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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.