Category Archives: Freedom

The Thing About Taxes

I will preface this by saying I am not well-researched in the areas of politics, national financing, or whatever actually goes into this mess, in the United States or elsewhere.

But I think it might be worth mentioning my thoughts on a few things, based on personal experiences, and some things I’ve heard that just… don’t make a lot of sense.

Taxes aren’t inherently bad.

The word “tax” in itself has come to have largely negative connotations–if you’re being “taxed” by something, you’re being weighed down or put upon. We have classic examples of people, like the Sheriff of Nottingham from the Robin Hood stories, who abuse taxes.

In a truly ironic state of affairs, my dad is adamantly against any kind of raise in taxes, but he also works for the state of Minnesota, and part of our taxes are what pay his own wages.

But if taxes are being abused, for things like… oh, say, a giant wall, or a football stadium… then, yeah, I wholeheartedly understand the aversion.

I don’t think anyone is ever entirely sure what taxes are used for, but there’s obviously some mismanagement going on somewhere, and that’s the bad thing. Taxes themselves? They have some truly positive possibilities.

Let’s just, for the sake of imagination, pretend that a perfect world is possible. What should taxes, in a perfect world (and my opinion) be used for?

  • Protecting/conserving the environment
  • Researching and developing important new innovations in energy, transportation, and health (cure for cancer, anyone?)
  • Providing/maintaining a basic standard of health and well-being for everyone
  • Paying first responders, health professionals, and peace-keepers
  • Educating people well
  • Preserving culture by investing in arts, museums, libraries, archives, and community centers
  • Community improvements, like road construction, parks & rec, etc.
  • Providing some kind of safety net and/or rehabilitation programs for those who are  out of work and/or homeless. (This would include retirement, and being out of work due to an injury, veteran benefits, and other things of that nature, in addition to being in a bad situation for other reasons.)

Some people are really put out by the thought of providing for others. Which… I get, to some extent. At the moment, it’s hard to fathom providing for myself, let alone anyone else in the country–but that’s because a lot of things in “the system” are broken. They’re not being used the way they should.

If I had the peace of mind that came with guaranteed good health, the basic ability to learn the things I need to know without being in debt for the foreseeable future, and the reassurance that life as we know it wasn’t on its way to being toasted out of the Earth like a bad virus, I would happily give away a third or more of my income for the rest of my life.

In a perfect world, what would your taxes be used for?

What would you be willing to provide, to make your own life and the lives of others easier?

The Sketchbook Project

The Brooklyn Art Library, “a free museum where you can touch the art,” regularly offers a really cool opportunity, called the Sketchbook Project.

On a whim, I decided to participate in vol. 14. The process goes like this: purchase a sketchbook (a modest 5″x7″, my favorite size), and choose whether you would like your sketchbook to be included in the digital library (of course, yes, please). Receive your adorable, simple, blank sketchbook in the mail. Do something. Send it back by the deadline.

You can send your sketchbook back later than the deadline (vol. 14 needed to be postmarked by March 30th), but collections of the latest volume usually go on tour somewhere before arriving at their forever home in Brooklyn. Late arrivals will still be accepted at the Library, but will miss out on the tour portion of the project. Selections from the vol. 14 collection are going to cities around the U.S., including Brooklyn (of course), Boston, Providence, St. Petersburg, Washington D.C., Richmond, San Francisco, and Los Angeles.

sbp
Off to the post office! Made it on time.

Part of my motivation for participating in this project was marketing. I’m trying to pursue several blogs and other ideas, and I thought this would be a really interesting way to (potentially) draw some attention to those prospects.

But it ended up being something very different.

It became more a form of therapy than anything. When I opened it, I was faced with blank pages, and the fear of messing up, of people seeing the opposite of what I wanted. I was afraid that my ideas weren’t interesting enough, or that my art wouldn’t be good enough. I was afraid that I was going to end up wasting my time and embarrassing myself.

I didn’t know how to start, but I had to do something with this book while I had it. So I did what I’ve been doing pretty much nonstop for the last four years: I started writing. Now, I hadn’t actually written consistently by hand for a long time. It had been even longer since I had written words in pencil–something smudgy and impermanent and so forgiving. I wrote before I went to sleep, random thoughts floating around in my tired brain.

The first page was unfortunate. It was clogged with anxiety and insecurities. But, as I went along, the pages became more optimistic, more reflective, more abstract. I added color, changed up the style and direction of the text. I sketched.

And then something amazing happened.

 

I completed the first full, inked composition I had done, probably since 2012 (seven years ago!) when I was at the Perpich Arts High School. I wasn’t entirely sure that I still had the know-how–but then it worked. I created another, and another.

I posted pictures of my work to a group on Facebook and got the very unambiguous reply: “do more of this.”

I want to.

Through the process of letting go and allowing myself the time and space to just do art, I rediscovered some of the self-confidence I had lost, and improved my immediate outlook on life. It was a little sad to part with the sketchbook, but I’m excited to see it again in the digital library, and for people to look at it and touch it and think about it in-person, across the country.

Toward the end of the time I had left to work on it, I traced my hand on an open page. I hope that many more people will place their hands in that outline. Maybe the page will yellow with their fingerprints.

I may have to go to New York someday to find out.

If you want to explore your own process, and share something of yourself with the world, vol. 15 is now available. 🙂

Final (and best) Post

In case any of you have not heard, Prince recently purchased the following CDs from the Electric Fetus on 4/16/16.

1) Stevie Wonder, “Talking Book” 2) Chambers Brothers, “The Time Has Come” 3) Joni Mitchell, “Hejira” 4) Swan Silvertones, “Inspirational Gospel Classics” 5) Missing Persons, “The Best Of Missing Persons” 6) Santana, “Santana IV”

In case I happen to pass away in the near future, I figured I would make a similar list of the last 6 items I have purchased on Amazon. This way, people can see what I bought and make their own assumptions about what kind of person I was.

Vince's last purchases

 

I have done a lot less shopping on Amazon lately since they increased the cost of free shipping orders from $35 to $49!

http://www.forbes.com/sites/amitchowdhry/2016/02/23/amazon-increases-free-shipping-minimum-from-35-to-49/#940b1656ca28

This price hike is no doubt to do with Amazon trying to force their Prime memberships onto customers. If you pay $99 per year for the Prime membership, you get some crappy streaming media and free 2 day shipping on “lots of items”. I had given Prime a chance with a free trial and found none of the products I was interested in to be Prime eligible, therefore subject to normal shipping costs. In fact, the only thing I ever bought during that trial was an Amazon Kindle. It was so nice of Amazon to make their own products Prime eligible.

I suppose if I am ever buying a bunch of junk over $49, then I will continue to use Amazon. I find myself more often searching for free shipping and no tax. The downfall of Amazon has begun, at least in this guys opinion.

 

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Compressed my tone!!!

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Beagle Freedom Project

My dogs, incluidng my Beagle Elijah
My dogs Elijah and Olivia

Last summer I adopted a 2 month old Beagle puppy that we rescued from a puppy mill here in Minnesota. I did not know much about Beagles at the time, I just knew I wanted a medium sized dog and once I saw this cute puppy on the Wags & Whiskers adoption website I was a goner!

 When my co-worker (a dog lover like myself!)  found out I had adopted a Beagle, she told me I had to watch this video  from the Beagle Freedom project that showed Beagles who had lived their whole lives inside a research lab confined to metal cages, seeing sunshine and grass for the first time.

Saddened by this video, I started to do my own research and what I found out was startling!  There are many animals used for testing, but Beagles are the most common due to their good tempered nature. Many common products are tested on animals before being introducing to the general population. But many of these dogs are forced to live in very inhumane conditions, left in cages, abused, even having their vocal chords taken out so they do not disturb the lab workers. In my search I have seen countless photos of Beagles wearing gas masks, burnt, and bloodied.

This article from the Huffington Post chronicles just one story of abuse from a lab in North Carolina where 4 lab workers were charged with 14 felonies of animal abuse.

I realize that testing on animals has contributed to many life-saving cures and treatments, but there has to be a better way. There are many alternative testing methods such as In vitro (in glass) testing, where cell cultures are studied in a petri dish, and can produce more relevant results than animal testing because human cells can be used. Furthermore the FDA does not require testing on animals in order to develop products.

Animal testing is cruel and inhumane and only we can make a difference to put an end to Beagle torture by asking companies to stop using them (and other animals) to test their products!

 There is currently a Beagle Freedom Bill movement happening right here in Minnesota! This Bill will ensure that tax-payer funded laboratories in MN offer up the dogs and cats for public adoption through rescue organizations at the end of research.  Today, standard procedure is to summarily euthanize (destroy) all of these animals. 

To learn more and to join the movement, check out the Beagle Freedom website for more information, including a list of companies that test on Beagles.

 

Freedom of Speech: Becoming Free Again?

Recently there’s been a debate on whether or not America has “too much” censorship going on – be in on TV or Radio, on the internet, or (God forbid) on public streets. Perhaps this may be taking a turn for the better with the Supreme Court ruling that off-the-cuff cursing or nudity is not something that the FCC can fine for. Hooray, freedom!

But wait. If you live in a certain Massachusetts town, you can actually be fined $20 for swearing in public. Sounds like a really old law, but it’s been changed so they can actually fine someone for it. Boo, censorship.

What is this country coming to? Since when is it against the law for me to say a certain word, or speak my mind about something I care deeply about? Why can’t I, in a country formed around freedom, actually be free to do what I want? Will it hurt anyone else if I smoke in my car? What if I don’t wear a helmet while riding a motorcycle?

The United States has something called the Bill of Rights, which lets us do certain things (one of which is to speak freely). I think we’re slowly sinking into a hole where we’ll find ourselves not able to dig out. Soon, I won’t be able to say “fluffycat tubesock” without getting a slap on the wrist. Is the quote pointless? Absolutely. However, if I want to say it, I think I’m entitled to.