Friday, December 14, 2012

Enough with the guns, America.

Everyday I pass a sign like this on my way into work. It disgusts me each time. Not because I disagree with the message, but because we live in such a violent society that forces me to view this type of image daily. Because guns- violent weapons that kill- are so widespread that signs like this become a daily sight. Is this the type of violence above all world that we want our kids to live in? It's sick.

Today is a day of horrific tragedy in our country- an elementary school shooting. Twenty-seven families will be mourning this day for the rest of their lives. Twenty innocent beautiful children will not get to see all the joys of their childhood, teen years, and adult days unfold. Seven teachers lives were ended in senseless violence. Four hundred children will be terrified of their school for many years to come.

Could this have been prevented? Easily. Will we work to prevent it from happening again? Likely not. The NRA and other gun lobbies are extremely powerful in our country, and we as a people do not seem to have the collective will to do anything about the plague of gun violence in our country. Over 1,000 people die every month from gun violence in the U.S., yet we are relaxing gun laws and expanding open carry as I type this. Earlier this week there was a shooting at a mall in Oregon. There have been six major public gun massacres this year. Personally, in the course of my 30-something years, my father was held up at gunpoint, my mother had a gun pointed at her in traffic, and my university had five people die and twenty-one sustain injuries in the lecture hall where I took Math 101. A few years ago I had a student in one of my classes who had a restraining order against her armed ex-boyfriend who had threatened violence on campus. Campus security was on alert, and I was informed to keep my classroom door closed (as if that would do anything). It was terrifying. This year there were two occasions where I was in public and my mind raced to how I might escape or hit the floor when other people became agitated and reached for a bag or their pocket. We live in a war zone. All so some people can soothe their inadequacies with a deadly weapon. Why do their rights trump mine?

Why? So people with emotional issues can feel powerful when holding a weapon? So we can defend against the Queen? It's pathetic. Second amendment defenders often say that they want to be able to protect themselves against the government. This is, frankly, laughable. No matter how many arms you stock, you will never be able to defeat our military, which spends more than the next 26 nations combined. Nice try, but a sad excuse. Others say they need weapons for self-defense. When, exactly, was the last time you heard a heart-warming story of someone defending themselves against a perpetrator with a gun? Oh, never? Yeah, me neither. Certainly not in the time I've heard about the mass-shooting at schools, malls, and movie theaters. It's likely that there was someone with a gun in the audience in Aurora- did they have the time to react? No. Would they likely have shot innocents or been shot themselves by police looking for the gunman? Yes. Stand-your-ground laws (supported by the NRA) have been tied to the death of innocents in Montana and Florida- they are not helping us as civilians to be safer. In fact, the more guns a society has, the more homicides there are.

Early news reports are stating that the weapon used to kill small children and teachers was a semi-automatic rifle. It is completely indefensible to say that these, and the high-capacity clips that many mass shooters use should be legal, yet this is exactly what the NRA lobbies for. The only reason for these weapons is war, yet the gun lobby wants these deadly weapons to be legal and easily purchased. As far as I'm concerned, the NRA is as guilty as the shooter. Assault weapons and high-capacity clips should be banned. Period.

There are people who will say that this day is not one to talk about gun control. That we should mourn, not "politicize" the issue. This is bull$hit. If we had an outbreak of food poisoning, we'd talk about food safety. If we had roads collapsing, we'd talk about infrastructure. We have a crisis of gun violence in our country, to not talk about it is ridiculous. The gun lobby said this same thing after Columbine, VA Tech, NIU, Aurora, and the list goes on. If we had done something about gun control a decade ago, today's tragedy would not have happened. Over 5,000 people have died of gun violence since the Aurora shooting this past summer. That's more than died in 9/11. After that tragedy, we changed airport security, fought a war, and opened an entire government bureau dedicated to counter-terrorism. Yet, about gun violence we do nothing. It's disgusting, sick, and perverse. One person years ago tried to light his shoe on fire on an airplane, and another tried to mix up explosives with liquid. Now, we can't take anything over 3 oz on an airplane and have to take off our shoes every time we board a plane. Yet, we do nothing in the wake of innocent students, parents, teachers, movie goers, and mall shoppers being shot. To not talk about gun control in the wake of these tragedies is to disrespect the memories of those who died. The best thing we can do is to work to control this situation- to work to make sure it doesn't happen again.

You can sign a petition asking the White House to take action here:

When our Founding Fathers wrote the Second Amendment, it took over 30 seconds to load a gun. The Second Amendment has nothing to do with our gun culture today, or with Assault or Semi-Assault Rifles. The Founding Fathers also denied women and non-whites the right to vote, and allowed for slavery. We've evolved our laws on those, why do we hold on to the antiquated Second Amendment? And why do we insist on expanding it into the realm of Assault weapons and high-capacity clips? Even the gun owners I know think these weapons of war should be outlawed. Why can't we have a gun registration system? I have to register my car, but not a gun? Why can't we have more extensive background checks? Mental health checks for gun purchases?

In the time I've taken to write this post, at least one person has died of gun violence in America. Let's stop pretending like it's 1779 and ban assault weapons. We need reasonable gun control in America so more innocents are not killed.

Tuesday, December 11, 2012

Grading Week

 Ah, finals week.

The stress level on campus is high, the coffee flows freely, and students are dressed in pajamas for class (even more than usual). For me this means the beginning of the grading marathon. Papers, tests, calculating, oh my! The tough part about grading is that a) it always takes ten times longer than you think it will, and b) it can be very monotonous. For my Museum Studies class it wasn't too bad- they researched, curated, and designed mock exhibitions on a variety of topics. So, it took more than a full workday to complete marking  binders of labels, annotated bibliographies, and layouts, but it was pretty enjoyable. For my other class it's a bit more draining- over 60 student exams.

So what does this mean? Well, it means about 3,000 i.d. answers (10 questions with 5 parts each =50 answers per paper x 60= 3,000). Yikes. Checking for spelling/exact titles/dates for 3,000 items takes a while. Then there are six short answers at about 5 sentences a piece- so 360 of those. Finally, two long essays at about a page or more, 120 of those. And, don't forget these are handwritten. Usually I read through them, add comments, pencil in grades, and then re-read once sorted by high->low marks to ensure consistency. Perhaps you can see where this takes about a week to complete? At least I have afternoons at the neighborhood coffee shop, where the mochas are beautifully crafted, and the windows sunny and bright.


Tuesday, December 04, 2012

Leftover Joy

Long after most of the Thanksgiving leftovers have gone, some of our Spiced Cranberries remain.

Each year this is true- we make one bag of berries worth of cranberries- which is plenty for the big day, plus too many to eat with leftovers. I'm a huge cranberry fan, but it's tough to figure out what to do with two cups of tart berry goodness, despite their long fridge life. Enter Joy the Baker.

Joy the Baker is a food blog that I like to follow. I enjoy her photography and witty humor, and after Monday night I completely worship her recipe for Cranberry Brie Grilled Cheese. I'm not a big fan of plain grilled cheese, as melty cheese is not my favorite texture, but this was fabulous. The brie was smooth and creamy, and the whole grain mustard and cranberries were the most heavenly accompaniment. I was hesitant to serve sandwiches for dinner, as they seem so casual, but with a big salad and a side of slow-cooker Potato Pesto Soup, this was one of the better dinners of our week.

Monday, December 03, 2012

Oppenheimer Catalogue, Nerman Gala, and Asad Faulwell

Ok, I'm about ten weeks late on this post. But, today my second copy of the Oppemheimer Catalogue came in the mail, though so it's not totally out of line.

Last spring I wrote a handful of catalogue entries for the Nerman Museum of Contemporary Art's Oppenheimer Catalogue. The collection of contemporary art housed at the museum is fantastic, and most of it can be traced back to the Oppenheimer collection. In any case, I wrote on four amazing contemporary artists, and the catalogue in it's hardcover-hundreds of pages-color plate-glossy paper-glory was published this past fall. In conjunction with the catalogue release, the museum hosted a gala. A fabulous-lavish hors d'oeuvres-champagne-truffles-gobs of shrimp cocktail-ice sculpture kind of affair. One of the benefits of being an author is that I got two tickets. So cool!

We went with a few friends who were also authors, and enjoyed the fabulousness of the entire event.

And-- It. Was. Fabulous.

In addition to all the amazing food and drink there was a commissioned performance by the contemporary dance troupe Quixotic, roving electronic string players, and a neat video piece in the central hall of the museum.

Then there was all the art. And the artists! One of the artists I wrote on, Asad Faulwell, was in attendance. It was really great to meet Asad, he was super friendly, and we had a nice chat about his work, the art scene in KC, and the Nerman Museum. Here is a photo of his painting Mujahidat #11, me, and him. The thing you can't tell from this photo is how detailed his work is. From a distance it appears like a geometric pattern, but upon closer inspection there are tiny news photographs of women who fought with the National Liberation Front in the Algerian War of Independence (1954-62). I love the subtle political message- one needs to be aware of the women, their plight, and their appearance to fully understand the work- but the overriding aesthetic beauty of the piece allows for appreciation on any level. Definitely an artist to watch, Asad is young and up-and-coming.

Once you have absorbed the art, your next question might be, why are you standing so strangely? Gripping your bag with an iron fist? Oh, that.... well, the photo below is your answer. I wore the cutest little-wrap your feet up like a gift-amazing match for my dress-sugar sweet- kill your feet shoes. Ouch! But they looked so adorable.... and I even matched the nail polish and lipstick. Snazzy! And I match the painting!

 Here's Joe with the video work looking swanky and getting some drinks. Because I had to sit down.
Awww... KU art history in action. And a shoe shot!