Archive for March, 2011
Republicans want to cut taxpayer funding of NPR. They argue that this is in the interests of fiscal responsibility, but the effects of this cut on the budget are negligible at best.
What they really want is to silence the voice of reason, one which presents all sides to the story, a “fair and balanced” view of the world and the events going on in it, rather than the FOX news version.
It’s so much easier to govern the ignorant.
I also worry that it’s yet another step in the efforts to privatize everything. (David Mitchell writes effectively about this in his beautifully-written book Cloud Atlas, although I wish the part about the journalist researching lax safety practices at a nuclear power plant had been “real” rather than “fiction.”) In Michigan, the governor is trying to overturn democracy, all in the name of handling our “financial emergency.” These steps include giving him the right to dis-incorporate towns and take over school districts and turn them over to “financial managers.” Of course, these would be privately-run companies, and there would be no guarantee, for example, that the person put in charge of your school actually has any experience at all in education.
THEY want to take THEIR country back? From who? And so they can give it to the corporations? Are this many of MFA really that stupid? How can these people, middle-class, hardworking people, believe that any representative of the current incarnation of the Republic party is looking out for them? Do we really need to protect the interests of the wealthiest just in case someday you win the lottery and don’t want to pay any taxes on it?
And don’t we all realize that if we prodigiously pollute our planet, and don’t educate our children, and don’t provide basic services for the ill and the poor, we all will pay? That we’re paying already?
I feel like we’re at the beginning of the fall of the Roman Empire.
Should the Western world stand by while Quaddafi annihilates his people?
Do I really think I’m making a difference by clicking on every MoveOn petition that I agree with?
Am I pathetic that I have time to click on a petition, but not to call my senator?
Should we use nuclear power?
If we’re going to use nuclear power, should we, oh, I don’t know, maybe go so far as to have a method for disposing of the waste and of averting nuclear disaster?
Should we buy goods because they’re “cheap” even if the cost of those goods to the environment — both in terms of their production and their disposal when they stop working in record time — has not been included in that calculation?
Should we drive cars fueled by gas drilled for and/or refined in countries where women are treated as property rather than people?
Do we realize that 40% of the food that’s produced is thrown away?
Should we try to do something about that? (I’m NOT eating that I-think-it-used-to-be-a-cucumber I found in the bottom of the crisper, btw, but maybe I should be more careful about if I really wanted/needed to buy that cucumber in the first place?)
Should we pay for our children’s college education (“free ride”) or should we have them pay for it themselves (“responsibility,” “accountability”), even if it means they’ll be in debt for the first 20 years of their “adult” lives?
Should we spend some of our free time writing a blog that 100 people read a day, or should we play a game with our 10-year old instead?
Why is it that the older I get the more questions, and fewer answers, there seem to be?
First comment: 20%? Aww, poor babies. Welcome to the real world.
Second comment: What many are saying: What? You mean he’s going to cut taxes for businesses and pass the cost on to the middle class? You’re kidding! That’s outrageous!!! Let’s go protest and get arrested like we wish we had in the 70s but were too young or well-behaved. What the rest of us say: Well, duh? You’re surprised? You voted for him, what did you expect exactly? Then we shrug our shoulders and go about our insanely-overscheduled lives trying to keep our financial heads above water.
Is it actually possible that they didn’t see it coming?
I know, I know. Of course they didn’t. Alas, the average American just can’t pay attention long enough to make such predictions.
I’m so tired and disillusioned by this, and so many other things, I can think of nothing better to do than to go to bed and hide my head under my pillow.
Maybe by tomorrow it will all go away.
At least we’re not victims of a recent earthquake/tsunami/nuclear disaster.
That makes it seem so much better.
p.s. What’s the difference between “As if?” and “Who knew?” I think I’ve inadvertently created a redundancy.
Second Son is going to Michigan State University next year. That is, if we manage to complete the post-admission process successfully. This no longer seems to be the simple task I once thought it would be. I mean, I’ve managed to raise him for 17 years (ADHD, sensory integration disorder, booming voice, sophomoric sense of humor) without strangling him in his sleep; he gets good grades, scored respectably on his ACT test, has been accepted at the three colleges of his choice, and, as far as I can tell, has abstained from illegal drug use and has yet to impregnate anyone. One would think that now would be the time that I could pat myself on the back and complete a few easy online forms to send him on his way (off you go!). Unfortunately, this has proven to be one of the more formidable tasks to date.
What I want to do is call and ask the admissions department: “Do you want him, or not?”
The letter came months ago. We rejoiced, (some more than others). We finally manage to find an opportunity for the two of us to sit down together to complete the admission process. (We also finally find time to decline the other two schools, who call almost daily. Interestingly, we have not heard a word from MSU. Guess they have more students than they need, and supreme confidence in their desirability. Good thing their interest in him is not one of his/our most important considerations.)
The first thing that needs to be done is he must enter his Personal Identification Number (PIN) and Password Authorization Number (PAN) and the system will create an email address for him. We must then register the email address to continue to the next steps — pay the registration deposit, register for the academic orientation program, request a housing request form (seriously). He (certainly not me) takes the online mathematics placement exam; I fill out the immunization form.
The problems begin early in the process. MSU has already created the PIN and the PAN, but we have to wait 24 hours after creating an email address before we can proceed. Fine. It’s not that difficult to corral a 17-year old with a job and involvement in the school’s theater program while I’m working ~ 60 hours a week.
Today, finally, we sign back in and register him for orientation and request a housing request form (seriously). I begin to feel pretty confident that we are now on the official “home stretch,” then click on the link to have a look at the immunization form, so I can find out what information I need to get from the pediatrician’s office.
I get an error message, bright red block print: I must wait 24 hours after paying the deposit before I can continue further.
This is a problem?
Imagine this: couple, sitting around, discussing whether they want to read the Sunday paper, “go to bed early,” or watch one of their latest Netflix deliveries, and one suggests: “I know! We’re bored, with nothing better to do, let’s log in to random university websites and FILL OUT IMMUNIZATION FORMS!!!!!!!!!”
Are you wordIcan’tsay kidding me?
Isn’t modern technology supposed to be making these kinds of processes easier?
Good thing we’re so darn motivated (some more than others).
Three moments of grace:
Yesterday, the Lincoln Park Zoo parking barricade won’t let the bus out. We are due for a rehearsal in 25 minutes. The church is at least 30 minutes away. The director must be stressing out beyond the comprehension of anyone who isn’t a performer, (although she appears to be completely calm), but she stands up, “ooohs” on a pitch (G, I think) to get the choristers attention, the choristers join in, and she asks them to rehearse the 3rd verse of one of their pieces for their concert. Forty young choristers sing, a capella, filling the bus with an ethereal, beautiful sound.
Today, at the pool, the choir director wants to make an announcement. As she walks past, someone says “Good luck getting their attention,” so I start the G “ooooh” — by the time she’s at the end of the pool the whole group of children is singing along. It’s like magic. Works as well as in my piano classes when I turn the pianos off.
Tonight, after pizza at Giordano’s (40 children, 14 chaperones, LOTS of pizza) the children stand around in a big disorganized blob and sing “People who make music together.” The whole restaurant pauses to listen.
Ah, the calming, unifying power of music.
I’m riding today on a chartered bus with 35 members of a youth chorus (grades 4-9) and chaperones, on the way to Chicago for the choir to perform at a choral conference. I had been reading, (and, I admit it, napping a little), and looked up just as we passed through Gary, Indiana.
Everybody knows what a desolate place Gary, Indiana is, the city almost the euphemism for the word, but it never ceases to surprise me. There are clusters of abandoned houses, some just burned-out shells, others with siding in bent folds on the ground around the house and black tar paper hanging in strips. Piles of scrap lumber sit at the ends of muddy “roads.” Grain elevators seem abandoned, islands surrounded by marshes of dead grass and puddles of snowmelt. At one point there is a roadside park, sandwiched between a muddy dirt road and the highway, which consists merely of a roofed concrete slab sans picnic tables, and a home-plate fence at a corner of a narrow, narrow baseball field. There are no houses, no people, anywhere. Maybe it’s not fair of me to judge a city by what I see from the highway. But how does the impact of one’s approach to a city affect your perception of the city itself?
Strangely, I wasn’t aware of our approach to Gary as I usually am. You know, as you’re driving along and suddenly ask whoever is in your car with you “What’s that smell?” I always wondered who could live there — do they have a sense of smell? Do they die more frequently of cancers? Does anyone even live there any more? Is it naive to ask, What do they DO? Is it a ghost town, as it seems to be?
Since First Son is a college student in Cleveland, Ohio, we get our share of visits to the decaying rust belt of the midwest. The drive into Cleveland is also quite bleak — abandoned rail yards, decrepit factory buildings with broken and boarded-up windows and parking lots choked with weeds, rows of newly-built, fashionable, red-brick townhouses bumping up against what look like crack houses as you near the world-class chain of hospitals and medical centers.
How does one rebuild a city? is it the idea of the city which needs to be rehabilitated first? What was Detroit at its heydey? Cleveland? Is the fact that these declining cities were originally built on one particular industry the reason for their thriving and the cause of their doom?
The choir performed tonight in a “chapel,” (seating at least 3000 people), in Hyde Park, Illinois. The streets are lined with hundred-year-old genteel brownstones, a Frank Lloyd Wright house stands on the corner. The streets are clean, seem relatively safe (a perception not adversely affected by the Starbucks on the corner.)
What memories do these cities hold? What hopes? Is it a mistake when “we” abandon them? Isn’t the society created by man living as neighbor to man more likely to be one governed by peace and cooperation?
In one of the meditations read during the choral service tonight, we were asked to remember that the world and all men in it cry out for peace, that the earth requires our stewardship as much as, if not more than, it meets our needs. John F Kennedy says, ”We will neglect our cities to our peril, for in neglecting them we neglect the nation.” I think this is right, and meaningful, on many levels, in many ways.
But a long day, and tomorrow, another: Shedd Aquarium, and the pool at the hotel.
And $10 every 24-hours for internet service. Whatever happened to free internet in the room being part of the selling point of the hotel?
I did it, but I don’t get it.
Tonight’s reading, from Matthew — When one fasts, don’t disfigure your face as the hypocrites do so that those who see you on the street know that you’re fasting, for there your reward will be, but put oil in your hair, and go out into the world with a smile on your face, and your Father, who sees you fasting in secret, will reward you in heaven.
And then we have the pastor put ashes on our forehead.
For those of you who haven’t figured it out already, I am very !!! conflicted about religion. I have often in my life felt the presence of an enormous spiritual power, although it seems to me to stem more from our collective energy than from a Benevolent Dictator, but there it is — something enormous and beautiful and far beyond the understanding of my feeble little mind.
And, I have a church job. This church job allows me to a) teach ~ 4 fewer hours less every week, and b) play great music every Sunday, working with other wonderful musicians and for a congregation which really seems to appreciate what I have to offer from a musical standpoint. (After the service tonight, as I finished the Postlude — the second Barber Excursion, which conforms to the dark and somber mood of Ash Wednesday — my biggest fan, Paul, whom I believe to be in his 60s, gave a silent “whoop whoop” with his fist.) I don’t generally take communion, as I am usually playing during Communion, and am not really sure I’m comfortable with the cannibalistic-ritual of consuming the “body” of Christ anyway. But as I waited for the pastors to complete the imposition of ashes, and wasn’t playing the “background” music at the time, I listened to them intone repeatedly, “From dust you come, and to dust you shall return,” and decided there wasn’t really anything wrong with being reminded of that, so up I went.
But doesn’t this count as “disfiguring my face,” as do the hypocrites?
I do like the last line of the Matthew reading: “For where your treasure goes, so goes your heart.”
Nothing wrong with being reminded of that, either.
I think it would be worth taking voice lessons for 10 years just to be able to sing this song (it’s me at the piano, NOT singing; nobody wants to hear that):
And this might actually be one of the most beautiful things ever written:
That or Brahms Intermezzo Op. 118 No. 6, or maybe Strauss’s Four Last Songs.
Hmmm. . .something to think about.