Monday, July 26, 2010

Just a short blog entry today

Seriously, when are you people going to stop being shocked by "grim" news from Afghanistan? Seriously! When?

It's grim. Sending young men and women somewhere to kill other people is grim. (So is sending old men and women, but reality is we basically mostly send young ones.) Stop being shocked by this! Stop! I wish you would act a little more shocked at yourselves for being hoodwinked into thinking any war is "righteous" or "necessary." War = murder. Government-ordered murder that profits people who already have power, giving them more money and power.

Three cheers for WikiLeaks! May it continue to release documents that describe reality. And maybe one day, you will stop finding grim reality "shocking" and start changing it.

Thursday, July 15, 2010

What Goes Through the Minds of Internet Users

One of my part-time freelance jobs involves editing online content. In the course of this gig, I get some pretty amazing insight into humanity, because I get to see what people search for on the internet, in all its raw, eyebrow-raising, sometimes horribly misspelled glory. I assure you that this is often not pretty. Not pretty at all. I'm totally not going to repeat some of the disturbing searches here for many reasons, not the least of which being that some of them are illegal and I quite frankly don't want the frightening individuals who search for those things to land on my blog. However, I will share with you two that delighted me.

One person asked:

"Is the Juno hamberger[sic] phone edible?"

Which is just awesome, really. Another had this simple query:

"Stuff to Think About"

It's kind of interesting, and kind of wistful. Somewhere in the world, a person sat at his/her computer and wanted to find some Stuff to Think About. I would venture to say that there are a lot of options out there to fulfill that request.

Monday, July 12, 2010

GPS, Schmee-PS

I recently had the privilege of spending a few days in Indiana. During the time I was there, I had the chance to sit on a front porch swing, see many cornfields, and contemplate the use of GPS.

The first two are pretty straightforward, so I will just skip to what, for me, was the most fascinating part of the visit. It was not the ubiquitous use of GPS, but how it was no longer even noted by the users. Five years ago, when my first friend or two had a GPS navigator in their cars, it was pretty much the center of attention of the ride because it was so novel. It was also annoying, and it generally caused more problems than it "solved." Two or three years ago, when a few more people had a GPS telling them where to turn and such, especially when they went Out of Town (aka "No! Don't make me look at that big scary map! Waaaaaaah!! Mommy!"), it was officially becoming a pervasive part of the landscape. People began to joke together about the perceived personality of the guiding voice and the symbolism in "recalculating."

But this month, on my visit to Indianapolis, there was no comment whatsoever upon the use of GPS, as opposed to not using it, other than in my head. It was accepted as a given, you see, by multiple people in multiple situations. And I am wondering when we crossed that line.

I dislike that line. I have no use for a GPS, and I'll tell you why: because I know how to read a map/figure out where I'm going/ask for directions/read context clues/use problem-solving skills. There are several things I can think of off the top of my head that I dislike about GPS dependence, but I'll just concentrate on that main one here. When I see someone so quick to pop an address into his/her GPS, I know something about that person. It's not necessarily that s/he doesn't know how to get somewhere, but that s/he doesn't know how to figure out how to get somewhere. That disturbs me.

It's not only the people we happened to see in Indiana, of course. I commented on some random blog just the other week because I was astonished at how amused the blogger was by herself and her utter inability to drive anywhere without GPS - even in her own metropolitan area! And when we were in Istanbul, one of my Habitat trip mates was all about using her handheld GPS to find her way to Istanbul landmarks, which were generally right in front of her once she looked up from the device.

Also, what I want to know is: are the people in the GPS cult even half as aware as the rest of us that it's not foolproof? That in the same way being able (usually!) to check your bank balance online is no substitute for knowing how much is in your checking account, being able to (usually!) get on-the-spot directions from a "magical" technological voice is no substitute for knowing where you are.

Important note: It is possible that my GPS-lovin' friends who read this blog will think this is an "insult" that is "directed" at them. I have already stated that this is a commentary on the widespread use of GPS, therefore not directed at anybody in particular. Also, oh well -- we are in fact adults now, and there are some things you should be capable of when you are over 25. Reading a map is one of them.

Thursday, July 08, 2010

Holidays, where the "days" part is arbitrary

Yesterday I ran in the Chicago Bastille Day 5K. No, there's no need to double check your calendars. You haven't skipped ahead in time a week; yesterday was not in fact Bastille Day. But, it was the day that Chicago saw fit to hold its Bastille Day 5K. Why? Your guess is as good as mine. Chicago seems to have some serious issues figuring out when to celebrate holidays.

We first discovered this within a month of moving here when it was time to celebrate St. Patrick's Day. Brian and I woke up, spiked our coffee, headed downtown, met up with friends, watched the Chicago River be dyed green, hung out in the throngs, popped in and out of taverns, and just generally enjoyed the revelry all day long. This all happened on March 13. Now, seriously, at that time I just thought, "OK, Chicago is full of amateurs, but I'll have to accept it." I would just have to accept that the Chicago Irish were not as hard core as the New York Irish or the hardest-of-all-core Boston Irish who blow off work and head out to the bars at 7 a.m. on St. Patrick's Day. They have no use for the Saturday before. I figured, you know, all those Midwest-work-hard values maybe prevented Chicago people from doing it the way the cool kids do. But we were so worn out fulfilled from our Saturday-before celebration that we didn't even bother doing anything on March 17th. What a shame.

Last week was Independence Day also known as, you know, the 4th of July. The fourth. Here in Chicago, there were fireworks on the 4th (we enjoyed a panoramic view of the downtown Chicago fireworks and the various suburban fireworks shows from the rooftop of a friend's 30-story apartment building) but the major disappointment - apparently - was that the fireworks show on the 3rd had been cancelled this year. Um- what? Yeah. This was really disturbing for people. Some people in fact didn't get the memo, and showed up with their lawn chairs on the 3rd to watch the fireworks that weren't happening, but which apparently have always happened in the past - on the 3rd of July. Why? I DON'T KNOW.

And then, yesterday, I ran in the Bastille Day 5K. On July 7th.

What is wrong with you, Chicago?! You wonder why you play third fiddle to New York and Los Angeles as far as being the U.S.' Most Awesome City and Stuff? Well, geez, learn to read a damn calendar. Maybe more people would travel here on their vacations if there were some kind of predictability as to whether you'll actually be celebrating the holidays when they arrive! I guess Chicago figures, you know, why be so conventional as to actually celebrate a holiday - on the holiday?

Anyone want to come celebrate Christmas with us? Brian and I are guessing it will be around December 20th this year. No guarantees, though.

Sunday, July 04, 2010

The Art Institute of Chicago

On Thursday, July 1st, Brian and I visited the Art Institute of Chicago. For those of you who don't know, the Art Institute is one of Chicago's prominent sights to be seen. First of all, it's huge and gorgeous, with cool architecture and all that. It's downtown (the Loop!) near Grant Park and it is famous and has been a significant part of the art world for years and years. (Side note: I love the phrase "art world." I rather like imagining art as being a world.)

We went on Thursday because admission is free from 5 p.m. 'til it closes at 8 p.m. on Thursdays. I am a big fan of going to museums at the times they offer free admission. This is how I saw the also-famous-and-important MoMA in New York, too. I love that most museums offer free days and/or free portions of days. You should check out the museums in your town - they probably offer free admission at some point, which is entirely awesome.

So, about the Art Institute of Chicago? I was totally blown away. Lots and lots of art. Of course there is far more than one can see in a few hours, which is why I plan (I had already thought of this before going) to visit it more than once, probably one Thursday per month. If I worked downtown, I might even wander in there every Thursday after work. Wandering solo through museums and just kind of seeing what catches your eye is a great way to visit them, as opposed to trying to systematically see every piece.

However, there are definitely more than a few destination pieces in the Art Institute of Chicago. Among them is American Gothic. I was so excited to see it! It's SO famous. And, as Brian pointed out while we were looking at it, it's so often parodied that it's interesting to see it and remember what their actual faces really look like in the painting. His face is so - set. And she's kind of gazing off to the side. There are lots of emotions captured in the work. As we wandered through the rooms of the Art Institute, I knew we were about to enter the room with American Gothic but you don't even have to wonder where it is, because first you see the obligatory crowd in a semi-circle, standing in front of it taking pictures with their cell phones. It was the same thing with Vincent Van Gogh's Starry Night in MOMA. I rather liked standing in front of American Gothic, surrounded by people looking at it and discussing it in multiple European languages.

Speaking of Van Gogh, a few of my boy's paintings are at the Art Institute of Chicago. I swoon! I loved looking at more of his stuff. I totally get him so much. All my feelings of reverence and connection for him and his life and his madness and his art came flooding back to me as I wandered through the Van Gogh room. There are tons and tons of European and impressionist and Monet and other paintings, too - and that was just a small part of the entire Art Institute.

I really liked Monet's Haystacks series. And we spent a while in the O'Keefe/Stieglitz room, where I discovered that I rather enjoy Marsden Hartley's paintings.

Oh, and we saw two other mega-famous paintings there, Edward Hopper's Nighthawks and Georges Seurat's A Sunday on the Grande Jatte. They're big. A Sunday on the Grande Jatte is really big.

I like the Art Institute of Chicago!

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