Arresting television

September 29, 2006

I just read this column about the tragically cancelled comedy “Arrested Development” and at the bottom was this quote:

MAEBE: Do you guys know where I could get one of those gold T-shaped pendants?
MICHAEL: That’s a cross.
MAEBE: Across from where?

…which works even better on paper than it did in the show. I LOVE Arrested Development, I just wish I would have watched it while it was actually on rather than later on DVD, maybe one more viewer would have saved it. Anyway, I agree with the columnist here, this is the funniest show ever, and if you haven’t seen it you really should.


me, my dad, and politics

September 26, 2006

Just as I was desperately wondering what to post on my blog today, my column was published in the Milwaukee Journal-Sentinel. Read it here or read it here:

In my life, polarization sits squarely in the political space between me and my father. I grew up like many suburban kids, far more interested in shopping and gossip than world news and national affairs. No one discussed politics or religion at the dinner table in our house.



In the past 10 years though, my father, who has always been politically conservative, has not only become more so but also more outspoken.

At the same time, I spent four great years at the University of Wisconsin-Madison and a fifth studying abroad. The people I met in Madison, the intellectual environment and my time abroad rapidly turned me into a sponge for new ideas, values and the nuances of culture. I gradually became more liberal on most issues.

Slowly, conversations with my dad heated up. We rarely argue, but he often e-mails me conservative columns raking Democrats and the mainstream media across the coals. When I get inspired, I reply with my own thoughts or the counterarguments of national columnists I respect and agree with.

The debate has landed on my blog, where long threads of comments have resulted from my posts on immigration or the president.

In one way, our views illustrate the kind of polarization that has become a national obsession. Commentators talk about it. Books have been published on it. Politicians blame it for the inability to pass important legislation. In August, the Journal Sentinel published the responses of a non-scientific survey based on the question: “How polarized are we?”

But unlike highly confrontational campaign ads, inflammatory speeches by intensely partisan politicians or the shallow take on issues expressed on television news programs, discussions between me and my dad help us understand each other’s point of view.

Considering how strongly we disagree on many issues, you would think we would not be able to converse at all. But that doesn’t have to be the case. Avoiding rhetoric and genuinely listening to all sides certainly helps.

If only more of our elected officials could have half as many productive, reasonable conversations as the average American father and daughter have, we might make some progress.

Instead, special interest-bound congressional members and extremist media pundits have become the voice of national politics. We have been told we are so divided and so polarized that we can hardly speak to each other. But it’s not true.

I recently started working for a locally owned medical supply company in the area. My direct supervisor is a National Rifle Association member whose passion is teaching gun safety.

I personally wish firearms had never been invented, and I confess when I saw “NRA” embroidered on his shirt during my interview, I was concerned about how much I might end up censoring my own views at work.

But I have realized that in the business world, we learn to respect each other’s opinions. I get along great with my boss, and we have plenty of interesting discussions in our department. Most of our work force is plenty productive without total personal and political agreement.

If only our national debate could more resemble the everyday conversations of average co-workers, families and friends, we might make more compromises that benefit our community, city, state and nation.

We need to question the motives of our candidates and elected officials. We should demand they stop contributing to the relentless stream of rhetoric in our media-saturated world and start participating in the daily dialogue happening between average American citizens.


people without people

September 19, 2006

The above phrase was the description given in my UWM Continuing Eduation photography class for an assignment due next Thursday.

The instructor said the photo could not have people or any part of a person in it, but it had to show any person at any time in any place. Quite cryptic. Had there been no more explanation I might have taken a photo of an image of someone in a mirror or something like that.

However, someone asked for an example and the teacher answered “footprints in the snow,” and gave the example that a photo of a bed made up was not a good example, but a picture of a messed bed that you had just slept in would be.

I thought of pictures of cooking, gardening, my nephew’s toys and the like, but none of these have happened in a way I could photograph them this week.

Then I looked through some of my old photos and found this favorite of mine from the Delaware coast last November or perhaps this photo of Mary and I reflected in the famous metallic Chicago bean. (Sorry for the links, but when I try to upload some of my photos into WordPress they are like thumbnails, not the right size for the page, not sure why some are small and others large).

I know I need to take something original for the class, but I’m sort of stuck on something that is going to translate well to photos that I can take around the house or out somewhere this week.. anyone have any brilliant or not so brilliant ideas?


September 18, 2006

Yesterday I finally sent the much detested Hardship letter for Fermin’s immigration case. Immediately after leaving it at Fedex-Kinkos I went to the nearby Apollo Cafe for some tasty Greek food and a Spotted Cow. Lunch and beer on an east-side patio on a sunny fall day – Yum!

Today I really enjoyed my job. I spent a lot of time on the phone, talking to many of my very fun Glaxo reps including almost a cumulative hour hearing about one woman’s recent engagement and another’s life in New Orleans. I really like my job. And that is good.

My boss also said I could go to Mexico for a week and a half in December even though I don’t really have any vacation time. Time to book my tickets!


September 17, 2006

My Sunday morning began at 7:00 am when my phone rang in its’ Miles Davis inspired tone to alert me that my dear husband was calling from Mexico.

Still mostly asleep, the response to my groggy “helllooo” was something like: “Guess where I am right now?”

“Umm, I don’t know” said I.

“Veracruz, and it’s muy chingon” said he. We’re both fluent in Spanglish, just to clarify, and chingon basically means “awesome” or “sweet” the way American youth use it.

Veracruz… I thought about a tropical paradise and started imagining the sand, aquamarine waters and the sort of lazily constructed, low-key Mexican tourism I imagine it to embody. I asked Fermin is he was at the beach as I heard something that sounded distinctly like a moped.

“Are you riding on a scooter right now?!” said I.

“No, I’m just walking in the calle,” he chuckled. Yeah, I guess that makes more sense. But half-asleep Laura isn’t always able to discern the feasibility of say, my husband talking on cell phone while driving a moped.

The best part is that Fermin sounded really happy. Apparently one of his cousins came into Libres, the smallish town where Fermin’s parents and family lives, yesterday asking if he wanted to drive to Veracruz, where Fermin at least had never been.

He said in 4-5 hours his cousin, cousin’s girlfriend and another friend were at the beach, playing in the ocean at three in the morning.

“You’ve never been to the ocean, have you?” I asked.

“Nope,” he said. I started asking more detail questions to better imagine the scene. He’s not good with the sort of intensely detailed tidbits that I am looking for in a description, so I left him alone.

Fermin is not the most adventurous person in the world. While I always want to go somewhere to have some new or exciting experience, he often prefers to do things he is familiar with, go to places he has already been. That’s why him loving Veracruz is really fun for me to hear. And he didn’t sound bored for the first time in a few weeks.

Now if only I were in Veracruz….

it’s about that time…

September 14, 2006

It’s time for me to write another column for the JS. I want to write about immigration but it’s not exactly local and sort of a dead issue. The only things I hear on the news lately are comments about how some criminal was also an illegal immigrant. Well, just an FYI, there are plenty of U.S. citizen criminals too! Not that I think undocumented violent criminals should not be deported, but I think that sort of talk just stirs up more fear and prejudice in people. It would be intersting to know the percent of “illegal” immigrants who have committed crimes of various sorts, DUIs, rapes, robberies etc., compared to U.S. citizens. I have a feeling the numbers would be very comparable.

Anyway, if anybody has a brilliant idea for a column, let me know.

I would rather…

September 13, 2006

A Journal Sentinel columnist was talking on the local radio show this morning about a 20-something recent college graduate who has decided to drive around the country for about a year staying in people’s homes, visiting local sights and learning about our land and nation through the things he sees and the people he meets along the way.

He’s got sort of a flashy web site, but his writing is quite good, and I’m looking forward to following him on his travels. He somehow managed to market the idea of thousands of people checking his web site every day for updates in order to get himself a free Jeep to use while he is on the road. He is also mainly relying on the kindness of strangers for lodging and support along the way.

He started out in Michigan, headed to Milwaukee, which he has already blogged about. Check out the hometown invasion tour site if you are interested.