help to start us down the right path. It can also weed out those people who might be getting into the field for -- what I consider to be -- the wrong reasons.

Ah, the state of the world... Good to know.

Improving Minneapolis Slums Through Sustainability

This project really grabbed my attention, especially because of it's local flavor. It is important to think about things around the world, but we can't forget about what's happening in our own backyards.

They began by giving some of the reasons for the lack of affordable housing developments, one of which was the "not in my backyard" protests from other residents. That reason really hit home for me because I have first hand experience with it. I can understand the problem because I did live in low-income housing downtown. My problem, however, wasn't so much with the building I was in, but with the building in my "backyard," which was the House of Charity free housing project. Well, I guess I'm not sure which building contributed, but I know that living there I had to listen to some very loud fights, both inside and out and sometimes between one person inside and one outside, yelling to/from the second or third floor window. I also had a man follow me into my apartment trying to sell me crack, who then lit his crack pipe on my couch and tried to persuade me to smoke it with him. Luckily, he didn't try to hurt me and left after I repeatedly and firmly rejected his offers. However, I only lived there for a couple of months and that happened. Simply going by the odds, I can only assume it wasn't a freak occurrence.

The group didn't dive any deeper into the "not in my backyard" issue, and went into the redevelopment track instead, discussing the ways current low-income housing can be revamped to make it sustainable and pretty, giving back to the environment and instilling pride in the neighborhood it occupies and the tenants who live there. On first hearing, remodeling the building wouldn't seem like a feasible solution, especially because the government wouldn't want to spend money on crime and disturbance ridden homes when it could be spending that money trying to attract new, hip yuppies to fill its streets. However, I am always of the opinion that all social problems are connected, and I think that having pride in one's home is a very important key in people's development and lifestyle.

The crime and public nuisance that existed in the low-income housing I lived in was very noticeable. You would think that the police would be called in frequently to resolve these things, even if they had nothing to go on, there should still have been noise complaints to break up, right? Well in order for the police to investigate a noise complaint, someone has to call and complain. But I think that people living in this state feel that the government doesn't care about them, doesn't want to be bothered with their concerns. If they don't care about them living in cockroaches and grime (we had the worst cockroach problem there,) why would they care about them living in annoyance and fear? If people hate the sight of their building, they will rush quickly to their apartment and stay in there, not lingering in the hallways or common areas long enough to even recognize their neighbors. If they don't know their neighbors, why waste their time getting involved in their noisy arguments or violence?

If these buildings were designed to be places to be proud of, people would be happier with their life situation. They wouldn't constantly be thinking, "Oh this is temporary, I don't really belong here, I'm ashamed to be here, this isn't my home." People can take stock in their homes and feel a sense of identity. They might just feel a sense of permanence and start community building activities. They might get to know their neighbors, and then when there's a marital dispute going on, they might want to have the police intervene. They might actually want to have people come over and see their beautiful building, so they wouldn't want those people to see crime and grime, so they would do their part in making sure those things stay out of their beautiful home.

Giving people without a lot of money a sense of stability in their life, a sense of pride in their city, might not be as economically booming as importing a bunch of rich condo hipsters. But I think that loyalty goes furthur than trendiness, and the people who feel like their city cares about them will do more to give back than those who are just living here because it's in and convinient for the glamorous part of their lives before they have kids and move to the suburbs. Those loyal, loving people could be the ones volunteering, helping in other arenas to make the city a better place, to give back. And since the greener buildings save the city money in the long run, it seems to me to be a fabulous solution to many problems.

Sustainable, not slummable

Improving Minneapolis Slums Through Sustainability

This project really grabbed my attention, especially because of it's local flavor. It is important to think about things around the world, but we can't forget about what's happening on our own doorstep.

The group began by giving some of the reasons for the lack of affordable housing developments, one of which was the "not in my backyard" protests from other residents. That reason really hit home for me because I have first hand experience with it. I can understand the problem because I did live in low-income housing downtown. My problem, however, wasn't so much with the building I was in, but with the building in my "backyard," which was the House of Charity free housing project. Well, I guess I'm not sure which building contributed, but I know that living there I had to listen to some very loud fights, both inside and out and sometimes between one person inside and one outside, yelling to/from the second or third floor window. I also had a man follow me into my apartment trying to sell me crack, who then lit his crack pipe on my couch and tried to persuade me to smoke it with him. Luckily, he didn't try to hurt me and left after I repeatedly and firmly rejected his offers. However, I only lived there for a couple of months and that happened. Simply going by the odds, I can only assume it wasn't a freak occurrence.

The group didn't dive any deeper into the "not in my backyard" issue, and went into the redevelopment track instead, discussing the ways current low-income housing can be revamped to make it sustainable and pretty, giving back to the environment and instilling pride in the neighborhood it occupies and the tenants who live there. On first hearing, remodeling the building wouldn't seem like a feasible solution, especially because the government wouldn't want to spend money on crime and disturbance-ridden homes when it could be spending that money trying to attract new, hip yuppies to fill its streets. However, I am always of the opinion that all social problems are connected, and I think that having pride in one's home is a very important key in people's development and lifestyle.

The crime and public nuisance that existed in the low-income housing I lived in was very noticeable. You would think that the police would be called in frequently to resolve these things; even if they had nothing to go on, there should still have been noise complaints to break up, right? Well in order for the police to investigate a noise complaint, someone has to call and complain. But I think that people living in this state feel that the government doesn't care about them, doesn't want to be bothered with their concerns. If they don't care about them living in cockroaches and grime (we had the worst cockroach problem there,) why would they care about them living in annoyance and fear? If people hate the sight of their building, they will rush quickly to their apartment and stay in there, not lingering in the hallways or common areas long enough to even recognize their neighbors. If they don't know their neighbors, why waste their time getting involved in their noisy arguments or violence?

If these buildings were designed to be places to be proud of, people would be happier with their life situation. They wouldn't constantly be thinking, "Oh this is temporary, I don't really belong here, I'm ashamed to be here, this isn't my home." People could take stock in their homes and feel a sense of identity. They might just feel a sense of permanence and start community building activities. They might get to know their neighbors, and then when there's a marital dispute going on, they might want to have the police intervene. They might actually want to have people come over and see their beautiful building, so they wouldn't want those people to see crime and grime, so they would do their part in making sure those things stay out of their "backyard."

Giving people without a lot of money a sense of stability in their life, a sense of pride in their city, might not be as economically booming as importing a bunch of rich condo hipsters. But I think that loyalty goes furthur than trendiness, and the people who feel like their city cares about them will do more to give back than those who are just living here because it's "in" and convenient for the glamorous part of their lives before they have kids and move to the suburbs. Those loyal, loving people could be the ones volunteering, helping in other arenas to make the city a better place, to give back. And since the greener buildings save the city money in the long run, it seems to me to be a fabulous solution to many problems.

Project Unity - Achieving Gender Equality in the Central African Republic

Women have, throughout history, been considered all too frequently as second-class citizens. I found it very interesting that of the 37 charitable organizations helping out in the Central African Republic, only one of them dealt with women's issues. I highly agreed with the fact that education is the only way to change these women's situations, since we are dealing with age-old values as the core of the problem.

The only way to make women a more presentable force in a society is to literally change the connotations and opinions of the citizens. Giving women power or money or rights doesn't help them if their fellow townspeople don't feel that they deserve it. They wouldn't respect them and therefore, when shaded from the law, wouldn't respect any rules we could put in place about their treatment. This is why domestic violence is still so prevalent. It isn't that men are more allowed to beat their wives (at least not in our society,) it's that the age-old idea that men are superior beings that perpetuates these activities below the eyes of even the most "civilized" societies.

I think the approach this group recommended really would help these women in the best way possible. Taking them out of their homes or preventing them from participating in the activities they have always traditionally been responsible for, such as child-rearing or domestic duties, would not help them, it would only strip them of their culture and cause tension and hostility with anyone who still held their beliefs of inferiority. This method gives them a sense of accomplishment, a sense of duty, a sense of importance, and an education, and it's quite feasible from what I can tell.

By giving the women teaching jobs, you raise their importance level within the community. They then become not just the raisers of their own children, but responsible for the well-being of everyone's children. They become a valuable asset to the community at large instead of just to their own households, if it even was felt that they were that before. By giving them this importance, they can gain a little more respect, and sense of self-worth.

By educating them, they are gaining opportunities they wouldn't have had before, which I won't get into because the importance of education in general would be another paper entirely.

The kicker here, I think, is in the education of the children. By teaching the women of the community how to teach, they become knowledge-bearers in the children's eyes. They become the source of education to the children, so in those important years of developing values and priorities, these children can have a chance to learn to respect women instead of just thinking of them as, again, child bearers and cooks. This in itself is the key. We can't swoop in and change the connotations and beliefs in adult minds overnight. We can't do anything to make the adults in this society stop thinking of women as lesser beings unless they want to. But giving the women this knowledge and showing that to the children, and having the women have a say in what the kids are learning, that could be all the difference in changing the ideals that hold women down. Once again, education is key.

How do I feel about my experience with Study Buddies? Meh.

My study buddy was an adorable 6 year old boy named Mohamed. His smile will make anyone's heart melt, he cleans up after himself, and he is very smart when he puts his mind to something. I worked with him all year, and although he can be frustrating sometimes, as any 6 year old can, I usually leave with a sense of accomplishment and that warm fuzzy feeling you get when you feel like you've done something good. Two days ago, on the last day I would ever help Mohamed with his homework. he told me he hated me and didn't want me to come back next year.

I had been nervous about our last meeting, wondering if he was going to be sad that we wouldn't be seeing each other anymore. It was one of those bittersweet selfish thoughts; I didn't want him to be sad... but I kinda did. So when I told him I was signing up to come back next year and his reply was "Nooo!" you'd think it would have hit me pretty hard. But I knew then and I know now that it wasn't personal. I know that I did the best with him that I could have. I know that it's hard to sit and listen to a stranger tell you what to do, especially when you're a six year old Muslim boy and that stranger is a college age woman. I also know, from working with Mohamed all year, that he is a particularly headstrong, proud, and easily distracted boy. These qualities are especially deterring when sitting in a room fun of games and toys in front of a big window with the whole world outside, and the situation placed me in the role of disciplinarian. I had to be the one to tell him he couldn't run around the room reenacting his favorite Bad Boys 2 moments, that told him he needed to stop coloring a picture of gangsters and do his homework, that told him he couldn't go to the water fountain alone, or to the staff-only equipment room. I was just another voice of "no," and as that was the only impression he ever got of me, I understand his feelings.

This experience was very enlightening for me. We are spoon-fed the glamorous image of tutoring that little underprivileged kid who only wants to learn against all odds, that they will fall hopelessly in love with us and we'll keep in touch for the rest of our lives. I saw some groups there who looked like they were connecting, that they were friends who were having a great starry-eyed journey through the winding road of knowledge. But I also saw some very tired looking volunteer faces of students like myself, doing it for class credit, in whose eyes I saw little but "alright, here I am again." I also heard some mentees complain loudly about their homework assignments and the way the service was being run. Mainly I was so busy trying to raise my voice as little as possible while still commanding polite authority over my six-year-old rebel, trying to explain to him why he couldn't do whatever he wanted after his homework was done, and letting him win at board games because he threw a fit if he ever wasn't in a commanding lead with the ability to constantly gloat.

When I signed up for next year and Mohamed protested, I asked him if he didn't want me to come back next year. When he said no, I was slightly offended, but cheerfully replied "OK, well then I'll come back and work with someone else." All in all it was a rewarding experience even though I don't necessarily think I had too much of an impact on his impressionable little life. I mean, really, he knew how to do 85% of his homework without me saying a thing. Half the time he told me he didn't want me to help (unless he was asking me for the answers). But the times he did need my help, and I could help him, really was that warm fuzzy feeling. It was sparse and tough to get to, and sometimes I wanted to tear my hair out, but it was worth it. And if I can fit it into my schedule, I will try and come back next semester. Who knows, maybe I'll get that fairy tale bonding experience we see in the movies. Maybe not. There's only one way to find out.

April 2, 2008

I can't afford Photoshop

Since I can't afford the wonderful and glorius photo-editing software that would make my graphic-design abilities skyrocket, I am forced to present to you these layouts using the only program I have: Microsoft Powerpoint. That explains the horizontal orientation. These are just my ideas, I'm sure that someone in my group will be lucky enough to have Photoshop and as a group I'm sure we will come up with some vertically-oriented masterpiece. But for now, here's what I have to offer.
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March 14, 2008

Goin' with the flow

I chose some articles from a couple of magazines which I felt had a strong design sensability. raid.jpg This title page has a striking graphic that draws the eye. raid2.jpg They use the same image later in the article to tie the pages together. raidfull.jpg By keeping the graphics of the same style, the article comes off as polished, instaed of using random images that can distract the reader. The same can be said about this article. bird1.jpg I'm sure there are plenty of images of birds they could have used, bird2.jpg but by keeping them the same it forces the reader to pay attention to what they're saying. bird3.jpgbird4.jpg I like this next magazine for its layout. arp2.jpgI just like the way it breaks from the traditional grid to keep it interesting. This next article employs nice techniques to keep the design flowing throughout the article. elvis.jpg By keeping the page color constant, you know you're in the same article. elvis2.jpg They then bring back the striping from the title page to draw attention to an important point as well as tie the pages back together. elvis3.jpg The next article uses a similar technique...boneyard.jpg They use the graphic at the bottom of the page to keep the flow of the story without distracting from the text. boneyard2.jpgboneyard3.jpg I think my group can draw from the design principles displayed in these articles to create a flowing story that keeps the reader's attention. Magazines - Orion: Nature/Culture/Place - March/April 2008 Colorlines: The national newsmagazine on race and politics - May 2008 ARP! Rants: Art Review and Preview - vol. 1, issue #4 spring

March 12, 2008

Why I want to do what I want to do

So I guess I would be the thing. My framework is that I am 24 years old cake.jpg
and live on my own in an apartment in Minneapolis. apartment.jpg
The university of Minnesota Weisman-University_of_Minnesota-2006-09-04.jpg
is located in Minneapolis and is an institution.
Periodically yet invariantly scheduled, like clockwork, I change my position from my couch couch.jpg
to the campus. u.jpg
Then after my class I return to the couch. It will be a phenomenon when this cycle reaches it's complex conclusion of my graduation. graduate-1.jpg

Then I will perceive myself as an architect and sense a feeling of accomplishment I have not yet known. That's completely simplified and probably the obvious answer, but that's how I relate the system of frameworks and clockworks to my own life.

So how does the built environment affect me? The same way it does everyone. Our base human needs are food, water, and shelter. The areas I'm lucky enough to live in have been designed to make that life as comfortable as possible. My goal in life is to work in the field of architecture to provide that comfort to those who wouldn't otherwise have it. However, I see in this pursuit of comfort and luxury far too many people who are sacrificing our only true source for life, the Earth. The reason I want to work in architecture is because I know we can't live without it, but we are living irresponsibly within it by wasting resources and polluting our planet. I want to help develop sustainable and healthy ways to provide the citizens of this world with comfort and protection, as well as a sense of pride in their surroundings. We can't escape our surroundings, so it is highly psychologically important that they be pleasurable. That's why I want to do what I want to do with my life. Because of the importance of the built environment.

February 29, 2008

I'm broke...

College has been the bane of my existence and the love of my life.

for the last 5 years i have been expected to know what i want to do. The only problem is, people expect there to be one answer. I, unfortunately, want to do everything. kahlo49_jpg.jpg
I have had 9 different majors since I started school, and although I loved each one at the beginning, I have had a major fear of commitment a little while in and stopped. I can't bear the idea of doing one thing for the rest of my life when there are so many wonderful and beautiful things out there to do. Here's a short list of some things I would like to do at some point for some time -

I'd sing to orphans. I'd sing to anyone who'd listen. shut-up-and-sing-8.jpg
I'd paint. I 'd make music videos just for fun. I'd design cost effective yet intellectually and socially stimulating elementary schools and rehabilitation centers. I'd council teenagers through their angst. I'd revolutionize sustainable building practices and recycling methods. I'd create completely vegan food that tastes so good no one will ever want to eat meat again. vegan.jpg
I'd design and build vegan restaurants everywhere, educate children on animal cruelty, and come down hard on factory farms everywhere. I'd travel the world and take photographs of joy and sadness, and post them on billboards, churches, highway signs, schools, television. I would raise children. I would exercise. I would sleep a lot.

I want to make a difference in the world. I'm not jaded yet, and I still think I could have a chance, if I didn't have to waste so much time taking mandatory 2 years of foreign language and a specific number of electives. I wish I could just take classes and then use that knowledge to get a job, any job that strikes my fancy. But I have to get the degree to get the job to make the money to pay for the classes. And that puts a large wrench in my plans.

I want people to see what's out there. I want high schoolers to know that they don't have to get in and out of school in 4 years. That they don't have to know what they want at 18. That school can be about actually learning, and that learning can be about exploring all the wonderful knowledge that exists in the world. I wish more people could enjoy their classes, take classes they want to take, learn what they want to learn. I wish I could. I've done a lot of that and now I'm so far in debt I don't know what my future looks like without scrimping every penny. I now have to restrict the number of classes I want to take so that I can afford to take the ones I need. It's a vicious, vicious cycle that puts a dark cloud over what should be the beautiful gift of education.

Honestly, if I were released from the constraints of school I'd stay in school the rest of my life.

February 22, 2008

Dr. Seuss could save the world


“The more that you read, the more things you will know. The more that you learn, the more places you'll go.? - Dr. Seuss

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According to Bookaid.org, 80 million of the world's children do not go to school. It breaks my heart to think of these children never learning to read or write, never being able to see and share the imaginations and experiences of anyone or anything beyond their front doorstep. These children work; the only thing they will learn is a trade most likely not chosen by them, and that will be all they are qualified to do for the rest of their lives if they are never given the opportunity to learn something else.

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The principal goal of education is to create men who are capable of doing new things, not simply of repeating what other generations have done.
Jean Piaget (1896-1980) Swiss cognitive psychologist.

Education is not filling a bucket but lighting a fire.
William B. Yeats, poet

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Another huge importance of universal education is the future of this planet, the future of our race. With education comes the knowledge of the worlds problems, and the ability to take responsibility for them. If more people had this ability, real change could be affected worldwide. Without education, nothing can change.

The great aim of education is not knowledge, but action.
Herbert Spencer

I don't see how you're going to stop the cycle of famine and war unless you improve knowledge and understanding.
Michael Morpurgo, former Children's Laureate

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The pursuit of new knowledge, that power to accomplish new goals, the ability to even dream up new possibilities for yourself - this should not be denied to anyone. We need to take care of the children who can not take care of themselves. Every child has the potential to acheive their dreams, but without education they won't even know that.


February 15, 2008

But everyone's doing it...

Here is a tale, taking place in the Twin Cities, demonstrating a social issue for which I am an advocate for change.

I walked into a coffee shop proclaiming its own eco-conciousness and its fair-trade, locally grown, tree-hugging atmosphere. I ask the waitress what I should get and she offers me a side salad. A side salad! Why is this a social/design issue, you ask? Because I am a vegan, and I'm so tired of salad.

There is an issue at hand in this and I'm sure other cities across our great nation. It is very difficult for a vegan to get a good meal in public. This makes it difficult for people to become and/or stay vegan, and keeps the meat market thriving. The meat market is the real problem, but the fact that so many people continue to support it prevents its solution.

The meat industry is responsible for so many atrocities to this world I can't even think about it without a rant running through my head. I won't get into the details, but if we as a society consumed less (or, in my dream world, no) animal products, the following things might happen:

-more people would have food worldwide (a vegan diet would feed almost twice as many people worldwide than one with 25% animal products)

-methane greenhouse gases, acid rain and the threat of global warming would be significantly reduced (cows raised for food are responsible for 18% of greenhouse gas emissions and 64% of ammonia which contributes to acid rain)

-and water would be in greater supply to those who need it (livestock farming takes up 8% of global human water use, and pollutes through manure waste as much per cow as 3-6 people)

*All statistics derived from Vegan Outreach - http://www.veganoutreach.org/whyvegan/environment.html and http://www.veganoutreach.org/whyvegan/resources.html

I could go into much more detail and a much longer list, not to mention the torturous treatment of the animals themselves raised for our palatable pastimes, but that is not my point in this blog. My point is to detail how this bleeding heart belief system of mine harms human society. So here I go on that.

First of all, a meat-centered diet is not a natural one, it is a socially designed one. We are bombarded all our lives with the notion that a meat-centered diet is the only way to go.
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The people who tend to stray from that are the ones who stray from the beaten path on other facets of life, who have ad-blockers up and seem a little, well, different. We are taught to blend in and stay "normal" and the only way to make something, like a diet, seem "normal" is to design it, through advertisements, television shows, the meals restaurants offer, and the way people talk about it. If a man hears people talking about crazy granola-and-celery-stick-eating hippies being vegetarians, then his doctor tells him to do so for his health, he's going to have a hard time, because he doesn't want to be a freak, an outsider. However, if the restaurant he already likes offers some tasty vegan meals and tells him so, if he sees advertisements for vegan food or meat substitutes, and sees his favorite sitcom star eating a veggie burger, he might be a little more keen to the idea.
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I've been a vegan in the Twin Cities for two years and I can only name a handful of restaurants who advertise their veg-friendly menus. There are a couple of mainstream places, like Pizza Luce, which provide quality fare for both meat-eaters and herbivores, Photobucketbut if you've ever been to someplace like The Hard Times Cafe or The Seward Cafe you'd know that while their... alternative atmosphere may cater well to those who are already onto things like alternative diets, they don't exactly draw a very diverse crowd or get the message beyond their own front doorsteps. I don't need to tell you how much we are influenced by the things we see, you've heard it enough from the anti-tobacco groups (who, incidentally, are using the exact same methods, and it's working for them.) Right now, the word vegetarian has a negative stigma, and anyone who watched baseball star Roger Clemens ask a Congressman "What's a vegan?" yesterday, can see that a plant-based diet is not exactly on the pulse of the nation. My spell checker keeps underlining the word vegan throughout this document and it makes me sad. Photobucket

An article by Peter Fricker in the "Globe and Mail Update"* describes these frustrations: "Last week, Rajendra Pachauri, the head of the United Nation's Nobel Prize-winning scientific panel on climate change, asked the world to "please eat less meat... This is something that the IPCC (International Panel on Climate Change) was afraid to say earlier, but now we have said it."" Even an organization responsible for the protection of the environment - something even non animal lovers claim to care about in this Al-Gore-hybrid-car era - is afraid of the public's reaction to such a request. According to Fricker, people are more afraid of "the dreaded v-words: vegetarian and vegan." The social connotation of these words is powerful - I tell people I'm a vegan and they tell me I'm extreme or crazy or launch into mockery. The problem, however, is that our numbers are small and misunderstood. Once I "came out" (as vegan) to a group of new coworkers, and they all seemed nice enough. Then I heard that on a day I was gone, one woman had asserted that I was a liar, because "it's physically impossible to live without dairy and eggs." I don't know where she got her facts from, because I'm alive and well. But again, I'm off topic. My point is, this is a social problem, and although many of the worlds most celebrated minds have supported animal rights and meat-free diets, the world at large has still been designed to believe it's just not right.

*"Care about the environment? Eat less meat. http://www.theglobeandmail.com/servlet/story/RTGAM.20080122.wcomment0123/BNStory/International/?page=rss&id=RTGAM.20080122.wcomment0123

"Kindness and compassion towards all living beings is a mark of a civilized society. Racism, economic deprival, dog fighting and cock fighting, bullfighting and rodeos are all cut from the same defective fabric: violence. Only when we have become nonviolent towards all life will we have learned to live well ourselves." - Cesar Chavez

"The beef industry has contributed to more American deaths than all the wars of this century, all natural disasters, and all automobile accidents combined. If beef is your idea of 'real food for real people,' you'd better live real close to a real good hospital." - Neal D. Barnard, M.D., President, Physicians Committee for Responsible Medicine

"I have from an early age abjured the use of meat, and the time will come when men such as I will look upon the murder of animals as they now look upon the murder of men." Leonardo Da Vinci

"Nothing will benefit human health and increase the chances for survival of life on Earth as much as the evolution to a vegetarian diet." Albert Einstein

"A man can live and be healthy without killing animals for food; therefore, if he eats meat, he participates in taking animal life merely for the sake of his appetite. And to act so is immoral." Leo Tolstoy

*all quotes from http://www.afa-online.org/quotes.html

Think about how often you eat. If everyone, every time they ate, was at the same time making a selfless, moral decision about that food, they might feel really good about themselves. That good feeling might be carried through to more selfless acts or compassion towards other creatures (maybe, their fellow man?) But that's my idealistic idea. I'm just trying to be the change I wish to see in the world. And every time I take a bite, I'm making a decision to continue my advocacy. And if it was easier and more socially acceptable in our modern world to maintain an animal and environmentally friendly diet, I think more people would be keen to be that change too.

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February 6, 2008

It's not important what they think....

"I like getting recognition for the work, but its much more about people just seeing it as opposed to them knowing that I'm the personality behind it . . . because I actually don't want that extra level of filtration before somebody starts to think about what it means . . . I want them to confront it and not have someone that will interpret it for them." - Shepard Fairey, creator of the ever-present Andre the Giant "Obey" logo

It's always bothered me when people try to explain art to me. I look at a piece of art, and if it is good art, it will move me, make me want to keep looking, make me want to know what it's about. But I don't want to know what the artist meant by it. I want to know what it's about to me. I want to know why it moved me. I want to know the words behind the feeling it evoked in my brain. If it makes me understand something about myself, then to me, it's a good work of art.

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As I drive to work every day, I see two of the same sticker. That black and white cartoon face glares at me from a newsbox and a lightpole, respectively. As I see it, it makes me feel like a part of this city. It's everywhere I've been here and in everyone I've known here, because if I ask anyone from the city about "that black and white face sticker that's plastered everywhere," they'll know what I'm talking about. If I ask someone from the suburbs about the sculpture garden, or the Metrodome, they'll know what I'm talking about, but if that sticker is a part of your life, you are a part of the city. I've always liked that.

Reading an article about the sticker, I found out that the sticker didn't originate here, that in fact it's in cities all over the country. If someone had told me that before I had had the chance to develop my own bond with that stern graphic icon, I probably wouldn't have. It would have become something else to me. Knowing the "true" meaning of art may diminish some of those feelings, but I try to keep the original emotions present, for without those, to me, art is meaningless.

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The thing I think I like the most about Andy Goldsworthy and his work is that he doesn't try to assign meanings to his art. He creates his art for himself, and leaves it, without leaving a signature. I'm sure he's thinking of a million things in the time he spends with those pieces, creating them. However, he had all the time in the world on the film to talk about that and he didn't, really. He left them as just beautiful, energized pieces of art for the world to observe. One person could look at a stone circle he created and think it looked like an eye. One could think it represented a hole in the landscape. One person might see a face. With every piece of his art, I tried to think of how I would feel if I had just come across it on a walk through the woods. I probably would have thought it was the work of a group of people, or possibly a natural phenomenon. Without a signature or explanation, art can be anything. When left out in a place where we live and are not seeking it out, it becomes a part of that place. The meadow where Goldsworthy creates a beautiful colorful display will forever be changed in the eyes and memories of anyone who goes there. The stickers, while probably unnoticed by a passerby, will forever be associated with the streets I've lived my life on here. Something simple can forever change the mood of the place.

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On the sidewalk I take to get home from school, there is a peace sign carved into the concrete. Before I looked down and saw it, I thought about any number of things on that walk - homework, relationships, money troubles, etc. One day I looked down. When this very sidewalk was being created, someone drew this symbol in it and turned it from a simple path to follow to a symbol of peace to walk through. The very stone exudes a message. Now I can't walk over it without being reminded of that message, and of the connectedness I feel with the person who first changed that stone, and with all the people who probably love it and have been changed by it too. Again, I don't know if they did it to protest, or to rebel, or to share, or as a dare. I don't want to know. It's these symbols that make this city for me, and without the feelings I associate with them, I wouldn't feel the energy of being home.