Wednesday, March 29, 2006

A photo in life

I remember when the lightbulb went off, about a year ago. I was riding the CTA Green Line from Hyde Park to the Loop. I looked out the window as we approached the Indiana stop, when lo and behold, there it was.
During the summer before my junior year of high school, I took a mural art class. The plan was to have finished a mural by the end of the summer that would be hung in the wing where the school radio and closed-circuit television stations were produced. Since none of us had ever attempted such a task, our teacher brought us to the Elliott Donnelley Youth Center on the South Side of the city. I don't remember what the inside looked like; we spent a lot of time in the community art garden, an oasis among the dilapidated buildings. I took lots of photographs of the mural on the wall--the style reminded me of that of Thomas Hart Benton, an artist about whom I was writing a biography for this class, who painted flowing scenes on large canvases. I also photographed the sculptures from different angles, and with other students leaning against them or examining them. One cone-shaped sculpture was painted bright yellow with red dots. A stone gazebo was inlaid with polished stones and shining tiles. There were also large painted tiles and other things too, which I didn't photograph and can't remember. That was 1996. For 9 years, those photographs have been floating around in my drawers, mixed in with other photos from parties and such, hiding behind books. Until I looked out the train window, I had no recollection of where that mural and sculpture garden were located. (Until I moved to the city of Chicago, I had no idea there was anything else besides Michigan Ave. and Clark-and-Belmont.)
And when I saw the mural on that youth center wall, it was the weirdest thing, like spending 9 years looking at a photo of a person you met once, then walking past them on the street, looking exactly like the photo. It was like finding a long-lost friend. Only this friend's facade had faded. The mural seems to be in pretty good shape, at least from a distance. But the bright yellow cone-shaped sculpture is faded to a gritty pale tan, and the stone gazebo looks tired and worn. But it's all still there, just like I remembered it in the photo. Perhaps one day this summer, I'll stop onto the center, photos in hand, and offer to help out with something.
If you want to see a photo of the Elliott Donnelley Community Art Garden, go here
The mural on the taller building on the right is the one I have so many photographs of. You can see the yellow cone-shaped sculpture just in front of it, and the stone gazebo is in the middle, right in front of the train rail.
If you want to see what the area looked like before the restoration, go here

Thursday, March 23, 2006

Why rockers rock (and not just because of their music)

I heart Guster. Their music is great, they're nice Jewish boys who sing about latkes during Chanukah, and they're also environmental activists. While on their Campus Consciousness tour, they will drive a van that runs on B20, a 20 percent biodiesel blend. According to the news article on Environmental News Network today, this "Campus Consciousness Tour,, aims to educate, inspire, and activate students, and above all, leave a positive impact on each community and college/university that the tour reaches, according to the band." The tour is sponsored by Reverb, an organization that is a project of the non-profit organization ARIA Foundation (Artistic Resources In Action). If you want more information about the tour or anything else mentioned here, click on the above link to the ENN news article, which has more info and links to the websites of the other organizations above.

Friday, March 10, 2006

Crunchy Cons

No, I'm not talking about the negative aspects of being an environmentalist (because really there aren't any). I'm talking about political conservatives who are embracing the environmental movement along with their liberal cohorts. Clean air and water, natural resource conservation, and wildlife protection aren't issues that only affect political liberals. When the environment suffers, we all suffer. More people on both sides of the aisle are stepping up to join conversations about conservation and to take action to clean up our land, air, and water. Check out this article on Environmental News Network as evidence that the environmental movement is growing everywhere, whether we want access to more organic food, to save the arctic seals, or to just reduce our dependence on foreign oil.
Speaking of oil, there's an article in the April issue of Discover magazine about the growing success of the the plant in Carthage, Missouri that turns the Butterball plant offal and other refuse like rubber tires and plastic into bio-oil, which can be used as-is or combined with some other oil to make gasoline. Sadly, Discover strikes again--since I'm a subscriber, I get the issues long before they hit the news stand or the online files, but in the meantime, read Discover's first article from May 2003 about the plant. I may be a vegetarian (and looking at the pile of dead turkey parts only reinforces it) but I would use the oil from this plant for everything possible. Hey, I don't have to eat it, it just has to power my car and electricity (with little or no pollution).

Roe v. Wade, Red v. Blue, Men v. Women

I find it a bit interesting that right around the time that South Dakota Governor Michael Rounds signed into law a bill banning abortion in his state, tourism ads began airing on television boasting of all the wonderful things to do in South Dakota. But this issue has brought up another interesting point. The general grief people have with outlawing abortion is that women should have the right to decide what to do with their own bodies, and it's no business of anyone's besides hers and her doctor's. I agree. But what about the fetus' father? Does he have a right to decide whether or not to have the baby? Some men are now speaking out, saying that they have been unfairly duped into paying child support for a child they didn't want. Do they have an equal say in this matter? I'm still undecided. But I will say this: There are ways to prevent a pregnancy, such as the many forms of over-the-counter and prescription contraceptives, as well as just plain not having sex. I understand that accidents happen, but if a guy is that adamant about not having children, put on a damn condom, even if the woman claims to be on birth control. Eighteen years of child support is a big price to pay for not using common sense. Maybe these guys have a case, maybe they don't. But they better base it on something besides their own regret if they want to gain any ground on the matter.

Wednesday, March 01, 2006

The Wet Blanket

At first I was hesitant to post this article up here because it's so long and so accusatory, and I don't want to seem preachy. Well, not too preachy, anyway. But it has haunted me since Monday, and so I post it here. The article is critical of Republicans in politics, and although some Democrats are just as guilty, the issue goes beyond party politics. The problem is corruption, which must be eliminated no matter where it comes from. So regardless of your political affiliation, please read this and understand that something needs to be done.

Saving Our Democracy